Cameroon, a large West-Central African country, has enjoyed relative stability since independence under strongly centralised government. This is particularly evident when contrasted with its volatile Northern neighbour Nigeria.
French Cameroun and the British Southern Cameroons united in 1961 to form the country as it presently exists. The mixed Francophone-Anglophone origin is reflected in a contemporary campaign by the Anglophone regions of the country for greater autonomy. Some within the regions that made up the former British Cameroons took the opportunity at the reintroduction of democracy in 1990 to call for complete autonomy as the Republic of Ambazonia. The movement continues to be influential with the Southern Cameroons National Council declaring the Republic of Ambazonia and independent state in 1999. This declaration has however not been recognised by the Cameroonian state or the United Nations, and the self-declared republic remains under the control of the central Cameroonian government.
The struggle by the Southern Cameroonians for recognition as an independent state reflects a process of centralisation of government that has developed since independence. In 1966 the Cameroon National Union became the sole legal political party, and in 1972 the Federal system of government implemented at independence was abolished in favour of the Republic of Cameroon headed from the capital Yaoundé.
Independence President Ahmadou Ahidjo remained in power - implementing centrally planned developmental policies – until he was replaced by the current President Paul Biya. Biya has dominated the political scene now for almost 30 years – defeating an early coup attempt (thought to have been organised by Ahidjou) and stressing the importance of national unity particularly in relation to the Muslim minority from the north.
Elections have been carried out since 1992 with Biya repeated returned despite accusations of poll rigging. After being re-elected in 2004 with a disputed 70% of the vote, Biya was barred by a 2 term limit stipulated in the 1996 constitution. However, the President argued that limiting the choice of voters was ‘undemocratic’ and duly managed to have the constitution changed (through vote in the Nation Assembly) – meaning he could run again in 2011.