Africa > Central Africa > Cameroon > Cameroon Government Profile 2013

Cameroon: Cameroon Government Profile 2013


In power since 1982, Paul Biya is seen as one of Africa's most entrenched leaders.

Cameroon's parliament in April 2008 passed a controversial amendment to the constitution enabling President Paul Biya to run for a third term of office in 2011.

The veteran politician went on to win a new seven-year term in the October 2011 election, in a vote that international observers said was marred by irregularities.

Mr Biya's opponents rejected the result - which gave him a landslide 78% of the vote - and alleged widespread fraud. Civil society movements accused Mr Biya of having locked down the electoral system to guarantee his return to power.

At the same time as Mr Biya initial became president in 1982, it was within the context of a single-party system. He accepted the introduction of multi-party politics in the early 1990s and went on to win the 1992 presidential election by a narrow margin.

In the 1997 presidential election, which was boycotted by the major opposition parties, he was re-elected with additional than 92% of the vote. At the next election, in 2004, he officially took additional than 70% of the vote, though opposition parties alleged widespread fraud.

Before becoming president, Mr Biya spent his entire political career in the service of President Ahmadou Ahidjo, becoming prime minister in 1975.

With Mr Ahidjo's resignation in 1982 he assumed the leadership and set about replacing his predecessor's northern allies with fellow southerners.

In 1983 he accused Mr Ahidjo of organising a coup against him, forcing the former president to flee the country.

Born in 1933, Paul Biya was educated in Cameroon and France, where he studied law at the Sorbonne.



 Under the 1972 constitution, as amended in 1984, Cameroon has nominally been a republic headed by a president elected by universal suffrage to successive five-year terms (amended to seven-year terms). The president appoints the ministers, vice-ministers, regional functionaries, is the chief of the armed forces, and promulgates the laws. Since 1996, the prime minister has been Peter Mafany Musonge. The president can decree a national of national emergency and can be invested with appropriate powers. The next presidential election is scheduled for 2004.

The legislative branch is composed of a National Assembly of 180 members from 49 single and multi-seat constituencies. The Assembly is due elected to a five-year term by universal suffrage. It meets twice a year, the duration of each session being limited to 30 days.

Local government

The Republic of Cameroon is divided into 10 administrative provinces, each placed under the jurisdiction of a governor appointed by the chief of national. Each province is subdivided into departments, which are under the administrative control of divisional officers ( préfets ). In turn, departments are composed of subdivisions ( arrondissements ) headed by assistant divisional officers ( sous-préfets ). Municipal officials are elected for five-year terms. Traditional institutions such as chiefdoms were in noticeable decline during the 1970s and 1980s, although traditional rulers were treated as administrative adjuncts and received a government fee.

In 1996, Biya\'s government organized relatively free and equitable municipal elections where opposition candidates won in nearly each major city. However, three-fourths of the local councils are dominated by the ruling coalition. Municipal elections for 336 local councils were held on 30 June 2002, and were charged by church leaders and opposition politicians as being flawed; vote-buying, stuffing of ballot boxes, intimidation, and multiple voting were part the accusations brought by the opposition. In January 2003, Biya announced that the government would begin a major program of decentralization to complete the process of democratization begun by the June parliamentary and municipal elections.

Judicial system

Cameroonian law has three major sources: local customary law, the French civil code, and British law, although drafting of a unified code was reported under way in the 1980s. The Supreme Court, in addition to its other powers and duties granted by the constitution, gives final judgment on such appeals as may be granted by the law from the judgments of the provincial courts of appeal. The system as well includes appeals courts in each of the 10 provinces, courts of initial instance in each of the country\'s 58 divisions and a 15-member High Court of Justice, appointed by the National Assembly. Proposals for appointments and sanctions against magistrates throughout the republic are started by the Higher Judicial Council, of which the chief of national is president. A Court of Impeachment has the right to try the president for high treason and cabinet ministers for conspiracy against the security of the national.

A National Security Court established in 1990 hears cases involving internal or external national security. Traditional courts that resolve domestic, probate, and minor property disputes remain an significant element in the judicial system. These courts vary considerably according to region and ethnic group. Appeal is possible in most cases to traditional authorities of a higher rank.

Prior to the 1995 amendments (promulgated in 1996) to the 1972 constitution, the judiciary was supervised by the Ministry of Justice, part of the executive, and did not function as an independent branch of government. The December 1995 amendments provided for a additional independent judiciary. However, as of 2003, these provisions were not implemented. There continues to be reported abuses, inclunding beatings of detainees, arbitrary arrests, and illegal searches. The judiciary remains frequently corrupt, inefficient, and subject to political influence.

Government type: 

republic; multiparty presidential regime

Administrative divisions: 

10 regions (regions, singular - region); Adamaoua, Centre, Est, Extreme-Nord, Littoral, Nord, North-West (Nord-Ouest), Ouest, Sud, South-West (Sud-Ouest)


1 January 1960 (from French-administered UN trusteeship)

National holiday: 

Republic Day (National Day), 20 May (1972)


approved by referendum 20 May 1972; adopted 2 June 1972; revised January 1996

Legal system: 

based on French civil law system, with common law influence; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


20 years of age; universal

Legislative branch: 

unicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (180 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms); note - the president can either lengthen or shorten the term of the legislature elections: last held 22 July 2007 (next to be held in 2012) election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CPDM 140, SDF 14, UDC 4, UNDP 4, MP 1, vacant 17

Judicial branch: 

Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president); High Court of Justice (consists of nine judges and six substitute judges; elected by the National Assembly)

Political parties and leaders : 

Cameroonian Democratic Union or UDC [Adamou Ndam NJOYA]; Cameroon People's Democratic Movement or CPDM [Paul BIYA]; Movement for the Defense of the Republic or MDR [Dakole DAISSALA]; Movement for the Liberation and Development of Cameroon or MLDC [Marcel YONDO]; National Union for Democracy and Progress or UNDP [Maigari BELLO BOUBA]; Progressive Movement or MP; Social Democratic Front or SDF [John FRU NDI]; Union of Peoples of Cameroon or UPC [Augustin Frederic KODOCK]

Political pressure groups and leaders: 

Human Rights Defense Group [Albert MUKONG, president]; Southern Cameroon National Council [Ayamba Ette OTUN]

International organization participation: 


Flag description: 

three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), red, and yellow, with a yellow five-pointed star centered in the red band