Cameroon is a centralized, presidential republic. The country is formally a democracy, but the same president ( Paul Biya ) has been in power since 1982.
From 1884 Cameroon was a German colony. Negotiations in the League of Nations after World War I resulted in Cameroon being divided into two mandate areas. A small area on the border with Nigeria was ruled by the United Kingdom, while most of the country was ruled by France until independence in 1960. Following a referendum in 1961, the United Kingdom incorporated the mandate territory in the north of Nigeria, while another part in the south was incorporated in Cameroon.
Cameroon was a one-party state from 1972 to 1991, when formal democracy was introduced. The 1996 Constitution gives the president great personal power, but limits the presidential office to two periods of seven years each. A constitutional amendment in 2008 changed this so that the president can be re-elected without restriction. Paul Biya has been President Continuous since 1982 after winning superiorly all subsequent presidential elections; in the last election, in 2018, he got 71 percent of the vote in the first round.
Since 1991, the country’s prime minister has always been from the English-speaking minority of the population. Despite this, most English-speaking Cameroonians feel that the French-speaking majority are given priority in political appointments.
The president elects and dismisses the government members, governors and the most important traditional leaders (chieftains) in the country. The president is also the country’s top military leader. Although the National Assembly, with its 180 members, is formally the country’s legislative authority, it is in practice the will of the President that largely controls Cameroon’s politics.
Administratively, the country is divided into 10 provinces, each governed by a governor appointed by the president. In each province, there are between four and ten districts administered by a district manager. This is also appointed by the President. Under the district heads are elected mayors and elected councils, but these have very limited power.
Cameroon has two parallel courts for minor offenses: traditional courts led by chiefs, and state courts led by judges. The state law and the judiciary are largely influenced by French traditions. Each of the ten provinces has its own magistrate’s courts, while the country’s supreme court is the supreme court. The president appoints the ten judges in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also includes the attorney general and the attorney general. The courts have a reputation for being very corrupt.