Posts Tagged 'Africa Snapshot'

Africa Snapshot: Cameroon

Cameroon lies at the junction of western and central Africa. The nation is currently hosting this year’s Africa Endeavor, an annual 1n-day communications exercise focusing on interoperability and information sharing among African partners.  The goal of Africa Endeavor is to develop command, control, and communication tactics, techniques, and procedures that can be used by the African Union in support of future combined humanitarian, peacekeeping, peace support and anti-terrorism operations.

Population: According to the CIA World Factbook, the population will be around 20 million this summer.

Languages: English and French are the official languages of Cameroon, but there are 24 major African language groups in the country, as well.

Religion: 40% of the population practices indigenous beliefs.  Another 40% of the population is Christian, while the other 20% is Muslim.

History: Malaria kept Europeans out of Cameroon until the 1860s, when they began establishing coastal trade and slave trade. Christian missions put down roots in the late 1800s, and they continue to play a role today.  In 1884, all of present-day Cameroon and parts of its neighboring areas became a colony of Germany called Kamerun.  After World War I, the colony was divided between Britain and France. In 1955, an armed struggle to gain independence in French Cameroon began. Independence was achieved in 1960.  A year later, the largely Muslim, northern two-thirds of British Cameroon voted to join Nigeria, while the largely Christian southern third voted to join the Republic of Cameroon, thus forming the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The federation was replaced with a unitary state in 1972. Paul Biya has been president since 1982. He was re-elected to another seven-year term in October 2011.

Economy: Cameroon faces some of the same challenges as other underdeveloped countries, but it does have oil resources and good conditions for agriculture. Foreign investors have become interested in diamond mining projects in Cameroon. Because Cameroon has one of the worst business environments in the world, many foreign investors do not pursue business ventures with the country. Human trafficking is also a serious issue.

Geography: Although Cameroon may look tiny on the map of Africa, it’s actually larger than California. Periodically, volcanos will release toxic gases. The most active volcano in West Africa is Mount Cameroon.

Relations with the United States: Relations between the two nations are good.  According to the U.S. Department of State Background Note on Cameroon, U.S. assistance to the African nation was over $26 million in 2010.

Sources: CIA Factbook State Department Background Note – Cameroon , Britannica Online, AllAfrica, Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon

Africa Snapshot: Sierra Leone

Located in West Africa, Sierra Leone is nestled between Liberia and Guinea on the coast of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Population: According to the CIA Factbook, the estimated population for July 2012 is 5,485,998.

Languages:

English is the official language of Sierra Leone, but the regular use of it is limited to the literate minority.  Mende is the vernacular in the south, and Temne is the vernacular in the north.  Krio, an English-based Creole, is spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who settled in Freetown.  It is understood by 95% of the population.

Religion: 60% of the country is Muslim, 10% are Christians.  30% of the population practice indigenous beliefs.

History: The first slaves were brought into North America from Sierra Leone in 1652. Their rice-farming skills were in great demand by plantations in Georgia and South Carolina during the 18th century.  In the 1780s, the British returned 400 freed slaves from various parts of the world back to Sierra Leone. They settled in an area they called “Province of Freedom,” which is now the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown. Britain colonized Freetown in 1792. Thousands of returning Africans, who were originally from all over Africa, settled in Freetown. They came to be known as Krio.

During the 19th century, Sierra Leone become a prime spot for education in West Africa. Modeled after European universities, Fourah Bay College was established in 1827. It became the foundation of the present-day University of Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone achieved independence from Britain peacefully in April 1961. Controversial elections in 1967 led to multiple coups.  Finally, in April 1968, Siaka Steven, the Freetown mayor and All Peoples Congress party leader, become the prime minister and the constitution was restored. Steven was the head of state until 1985, when Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh took power.

Under Steven’s leadership, the constitution was changed to ban all political parties except the All Peoples Congress. The multi-party system was restored in 1991, a Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh took power. , who practiced many abuses of power.  Eventually, a coup forced Momoh into exile in Guinea, leaving a new group, the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) as the ruling authority.

The 1990s saw much turmoil over the control of the country, including coups. A group called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) took over much of the countryside by the mid-90s and repeatedly tried to overthrow the government. Eventually, in 1999, President Kabbah and the RUF leader signed a peace agreement that included an international peacekeeping force. Fighting, though, continued into the 21st century, prompting help from Guinean troops.

In January 2002, President Kabbah declared the end to the civil war. He was re-elected in May 2002. The UN peacekeeping mission wrapped up in 2005.

Ernest Koroma was elected president of Sierra Leone in 2007. Both presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2012.

Economy: Sierra Leone relies on other countries for financial assistance. Nearly half of the country’s exports come from alluvial diamond mining. Almost half of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture.

Relationship with the United States: The United States established an embassy when Sierra Leone gained its independence in 1961.  Assistance from the U.S. focuses on health education, especially in the fight against HIV/AIDS, human rights and the development of human resources.

Sources: CIA Factbook , State Department Background Note – Sierra Leone , Britannica Online, the University of Sierra Leone

Africa Snapshot: Nigeria

Nigeria has the largest population of any country in the U.S. Africa Command Area of Responsibility, and it’s one of the countries most affected by malaria. More than 300,000 Nigerians — mostly children — die every year from the mosquito-borne disease, accounting for about one third of malaria deaths worldwide. At least half of Nigeria’s population will experience an attack of malaria each year. The World Bank, USAID and other international organizations have targeted Nigeria in their efforts to distribute mosquito nets to the hardest hit countries. As a result, Nigeria was the first country to distribute mosquito nets to its population free of charge. Nigeria is also challenged by a high rate of HIV/AIDS infections combined with a lack of doctors and hospital beds. Life expectancy is 52 years, compared with 78.49 in the U.S.

History: Written history in Nigeria goes back to 1000 AD. The country was a hub for the international slave trade, and later became a British territory. Independence was claimed in 1960, followed by civil war. A series of coups and political instability lasted for years, until the transition to a civilian government was made in 1999. The country is experiencing its longest-ever period of civilian rule.

Population: With more than 170 million people, Nigeria is the seventh largest country in the world.

Languages: English is the official language. More than 500 indigenous languages are spoken around the country.

Religion: Nigeria is 50 percent Muslim and 40 percent Christian. Ten percent of the population practices indigenous beliefs.

Economy: Nigeria is rich in oil, but its economy remains largely agricultural-based.

Security issues: Terrorist attacks by the violent extremist organization Boko Haram are on the rise.

U.S. partnerships: The annual exercise Obangame Express is conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa to improve maritime security. AFRICOM also partners with Nigeria on efforts to counter improvised explosive devices and facilitate interaction with civilians and the military in northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram supporters are concentrated.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations recently held a hearing on security, governance and trade in Nigeria. Click here to watch the testimony or read transcripts.

Sources: CIA Fact Book/Nigeria, The World Bank , U.S. State Department, International Federation of the Red CrossU.S. Africa Command 2012 Posture Statement


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