Independence Day or National Holidays not only indicate public holidays but are also days of extreme importance in the history of the country. For Cameroon, the National Day indicates honor and pride. Complete Independence was not granted to a largely colonized Cameroon till 1972. The Republic of Cameroon, as it is called now, celebrates its National Day or Republic Day on the 20th May. It was on this date, way back in 1972, the constitution of the United Republic of Cameroon was adopted by the Union Nationale Camerounaise headed by President Ahmadou Ahidjo. Later under the leadership of Paul Biya, The constitution was amended and Cameroon was provided its present name.
With its rich culture and traditional art forms, Cameroon houses over 200 different ethnic and linguistic groups. The Sao Civilization flourished around the Lake Chad as early as in AD 500, while the Baka hunter gatherers resided in the southeastern rain forests from the Neolithic Age. Named by Portuguese explorers, who reached the coast in the 15th Century, Cameroon derives its name from Rio dos Camarões (River of Prawns). Cameroon's claim to fame in recent times is the performance of the national football team that performs at par with other bigger nations. The Union Nationale Camerounaise has controlled the governance of the country from Yaoundé, the Capital City since 1972 till date, now renamed as Cameroon People's Democratic Movement.
Invasions by Portuguese explorers, way back in the 15th Century marked the advent of various political powers into the country and the process of successive colonization. Various ethnic groups also made powerful chiefdoms and fondoms in the West and Northwest parts of the country. Made into a German colony in 1884, the territory of Cameroon was split between France and Great Britain after World War I, as the League of Nation Mandates prescribed. French Cameroun became independent under President Ahmadou Ahidjo in 1960 and the southern parts of the British Cameroon was merged with the territory in 1961. The present day Republic of Cameroon with a population of about 17 million, came into existence in 1984. The Economic Crisis of the mid 1980's and 90's was the greatest challenge to the government, which is now much more stabilized. Political and social stability has helped in the development of agriculture, roads, railways and large petroleum and timber industry. The main trading partners of Cameroon include Spain, Italy, UK, France, U.S., South Korea, Netherlands, Nigeria, Belgium, China, and Germany.
Although the French Cameroon celebrates this day with pomp and gaiety, the Southern Cameroon have in recent times preferred to commemorate 1st October, the day the British flag was finally lowered in the South Cameroon, as a more appropriate date for the event. The National Day Celebrations include parades involving public officials, party loyalists dressed in commemorative cloth with party insignia, and schoolchildren as well as dance troupes. The Cameroon Students Union also organizes Annual National Week awareness programs including various cultural and informative activities.
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