Northwest Region (Cameroon)

Coordinates: 6°20′N 10°30′E / 6.333°N 10.500°E / 6.333; 10.500
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Northwest Region
Location of the Northwest Region within Cameroon
Location of the Northwest Region within Cameroon
Coordinates: 6°20′N 10°30′E / 6.333°N 10.500°E / 6.333; 10.500
DepartmentsBoyo, Bui, Donga-Mantung, Menchum, Mezam, Momo, Ngo-Ketunjia (Ngoketunjia)
 • GovernorAdolphe Lele Lafrique (2012–)
 • Total17,300 km2 (6,700 sq mi)
 • Total1,968,578
 • Density110/km2 (290/sq mi)
ISO 3166 codeCM-NW
HDI (2017)0.602[1]
medium · 5th of 10
Commercial Avenue, Bamenda town

The Northwest Region, or North-West Region (French: Région du Nord-Ouest) is one of ten regions of Cameroon. Its regional capital is Bamenda. The Northwest Region was part of the Southern Cameroons, found in the western highlands of Cameroon. It is bordered to the southwest by the Southwest Region, to the south by the West Region, to the east by the Adamawa Region, and to the north by Nigeria. Various Ambazonian nationalist and separatist factions regard the region as being distinct as a polity from Cameroon.[2]

North-West Region.[3]

In 1919, the Northwest Region became solely administered by the United Kingdom.[4] In 1961, the region joined the Cameroon.[5] Separatists from the Ambazonian administration regard both the Nord-Ouest (Northwest) and Sud-Ouest (Southwest) regions as being constituent components of their envisaged breakaway state.[6]


The origins of the region are linked to the settlement of the Tikar people who joined the Bamoun Kingdom, in the 1700s.[7] In 1884, the region was colonized by Germany under the regime of the protectorate until 1916 when it became a condominium administered jointly by the United Kingdom and the France.[8] In 1919, the administration of the North West region, as part of Southern Cameroons became solely British. In 1961, the region joined Cameroon, under the 1961 British Cameroons referendum.[9]

At the end of 2017, a Ambazonian separatist movement in the two English-speaking regions of North West and South West began a wave of violence terrorists affecting soldiers, police, business leaders and workers. Separatist activists are trying in particular to prevent children from returning to school. Between 2016 and 2019, terrorists reportedly ransacked, destroyed or burned down more than 174 schools.[10]


The Northwest Region (known before 2008 as the Northwest Province) is the third most populated province in Cameroon. It has one major metropolitan city, Bamenda, with several other smaller towns such as Wum, Kumbo, Mbengwi, Ndop, Nkambé, Batibo, Bambui, Bafut and Oshie. The province saw an increase in its population from approximately 1.2 million in 1987 to 1.8 million in 2010.[11] The population density of 99.12 people per square kilometer is higher than the national average of 22.6. The provincial urban growth rate is 7.95%, higher than the national average of 5.6%, while the rural growth rate, at 1.16%, is equal to the national rate. In 2001, according to the Statistical Provincial Services of the North-West Province, the population of the province is young, with over 62% of its residents being less than 20 years old. Therefore, the dependency rate in the province is high, particularly in the rural areas.

Divisions of Northwest Cameroon

Like other regions in Cameroon, the Northwest Region is made up of administrative divisions. The province was created in 1972 with five divisions or departments: Bui, Donga-Mantung, Menchum, Mezam, and Momo. Today, it has seven divisions, the additions being Boyo, which was carved out of the Menchum division, and Ngo-Ketunjia or Ngoketunjia, split off from the Mezam division. Each division is further subdivided, with thirty-one total subdivisions in the Northwest Province. The basic unit of local government is the council, and there are thirty-two councils in the region.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Drums and xylophones are part of the traditional music of the Northwest.

The Northwest Region has many ethnic groups, including immigrants from other regions and countries. Nigeria is well represented, as it borders the region to both the north and the northwest. The native population comprises a variety of ethnic and linguistic groups. The main ethnic groups are of Tikar origin: Tikari, Widikum, Fulani, and Moghamo. The most widely spoken languages in the province include Mungaka, Limbum, Yamba, spoken by the Yamba people also of the Donga Mantung Division; Bafmen, Oku, Lamnso, Ngemba, Pidgin English, Balikumbat, Papiakum, Moghamo, and Nkom. During the colonial period, administrative boundaries were created which cut across ethnic groups and cultures. As a result, parts of some ethnic groups now lie in different divisions and provinces, which is believed to have led to several land conflicts.[citation needed]

Traditional dance display of Wimbum in Nkambe in dry season
Commercialized version of an elephant juju traditional to Oku. Jujus (masker societies) are a survivor of the traditional culture, still appearing for death ceremonies.[13]

In the provinces, the social organization recognizes a chief as its head, also called the Fon. The Fons, who in their tribal area may be more influential than the official administrative authorities, are considered the living representative of the tribal ancestors.


The Northwest is a stronghold of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) which is one of the main opposition parties of Cameroon. Some Northwesterners feel completely marginalized by the government. There is also a secessionist movement, the SCNC (Southern Cameroon's National Council) whose goal is to secede from Cameroon and form a republic consisting of the English-speaking regions.[clarification needed] Much of the SCNC's influence exists in the Northwest. In 2008, the President of the Republic of Cameroon, Paul Biya, signed decrees abolishing "Provinces" and replacing them with "Regions". The Northwest Province subsequently became the Northwest Region.

Natural attractions[edit]

Rivers of the NW Region

The Northwest region has unique attractions, including the second highest mountain in West Africa, Mount Oku.[citation needed] It is home to birds such as the Bannerman's turaco, which is unique to this region. There are also many crater lakes such as Lake Oku, Lake Awing, and Lake Nyos. The largest remaining mountain forest in the Northwest Region is the Kilum-Ijim Forest. Menchum Falls, and Abbi Falls in the Mbengwi Division, are also located here.


  1. ^ "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  2. ^ Tatah-Mentan, I., and F. Achankeng. "Stopping war before it starts: testing preventive diplomacy in the selfdetermination case of British Southern Cameroons (aka Ambazonia)." British Southern Cameroons: Nationalism & Conflict in Postcolonial Africa (2014): 127-170.
  3. ^ "North-West Cameroon".
  4. ^ Identity Politics in Colonial Africa: Fulani Migrations and Land Conflict, Taylor & Francis, UK, 2016, p. 20
  5. ^ Emmanuel Mbah, Environment and Identity Politics in Colonial Africa: Fulani Migrations and Land Conflict, Taylor & Francis, UK, 2016, p. 21
  6. ^ Adepoju, Paul. "World Report Hospital attack in anglophone Cameroon kills four patients." (2019).
  7. ^ Toyin Falola, Daniel Jean-Jacques, ' 'Africa: An Encyclopedia of Culture and Society [3 volumes]: An Encyclopedia of Culture and Society', ABC-CLIO, USA, 2015, p. 142
  8. ^ Emmanuel Mbah, Environment and Identity Politics in Colonial Africa: Fulani Migrations and Land Conflict, Taylor & Francis, UK, 2016, p. 20
  9. ^ Emmanuel Mbah, Environment and Identity Politics in Colonial Africa: Fulani Migrations and Land Conflict, Taylor & Francis, UK, 2016, p. 21
  10. ^ Philippe Karsenty, in Cameroon,, September 2, 2019
  11. ^ Government of Cameroon. "La Population du Cameroun 2010" (PDF) (in French). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 May 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  12. ^ Cameroon: Administrative Division population statistics
  13. ^ Koloss, Hans-Joachim. "Life in the Cameroon Grasslands". Art and Life in Africa. University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art. Retrieved 12 February 2022.