According to official statistics, Cameroon's population of about 16.5 million encompasses 350 ethnic groups. The sporadic eruption of inter-ethnic conflict in Cameroon has prompted concern about the future of this Central African country, according to IPS writer Sylvestre Tetchiada.
The first notable tensions between ethnic groups, he writes, date back to the beginning of the 1990s, also the time when single party rule came to an end in Cameroon.
However, anthropologist Charly Gabriel Mbock cautions that there is more to ethnic conflict than meets the eye. He says:
"Most of the so-called ethnic conflicts are the consequences of poorly-studied and poorly-resolved social problems. The conflicts, before they are called ethnic, are initially -- and remain essentially -- social.
Ethnic divisions are often exploited for political and religious gain:
"The elites of Cameroon...instigate or worsen inter-ethnic divisions for personal gain. The public powers clearly draw an advantage from the disorder provoked by the elites, to the extent that ethnic manipulation has become a business for most politicians and senior government officials."
>> Democratization and Ethnic Rivalries in Cameroon (Collection of papers denouncing the different faces of the political corruption of ethnicity in Cameroon, since the early hours of democracy. Examines the role played by the media in the exacerbation of ethnic rivalries; the survival of ethnic taxonomies in the post-colonial state etc)