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Cameroon has distinct regional cultural, religious, and political traditions as well as ethnic variety. The division of the country into British- and French-ruled League of Nations mandates after World War I created Anglophone and Francophone regions. The English-speaking region consists of the Southwest and Northwest provinces, where Pidgin English (Wes Cos) is the lingua franca and English is taught in school. The educational system and legal practices derive from those of England. The French-speaking region consists of the remaining eight provinces, where French is the lingua franca, the French school system is used, and the legal system is based on the statutory law of continental Europe. This region is dominant in numbers and power. Tension between the two regions increased after the introduction of a multiparty political system in the 1990s.
The English-speaking region is divided into two cultural regions. The Grassfields peoples of the Northwest Province consist of nearly one hundred chiefdoms each ruled by a divine king (fon) . Most of these chiefdoms have patrilineal or dual descent kinship systems, although some groups, such as the Kom, are matrilineal. Polygyny and fertility are important cultural values, although this varies by wealth and education. The social organization and culture of the Grassfielders are closely related to those of the French-speaking Bamiléké peoples of the Western province. Like the Bamiléké, Grassfielders often are in opposition to the central government.
The peoples of the Southwest province had less hierarchical systems of governance and social organization. The British appointed warrant chiefs to aid their colonial rule, and in many instances the population rallied behind those chiefs in the postcolonial period. The peoples of the Southwest province include the Bakweri, who live along the slopes of Mount Cameroon. The Bakweri practice rites of healing and initiation in associations of spirit mediums that distinguish between male and female roles and between village and bush.
In the French-speaking area, the largely Muslim north is culturally distinct from the largely Christian and animist south. The northern area includes three provinces: Adamoua, North, and Extreme North. Since the jihad led by an Islamic cleric in 1804, the northern region has been culturally dominated by the Fulani. Urban Fulani are renowned as clerics in the Sunni branch of Islam. Most Fulani are cattle herders. An important subgroup are the Bororo'en, noted for the size of their cattle herds. With their Hausa colleagues, they engage in long-distance trade involving cattle. Other northern ethnic groups include the Mandara, Kokoto, and Arab Choa. Major crops include cotton and millet.
Most of the southern peoples are Christian or engage in traditional, animist religious practices. The Center, South, and East provinces are characterized by dense tropical rain forest. The Center and South are culturally dominated by the Beti peoples, which include the Ewondo, Eton, and Bulu, and are linguistically and culturally related to the Fang of Gabon. They are patrilineal, grow root crops and peanuts for their own consumption, and grow cocoa as a cash crop. The Ewondo were early converts to Catholicism.