Bafoussam is the capital and largest city of the West Region of Cameroon, in the Bamboutos Mountains. It is the 3rd most important (financially) city in Cameroon after Yaounde and Douala. The communauté urbaine (Urban Community) of Bafoussam, is a decentralized territorial collectivity. Originally called Urban Commune of Bafoussam, the communauté urbaine (Urban Community) of Bafoussam, was born after the Presidential Decree N ° 2008/022 of January 17, 2008 and composed of three communes, namely: the Commune of Bafoussam I (Bafoussam proper), the Commune of Bafoussam II (Baleng) and the Commune of Bafoussam III (Bamougoum).
The city had an urban population of 347,517 inhabitants (at the 2008 Census). Bafoussam is the West Region centre of trade, and people are farming coffee, Potatoes, maize and beans. The city has also a coffee processing facility and brewery. It is the main city of the Bamiléké people and is home to the Bafoussam chief's palace. Bafoussam is a group composed of 07 villages (Bamendzi, Banengo, Ndiangdam, Ndiangsouoh, Ndiangbou, Toukouop, Ngoueng and Banengo city B) with 46 districts or sub-villages.The main neighborhoods of the city are Banengo, Djeleng, Famla (also called Akwa), Kamkop, Quartier Eveché, Quartier Haussa and Tamdja.
Bafoussam has two main markets (Marché A and Marché B), several internet cafés, restaurants and supermarkets and a movie theater. Most of Bafoussam nightlife centers on the area called Akwa (so-named in honor of the neighborhood in Douala). Akwa features several bars, stores, and a live music venue, along with customary vendors of Soya (barbecue beef meat brochettes), Poisson braisé (barbecue fish) and other foods.
This is the birthplace of football player Geremi and his 17 brothers and sisters, as well as the birthplace of his cousin Pierre Webó.
The West's mountainous terrain and active tectonics create many fast-moving rivers with picturesque falls and isolated crater lakes. These rivers follow a Cameroon regime, experiencing a period of high waters during the wet season and a period of low waters in the dry period. The rivers all form part of the Atlantic basin.
The Mbam River runs along the border with the Centre and Southeast Provinces. The Nkam is the name for the headwaters of the Wouri River, which flow from the West's Bamboutos Mountains. The eastern branch through the area rises northwest of Bangangté, and the western branch forms the border with the Littoral Province southwest of Bafang. These headwaters are subject to seasonal flooding. The Noun River, a tributary of the Sanaga, flows from the Centre Province, around Bafoussam, and to the Bamendjing Reservoir. This manmade lake is created by a dam on the Noun River, which helps regulate the Sanaga at Edéa in the Littoral Province and is thus an important component in Cameroon's supply of hydroelectric power. Falls are common, such as the Balatchi, Metché, and Tsugning Falls.
Most of the West's lakes are crater lakes formed from collapsed volcanoes. Such lakes exist at Balent, Banéfo, Doupé, and near Foumban. Many of these still have active volcanoes at their bottoms, particularly in the northwest on the Western High Plateau. One example is Lake Baleng, northeast of Bafoussam, and the twin lakes of Foumbot. These volcanoes can causes deposits of gas to build up at the lakebed until poisonous gases finally bubble to the surface. Such an eruption at Lake Monoun killed 37 villagers near Foumbot on 15 and 16 August 1984.
Two major tribal groups dominate the West: the Bamileke and the Bamum. Both of these are considered semi-Bantu or grassfields Bantu. The Bamileke are the more numerous, estimated to number 3000000 or more. They are concentrated southeast of the Bamboutos Mountains and west of the Noun River. Their major settlements are at Bafoussam, Bandjoun, Bafang, Bawaju, Bangangté, Dschang, and Mbouda. They organise themselves in sub-groups, each under the rule of a different chief. Examples are the Fe'fe', Ghomala, Kwa', Medumba, Mengaka, Nda'nda', Ngomba, Ngombale, Ngiemboon, and Yemba. Most of these groups speak a unique language, though all are closely related. Most Bamileke are Christian, with Roman Catholics in the majority.
The Bamum people are the area's other major ethnic group. They are a subgroup of the Tikar, though they speak a language called Bamum. They are primarily Islamic, and all are ruled by a sultan in their tribal capital, Foumban.
Other languages spoken in the province include Bamenyam, Mbo, and Tikar. Most educated inhabitants also speak French.
The West consists of eight divisions or departments (departements), each headed by a prefect (prefet), or senior divisional officer. The president appoints all of these officers and the provincial governor in Bafoussam. A special urban council presides over Bafoussam, staffed by presidentially appointed counselors who serve under a presidentially appointed delegate.
The Noun department, headquartered at Foumban, is the largest division geographically and occupies most of the Bamum territories bordering the Adamawa and Centre Provinces. The Ndé department is southwest of this with its capital at Bangangté. The Haut-Nkam (Upper Nkam) department, capitalled at Bafang is further west, and the Ménoua department borders it to the northwest with its capital at Dschang. The Mifi department, with its capital Bafoussam, forms the centre of the region, and it is hemmed in by a handful of smaller divisions: the Bamboutos department, headquartered at Mbouda, the Hauts-Plateaux (High Plateaus) department, governed from Baham, and the Koung-Khi department, governed from Bandjoun. These latter two divisions were recently formed due to population booms in the area.
The French continued Germany's policy of propping up sympathetic chiefs and deposing recalcitrant ones. They sought some sort of administrative centre amid the Bamileke domains, and in 1926, Fotso II of the Bandjoun people offered the site of Bafoussam, neighbouring his domains but not actually part of them. Mambou, chief of the area, opposed the colonials, but he was defeated, and the foundations of modern Bafoussam were laid. The Bamum did not escape the French sphere, either, as sultan Ibrahim Njoya was deposed in 1931 due to his pro-German views. Njoya died in a Yaoundé prison two years later.
After World War II, the West was a centre of political pressure and protest against colonial rule. Other groups came into being to combat these (usually with France's blessing), including the Union Bamiléké in 1948. In 1956, France granted self-rule to its colony, and the West proved one of Cameroon's more politically influential areas due to groups such as Paysans Independants and the Assemblée Traditionnale Bamoun. The population boomed between 1958 and 1965, a period of high urbanisation in Cameroon.
In 1958, Ahmadou Ahidjo became prime minister of French Cameroon with a pro-independence platform. The powerful Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) party, including many Bamileke, opposed him as a French puppet. On 27 June 1959, several Bamileke areas were struck in what were later labeled terrorist strikes. Ahidjo declared martial law. His later attitudes toward the Bamileke likely were strongly influenced by these incidents.