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Cameroon: Concern for freedom

Though Cameroon is not the focus of world attention, some recent blog posts question the reality of freedom in this African country.

On his blog [fr], Édouard Tamba worries about freedom in his country:

Le 8 novembre dernier, le sous-préfet de Yaoundé II débarque au Palais des congrès avec l’intention d’interdire la tenue de l’Assemblée générale de l’Ordre des avocats du Cameroun. […] Quelques jours plus tôt, c’est le même sous-préfet qui interdisait une réunion des syndicats de taximen […].

Le week-end dernier, ce sous-préfet interdisait la marche de l’Ong Jane and Justice, oeuvrant dans la sensibilisation contre les accidents de la route. Le même jour, celui de Yaoundé I interdit une réunion illégale de la ligue provinciale d’athlétisme du Centre. “En voilà au moins un qui a gardé sa lucidité”, commentent certains. Trop tôt ! Ledit sous-préfet, après des pressions du ministre des Sports et de l’éducation physique, autorise finalement la réunion. […]

The 8th of november [2008], the sub-prefect of Yaoundé II arrived in the convention center with the intention of banning of a meeting of the Cameroon bar association's general assembly. […] A few days earlier, this same sub-prefect had banned a meeting of taxi drivers unions […].

Last week-end, he banned the march planned by the NGO Jane and Justice, whose aim is to increase public awareness about traffic accidents. The same day, the sub-prefect of Yaoundé I banned an illegal meeting of the regional athletics league. “Here at least there is someone who is still sensible,” some say. No! This same sub-prefect, after pressure from the Minister of Sports and Physical Education, finally authorized the meeting. […]

In the comments of this post, Ti Aya is disillusioned:

Est-ce que c’est vraiment une régression ? Il me semble qu’il en a toujours été ainsi, non ?

Is it really getting worse? It seems to me things have always been like this, haven't they?

In the same post, Édouard Tamba reports another incident, the banning of a press conference by the civic association for collective interests protection (ACDIC), along with photographs of the violent repression of a protest in Yaoundé by this association on December 10th.

In reponse to this event, François Bimogo, editor of the magazine Éclat d'Afrique, sent this message [fr]:

Après l'interdiction […] de sa conférence de presse […], l'Association Citoyenne de Défense des Intérêts Collectifs a tenu une manifestation de près de 500 personnes […] à Yaoundé […].

Face à des manifestants à mains nues qui brandissaient des pancartes pour dénoncer les détournements, la corruption et la réaction de l'État Camerounais pour éviter la crise alimentaire du maïs qui guette le Cameroun en 2009, une cinquantaine de policiers anti-émeutes lourdement armés ont fondu sur les manifestants après une tentatives d'exfiltration de force de […] Bernard NJONGA, président de l'ACDIC. A l'issue de violentes empoignades, une trentaine de manifestants ont été chargés et embarqués […].

After the banning […] of its press conference […], the Civic Association for the Defense of Collective Interests held a demonstration of nearly 500 people […] in Yaoundé […].

50 riot police heavily equipped were faced unarmed protesters carrying only signs denouncing embezzlement, corruption and the government's response to the food crisis which threatens Cameroon in 2009; the police tried to arrest the ACDIC president […], Bernard NJONGA. After a violent brawl, they arrested about thirty protesters […].

In his post, Édouard Tamba comments:

La démarche de l’Acdic pourrait être contestable en ce qui concerne le cadre légal régulant les manifestations publiques. Mais de là à en arriver à de telles exactions. On se pose des questions.

With respect to the laws regulating public demonstrations, the actions of the ACDIC may be questionable. But to go from that to such violence.  It raises a lot of questions.

The end of François Bimogo's message can explain it:

Selon une étude […], l'ACDIC a découvert que plus de 1,2 milliards de F CFA ont été détournés depuis 2006 au Ministère de l'agriculture et du développement rural […].

According to an investigation, the ACDIC found that in 2006, more than 1.2 billion CFA francs [US$ 2.5 million ] had been embezzled by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Department.

More information on this subject can be found on this blog [fr].

Although the 2007 annual report of the NGO Reporters Without Borders says that press freedom is beginning to become reality in Cameroon, it remains fragile and under threat.

On PrinceReport, a post written by Yemti Harry Ndienla describes human rights abuses, as reported by US State Department:

Cameroon’s human rights record remains poor and government continue to commit numerous human rights abuses year-in-year-out. Government backed security forces commit numerous unlawful killings; engaged in regular torture, beatings, and other abuses, particularly of detainees and prisoners with impunity. On the other hand, Prison conditions remain harsh and life-threatening while authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained anglophone citizens (SCNC) advocating secession, local human rights monitors and activists, other citizens and above all journalists. Furthermore, there are disturbing reports of prolonged and sometimes incommunicado pretrial detention and infringement on citizens’ privacy rights.

Annual reports on Cameroon by the US Department of State have always buttress the above including the fact that “the government restricted citizens’ freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and harassed journalists. The government also impeded citizens’ freedom of movement. The public perceived government corruption to be a serious problem. Societal violence and discrimination against women; trafficking in persons, primarily children; discrimination against indigenous Pygmies and ethnic minorities; and discrimination against homosexuals were problems. The government restricted worker rights and the activities of independent labor organizations, and child labor, slavery, and forced labor, including forced child labor, were reported to be problems”.

This and another both mention the specific problem of the two English-speaking north-western provinces of Cameroon, where a separatist movement exists.

Narmer tells the story of Njoya Hilary Tikum, who fled Cameroon in 2006, because he was an Anglophone secessionist, and suffered repression in his country. He sought, and obtained, political asylum in the United States, and he now lives in New York City.

Cameroon is not devastated by war, but Paul Biya‘s regime remains strong, and freedom needs to progress in his country.

2 comments

  • The world is talking… through our blogs and Global voice. Very happy to discover that a article posted on my blog interest your team. :)
    Thanks, keep moving and make them listen what we have to say.

  • hallex berry

    My name is Hallex Berry. I am 21 years old and live in sweden, have been here since the age of 12 but i still like to maintain my roots. I am studying my third year of journalism in the university in sweden. Right now we are writting our C-paper and i would like to base my on: freedom of speech in cameroon. The only problem is that i don’t have any materials and it is not easy at all to find metarials on the internet. Do you maybe know anyone or have any journalism contacts that i can depend on? or anybooks based on the freedom of speech in cameroon?

    best regards//Hallex

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