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TITLE:  CAMEROON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Despite democratic reforms begun in 1990, political power 
remained in the hands of the President, Paul Biya, and a small 
circle of advisers drawn primarily from his own ethnic group 
and the former single party, the Cameroon People's Democratic 
Movement (CPDM).  Biya was reelected in October 1992 in 
presidential elections marred by widespread irregularities, 
ascribed largely to the Government by international observers.  
In contrast, the March 1992 legislative elections were 
generally considered free and fair by international observers, 
and some opposition parties gained representation in the 
National Assembly--while others boycotted the vote.  The 
elections have not significantly diminished the authority of 
the President, since the present Constitution, which dates from 
the one-party era, imposes few legislative or judicial checks 
on executive power.

The flawed presidential vote cast a shadow over Cameroonian 
politics throughout 1993.  The President announced steps to 
reform the Constitution.  At the end of the year, however, the 
Government still had not convened the promised constitutional 
consultative committee, which had been envisioned to be broadly 
representative of Cameroonian society; nor had it published the 
text of the constitution as revised by the government-dominated 
Technical Committee.

Internal security responsibilities are shared by the national 
police, the National Intelligence Service (CENER), the 
gendarmerie, the Ministry of Territorial Administration 
(MINAT), military intelligence (SEMIL), the army, and to a 
lesser extent, the Presidential Security Service.  MINAT is in 
charge of prisons, and its local officials (prefects or senior 
divisional officers) are responsible for invoking security 
forces to maintain order.  The police, which includes a special 
security force, the Mixed Mobile Brigade (BMM), and the 
gendarmerie have the dominant role in enforcing internal 
security laws.  As in previous years, security forces, 
including the BMM, committed numerous human rights abuses.  

Cameroon has a strong, diversified agricultural base and a 
small but important petroleum sector, which produces 50 percent 
of export earnings.  With a per capita gross domestic product 
(GDP) of about $800 in 1992-93, the country ranked among the 
lower middle-income developing countries.  Per capita GDP has 
fallen by about 50 percent since 1986, due to population growth 
of nearly 3 percent per year, declining oil production, slow 
adjustment to a drop in the world prices of Cameroon's major 
exports, and the effects of corruption.  Self-sufficiency in 
food production helps mitigate the effects of shrinking export 
earnings and a growing foreign debt burden.  Private economic 
activity is hindered by a bloated public corporation sector, 
lack of fiscal integrity, and uneven judicial enforcement of 
contracts and property rights.

There were serious human rights abuses, including political and 
extrajudicial killings.  Security forces fired on peaceful 
opposition demonstrators in March, killing 2 persons and 
wounding more than 20.  Security forces continued to engage in 
arbitrary detention--over 100 persons were detained on 1 day in 
November--and physical mistreatment to intimidate opposition 
leaders.  They routinely beat persons detained in connection 
with common crimes.  Although Cameroon's independent newspapers 
circulated widely and criticized the administration, the 
authorities used a variety of techniques to intimidate the 
press, e.g., arresting or bringing libel suits against some 
prominent journalists.  The former labor wing of the ruling 
party continued to dominate the labor movement, and there were 
no other independent unions authorized.  Societal 
discrimination against women also continued to be a serious 

On May 26, a military tribunal convicted and sentenced one 
military officer and five soldiers for their roles in the 
January 1992 summary executions of Choa Arabs in Kousseri.  The 
officer and one of the soldiers were sentenced to death and the 
remaining four soldiers were given prison sentences ranging 
from 10 to 15 years; four others were found innocent of similar 
charges.  The six convictions are under appeal.  The trial was 
the first case in which members of the security forces were 
publicly tried for human rights offenses.  Generally, security 
force personnel commit even the most egregious abuses with 
impunity; persons reporting such abuses are more likely to be 
punished than are the perpetrators (see Section 1.a.).


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were several incidents of political and extrajudicial 
killing, some attributable to government security forces.  
While in their custody March 16-20, gendarmes beat to death 
Louis Abondo Langvoue, who was detained in connection with a 
theft in Bertoua, East Province.  An autopsy report, 
corroborated by photographs and statements from the presiding 
medical examiner, concluded that Abondo had died from "severe 
continuous trauma, dehydration, and shock" due to "severe, 
merciless, and indiscriminate beating."  As of late December, 
the Government had initiated no investigation or disciplinary 
action in the case but had suspended the medical examiner from 
his post.

Using excessive force, gendarmes fired into a crowd of 
opposition demonstrators in Bamenda on March 25, killing 2 and 
wounding 20.  The incident occurred during the second in a 
series of peaceful demonstrations held without legal 
authorization by the opposition Union for Change.  According to 
eyewitness accounts, a cordon of 30 gendarmes initially fired 
tear gas to disperse a crowd of some 500 seated demonstrators.  
As the crowd began to scatter, at least two gendarmes fired 
into the crowd.  After issuing a public statement which blamed 
the deaths and injuries on opposition supporters armed with 
home-made weapons, the Prime Minister established a commission 
of inquiry composed entirely of government security officials.  
Its conclusion that gendarmes had fired in self-defense was 
belied by eyewitness accounts of the incident and the lack of 
any casualties among the gendarmes.

On January 17, outside Bafoussam, West Province, unknown 
assailants abducted Cameroon Democratic Union (CDU) Vice 
President Benjamin Menga from his car and beat, stabbed, and 
shot him.  He died 6 days later of his injuries.  Since Menga 
was not robbed, his death was widely thought to be politically 
motivated.  CDU officials charged that Menga was a victim of a 
rival opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, whose 
members had allegedly threatened him.  However, the charges 
that Menga's death was politically motivated have not been 
substantiated.  As of year's end, no suspects had been charged, 
and the investigation appeared to have lost momentum.

In May members of the Palace Guard (Dogari) of the Lamido of 
Rey Bouba, a progovernment traditional ruler in North Province, 
killed 20 persons in countering a decision by villagers in 
Mbanre to install a pro-opposition chief.  In the skirmishes, 
townspeople also killed three members of the Dogari with 
poisoned arrows.  The nearest gendarmerie detachment, located 
in Belel, declined to intervene when informed of the fighting.

In June there were reports that gendarmerie and army units shot 
and killed eight Choa Arabs who had been detained for alleged 
banditry and illegal possession of weapons in Far North 
Province.  The Choas charged that they were ethnically targeted 
by the gendarmerie forces, but in the highly emotional ethnic 
rivalries of the northern region, it has not been possible to 
confirm or disprove this.  The charge was based on allegations 
of personal vendettas by certain gendarmerie officers; on the 
other hand, the Choa Arabs have politically voted with the 
Government and have also been identified frequently among the 
highway bandits that plague the north.

On November 25, 1993, Yaounde police reportedly shot and killed 
Moise Fokou, a 23-year-old street vendor, in Yaounde's Mokolo 
market area.  Published photographs of the vendor's body and 
eyewitness accounts suggested that the vendor was in handcuffs 
at the time of his death.

In December there were credible reports that 23-year-old 
Cyprain Tonwie Ndifor was beaten and later died while in 
gendarmerie custody in Northwest Province.  However, no 
detailed investigation of the case had been completed at the 
end of the year.

The Government seldom punishes abuses by security force 
members.  Officials argue that publicly disclosing such abuses 
involving security forces would hurt military and police morale 
and thereby undermine their effectiveness.  In a notable 
exception, a military tribunal tried 10 soldiers and gendarmes, 
including 2 officers, for the January 1992 summary execution of 
5 Choa Arabs in Far North Province.  In a decision handed down 
by a Yaounde military tribunal on May 26, five of the accused, 
including one officer, were found guilty.  Two of the guilty 
were sentenced to death.  As of December 31, an appeal was 
pending in the case.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of long-term disappearance.  However, 
police and gendarmes frequently failed to inform detainees' 
family members or attorneys of their whereabouts.  For example, 
when police detained nearly 100 members of the opposition Union 
of Cameroonian Democratic Forces (UFDC) party on March 31, they 
did not inform family members who had to visit numerous 
detention facilities before finding them.  Similarly, when 
police detained journalist and Union for Change administrative 
secretary Francois Borgia Marie Evembe on August 19, they 
notified neither his family nor his attorney.  After nearly 2 
days of searching, family members located him in a Yaounde 
police cell.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Although the Penal Code proscribes torture, renders 
inadmissible in court evidence obtained thereby, and prohibits 
public servants from using force against any person, there were 
many credible reports of security forces inflicting severe 
beatings, systematic torture, and other inhuman treatment (see 
Section l.a.).  Sanctions against those responsible are rare, 
although the Government maintains that they face administrative 
punishments which are not made public.

The security forces follow a pattern of degrading mistreatment 
of detainees, including stripping, confinement in severely 
overcrowded cells, and denial of access to toilets or other 
sanitation facilities.  Police and gendarmes routinely beat 
detainees to extract confessions and the names and whereabouts 
of other alleged criminals.  In particular, they often beat 
them on the soles of their feet with an iron bar or whip them 
with a reinforced rubber tube.

For example, security forces beat Social Democratic Front (SDF) 
economic adviser Joseph Kwi and other opposition supporters in 
this manner; they had been detained for participation in the 
March and April peaceful protest demonstrations.  Similarly, 
security forces beat Victorin Hameni Bieleu, President of the 
opposition UFDC party, who was detained March 31 to April 8 
with approximately 100 of his supporters, on the soles of his 
feet; he also suffered blows to the eye.  While in custody, 
security forces awakened Francois Borgia Marie Evembe during 
the night and subjected him to lengthy interrogation, sometimes 
lasting 6 or 7 hours (see Section l.b.).

In May Secretary of State for Internal Security Jean Fochive 
issued a directive to all police officers stating that numerous 
abuses of detainees had come to his attention and that future 
incidents would result in disciplinary action--including 
demotion of those responsible.  In the directive, which Fochive 
publicly acknowledged, he specifically cited whippings, 
beatings on the soles of feet, and beatings administered as 
detainees hung suspended from the ceiling (the so-called 
balancoire) as unacceptable practices.

Nevertheless, released members of the opposition Union for 
Change reported in November that they had been beaten on the 
soles of their feet and then forced to stand or walk.  In some 
cases, police demanded money from the detainees, threatening 
more severe threatment if they refused.

Prison conditions are life threatening, especially outside 
major urban areas.  An 18-year-old convicted thief died in the 
Buea prison in July after suffering from acute malnutrition.  
An August 8 newscast on government-controlled television 
revealed serious deficiencies in food, health care, and 
sanitation even in New Bell prison located in Douala, 
Cameroon's largest city.  Overcrowding is severe throughout the 
penitentiary system.  For example, Bamenda's central prison 
houses more than three times the number of inmates for which it 
was built.  Some traditional rulers in northern Cameroon 
maintain private prisons which operate outside the authority of 
the government penitentiary system.  Prisoners are sometimes 
chained in their cells.

Conditions are worst at isolated Tchollire II prison, where 
inadequate food and medical attention reportedly caused at 
least 40 deaths between 1990 and 1992 among the inmates.  The 
authorities have refused requests by foreign diplomats to visit 
the prison.  The International Committee of the Red Cross 
(ICRC), which reopened its office in Cameroon in 1992, 
suspended visits to prisons and detention centers following the 
Government's refusal to permit ICRC representatives access to 
some detainees.  Women held in custody do not appear to be 
targeted for rape or abuse by security or prison personnel.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary, prolonged detention remained a serious problem.  In 
particular, the security forces failed to implement fully the 
Penal Code requirement that detainees be brought before a 
magistrate within established time frames, and have held 
detainees incommunicado.

By law, a person detained in connection with a common crime may 
be held in custody up to 24 hours before being charged.  That 
period may be renewed three times.  However, the law only 
provides for habeas corpus in the few majority-Anglophone areas 
of the country; elsewhere, the Francophone legal tradition 
applies, precluding judicial authorities from acting on a case 
until the administrative authority that ordered the detention 
turns the case over to the prosecutor.  After a magistrate has 
issued a warrant to bring the case to trial, the detainee may 
be held in "pretrial detention" indefinitely pending court 
action.  Furthermore, a 1990 law permits detention without 
charge for renewable periods of 15 days "in order to combat 
banditry."  Persons taken into detention are frequently denied 
access to both legal counsel and family members.  The law 
permits release on bail only in the Anglophone provinces, where 
the legal system includes some features of British common law.  
Even there, bail is granted infrequently.

The Government repeatedly detained opposition activists on 
political grounds, as in the cases of Francois Borgia Marie 
Evembe, Joseph Kwi, and Victor Hameni Bieleu (see Sections 2.b. 
and 2.c.).  Other politically motivated detentions occurred on 
August 28, when SDF Northwest Province coordinator Joseph 
Akonteh was held for 2 days on the eve of an opposition-led 
general strike, and on September 8, when Littoral Province 
coordinator Leolin Nja Kwa was taken into custody for 3 days.  
Both men were released without charge after their detention.  
Neither was physically harmed during these incidents.  In 
October the police detained the spouse and children of 
opposition figure Jean Michel Nintcheu.  The wife and three 
children under 10 years of age were detained for approximately 
10 days without charges.

The most serious instance of arbitrary detention was the arrest 
in November of approximately 100 persons in connection with the 
opposition coalition, the Union for Change.  The detainees were 
questioned about their affiliation with the Union for Change 
and their intentions to attend a press conference given by John 
Fru Ndi, the leader of the main opposition party, the SDF.  All 
detainees were released without charge within 48 hours of their 
arrest.  Nearly all rank and file Union for Change supporters 
were beaten at the time of arrest, and most suffered beatings 
and extortion of money at the hands of police during their 
detention.  Senior Union for Change officials were generally 
not mistreated while in custody.

The Government does not practice political exile.  However, 
some opposition members who considered themselves threatened by 
the Government have voluntarily left the country and declared 
themselves to be in political exile.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Cameroonian court system is subordinate to the Ministry of 
Justice; it is part of the executive, not a separate or 
independent branch of government.

Magistrates in Cameroon are career civil servants responsible 
to the Minister of Justice, and thus are subject, particularly 
in political cases, to government direction.  For example, one 
widely publicized corporate control dispute between a European 
investor and a Cameroonian with close ties to the ruling party 
was decided on questionable grounds in favor of the ruling 
party supporter.  Some politically sensitive cases are never 
heard.  For example, it took nearly a year before the Chief 
Justice informed SDF lawyers that he had declined to hear their 
October 1992 appeal for an injunction against the presidential 
swearing-in, pending Supreme Court review of electoral 

Magistrates acknowledge that rendering a decision that 
displeases the Government may result in transfer to a less 
desirable position.  However, decisions in nonpolitical cases 
are usually not subject to government interference.  Trials are 
public.  A 1990 law established a State Security Court to try 
"crimes against the internal and external security of the 
state."  Persons detained during the 1992 state of emergency 
were arraigned by State Security Court prosecutors but were not 
formally charged with a crime.

If a defendant is indigent, the presiding judge in the case 
will designate an attorney from among the members of the bar in 
the court district.  However, because appointed attorneys 
receive little compensation, the quality of such legal 
representation is often poor.  The Bar Association and some 
voluntary organizations, such as the Cameroonian Association of 
Female Jurists, offer pro bono legal assistance in some cases.

Traditional courts continue to play an important role, 
particularly in rural areas.  Their authority varies by region 
and ethnic group, but they are often the arbiters of property 
and domestic disputes and may serve a probate function as 
well.  Most traditional courts permit appeal of decisions to 
traditional authorities of higher rank.

There were no known political prisoners, as distinct from 
political detainees, at year's end.  However, political 
prisoners released under the 1991 Amnesty Decree complained 
that the Government had not implemented provisions mandating 
that former military officers and public servants be reinstated 
to positions they held prior to their incarceration.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

While both invasions of the home and tampering with 
correspondence are violations of Cameroonian law, there were 
reports of police and gendarmes harassing citizens and 
conducting searches without warrants.  This practice was 
particularly widespread in Southwest Province, where security 
forces entered private homes and businesses to enforce payment 
of taxes and customs duties.  Gendarmes destroyed goods, 
alleged to have been smuggled, without permitting due process 
of law for those accused of import violations.  In one 
instance, gendarmes participating in an anticontraband drive 
set fire to a small cargo vessel belonging to a Nigerian trader 
in Limbe, Southwest Province, when he refused to pay a bribe.

There were credible reports that the Government kept some 
opposition activists and dissidents under surveillance.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Although the 1972 Constitution provides for freedom of 
expression and press, Cameroonian law and practice have long 
restricted these liberties.  In late 1990, a new law 
established more liberal regulations to begin publication of 
newspapers and magazines.  That same law, however, formally 
enshrined prepublication censorship and granted the Ministry of 
Territorial Administration the authority to suspend or revoke 
the right to publish.  The law also provided for licensing of 
private radio and television stations, but, as of the end of 
December, no licenses had been granted, and the Government 
retained complete control of the electronic media.  Public 
servants employed by the official media face retribution for 
openly criticizing the Government, as in the case of numerous 
Cameroon radio-television journalists who have been transferred 
to less desirable assignments for such remarks.

The Government publishes an official newspaper--the Cameroon 
Tribune--and determines the content of radio and television 
broadcasts.  Nevertheless, government reporters sometimes run 
stories which implicitly criticize the ruling party or portray 
government programs in an unfavorable light.  The government- 
controlled broadcast media, although funded by all taxpayers, 
provide disproportionately high levels of coverage to the CPDM 
functions, while giving little air time to opposition events.  
Parties represented in the National Assembly, however, were 
given access to television and radio time during scheduled 
"expression directe" political broadcasts.

Some 70 private newspapers are published, about one-quarter 
weekly and the others at irregular intervals.  These newspapers 
circulate widely and are often outspoken in their criticism of 
the Government and the President.  Starting in mid-1993, there 
were fewer cases of censorship of individual articles.  Rather, 
issues containing articles critical of the Government and its 
supporters were subject to seizure or to restrictions on 

The Government used its licensing authority to suspend nine 
private newspapers in November 1992.  Although the papers 
continued to circulate clandestinely until the suspension order 
was lifted in May, the order imposed a severe economic hardship 
on these nine newspapers and had a chilling effect on the  
fledgling private press.  After the suspension was lifted, the 
police seized several newspapers for publishing stories that 
embarrassed the Government.  For example, police removed from 
newstands the June 22 and July 20 editions of La Nouvelle 
Expression, which reported a scandal involving construction of 
a presidential golf course, and the September 27 issue of Le 
Nouvel Independant, which implicated a confidant of the 
President in a 1988 murder.

In other intimidating techniques, the Government stationed 
security forces throughout the spring outside Rotoprint, the 
Douala firm which prints most private papers.  It detained 
journalist Francois Borgia Marie Evembe for a total of nearly 
10 days in connection with two articles he wrote for Le 
Messager which criticized the President (see Sections l.b. and 
1.c.).  It tried Le Messager publisher Pius Njawe, Challenge 
Nouveau publisher Benjamin Zebaze, and Challenge journalist 
Martin Waffo for their April publication of a purported letter 
from the Minister of Justice to the Prime Minister suggesting 
charges against opposition leader John Fru Ndi and others for 
"insurrection, murder, spreading of false information, and 
incitement to revolt" in the aftermath of the 1992 presidential 
election.  The court gave Njawe a 6-month suspended sentence, 
and Zebaze and Waffo received 5-month prison terms; however, at 
year's end, all three men were free while their sentences 
remain under appeal. 

In a highly publicized libel case, the owner of a fish import 
company sued La Nouvelle Expression editor Severin Tchounkeu 
and staff writer David Nouwou in Douala court, alleging he had 
been falsely accused of involvement in a customs fraud 
scandal.  Although the journalists offered documentary proof 
for their story, the court found them guilty, and on April 4 
the judge imposed an unusually stiff sentence of 6 months in 
prison--the first time since independence that a journalist 
served time for libel.  The two journalists spent 6 weeks in 
prison before the judge's ruling was overturned on appeal.  
There is credible evidence to suggest that Government 
displeasure at the journalists' implication of the Customs 
Minister in the scandal contributed significantly to the harsh 
sentences the court handed down.

There are no legal restrictions on academic freedom, though it 
is generally believed that there are state security informants 
on university campuses.  Some university professors believe 
that their political viewpoints and activism have had a 
negative impact on professional opportunities and advancement.  
Free political discussion at the university is dampened by the 
presence of armed security forces, as well as sometimes 
strident pro-opposition groups.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of assembly and association are provided for in law but 
restricted in practice.  The Penal Code prohibits public 
meetings, demonstrations, or processions without prior 
government approval.  The 1990 Law on Freedom of Association 
established that Cameroonians may freely form associations 
simply by notifying the responsible administrative authority 
according to a set procedure.  Some 90 political parties 
operated legally, along with a growing number of civic 

While political parties and civic associations were generally 
permitted to hold public assemblies, the Government at times 
harassed opposition groups by denying them access to meeting 
facilities or refusing their permits on technicalities.  For 
example, in April the All Anglophone Conference was at the last 
minute denied permission to use the conference hall at the 
University of Buea.  In August the governor of Southwest 
Province issued a communique forbidding the Cameroon Anglophone 
Movement from holding a meeting.  Some opposition leaders, such 
as Ndeh Ntumazah and Garga Haman Adji, were unable to hold 
scheduled press conferences when they were denied 
authorization.  In September security forces disrupted a 
meeting of the newly formed Liberal Democratic Alliance (LDA) 
in Buea, using tear gas to disperse supporters gathered outside 
LDA chairman Njoh Litumbe's home.

In November, government security forces blocked two separate 
Yaounde press conferences of opposition leaders John Fru Ndi 
and Garga Haman Adji.  On November 3, Fru Ndi was denied access 
to the privately owned headquarters of the opposition UFDC, 
where he had intended to hold a press conference.  Minutes 
later, the vehicle in which Fru Ndi was riding was rammed and 
sprayed with high pressure water by a mobile government water 
cannon.  Fru Ndi suffered minor lacerations during the 
confrontation and sought refuge in the residence of a 
diplomat.  In the case of Garga, on November 18, Yaounde police 
first prohibited a conference in the Yaounde Hilton and then 
prevented Garga from receiving journalists in his private 

On December 1, security officials forcibly broke up and 
dispersed a press conference of the Cameroonian National Trade 
Union, which was calling for a general strike to protest public 
sector salary cuts.

In some cases, opposition parties deliberately flouted the 
requirement to obtain permission for public meetings or protest 
marches.  For example, in Northwest Province, the Social 
Democratic Front refused to apply for permits to hold 
demonstrations in March and April, despite pleas by the 
provincial governor that they do so.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is provided for in the Constitution, and 
there is no established state religion.  There are no 
restrictions on places of worship, the training of clergy, 
religious education, religious travel--such as the hajj--or 
participation in charitable activities.

A religious group must be approved and registered with the 
Ministry of Territorial Administration in order to function 
legally.  A presidential decree in February granted legal 
status to Jehovah's Witnesses, banned from 1970 until 1990.  
There were no reports of government harassment of Jehovah's 
Witnesses.  Although properties confiscated in 1970 have not 
been returned, the Witnesses are free to build new kingdom 

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Freedom of movement within the country is not restricted by 
law.  Police frequently stop travelers to check identification 
documents, vehicle registrations, and tax receipts as a 
security and immigration control measure.  During a gendarmerie 
and police campaign to stop contraband smuggled from Nigeria, 
the checks became pervasive and occasionally oppresive in 
Southwest Province.  Personnel manning these roadblocks 
frequently solicited bribes to speed passage.

During antigovernment protests, opposition supporters sometimes 
erected roadblocks.  For example, during the August Anglophone 
"Solidarity Day" general strike some strike supporters in 
Southwest Province used barricades to enforce the work 
stoppage.  Roadblocks were erected by Union for Change 
supporters in Bamenda during demonstrations in March and April, 
and again in August to protest the detention of Northwest 
Province coordinator Joseph Akonteh.  Opposition supporters 
also inhibited movement in Douala during the general strike 
called for August 30 and 31.

The Government has sometimes used its passport control function 
against those it considers real or potential threats.  For 
example, the Government has refused for more than 2 years to 
issue a passport to UFDC president Victor Hameni Bieleu.  
Although government officials claim that the problem stems from 
legal charges pending against Hameni Bieleu since the 1992 
state of emergency, the denial of his passport predates these 

Cameroon has long served as a safe haven for displaced persons 
and refugees from the region.  As of December 31, the U.N. High 
Commissioner for Refugees in Cameroon was providing assistance 
to more than 2,000 refugees, primarily from Chad, but also from 
Liberia, Zaire, and Sudan.  However, estimates of the total 
number of refugees, mostly spontaneously settled Chadians, 
range from 8,000 to 50,000.  Although Cameroon occasionally 
returns illegal Chadian immigrants, there were no reports of 
forced repatriation of recognized refugees.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Cameroon continues to be governed by the President and a small 
circle of advisers, many drawn from his own ethnic group, who 
came to power during a period of single-party authoritarian 
rule.  His party controls the National Assembly, and he has the 
power to dissolve the Assembly and call new elections at any 
time; to return bills for a second reading, requiring that they 
be passed by a majority of the full Assembly; and to govern by 
decree during the 10 months each year when the Assembly is not 
in session.  With a working parliamentary majority, the ruling 
party, the CPDM, and its coalition partners also set the 
legislative agenda, preventing many opposition initiatives from 
coming to a vote.

The governing parliamentary coalition consists of the CPDM, the 
former single party; the MDR, a small, northern-based party 
allied with the CPDM since April 1992; and the legalized wing 
of the splintered leftist party, the UPC.  The only 
parliamentary party not formally allied with the CPDM is the 
UNDP.  The CPDM and several small parties campaigned in the 
1992 presidential election under the banner of the 
"Presidential Majority."  While this entity is not known to 
have had any official standing as such, it was given extensive 
coverage in the official press as a coalition of parties which 
had ralled to President Biya.

Opposed to the Presidential Majority was the Union for Change 
coalition of parties supporting the chairman of the SDF Party, 
Ni John Fru Ndi, and his call for a limited, 2-year 
presidential mandate to implement democratic reforms and to 
convene a national conference.  The Union for Change does not 
have any official status as a political organization, although 
its constituent parties are legally recognized.  The SDF is the 
largest party within the Union for Change but has its own 
structures and policies.  The Union for Change has continued to 
operate as an opposition political organization since the 
October 1992 presidential election.

Based on the results of the October 1992 presidential 
elections, the two largest parties not to be formally allied 
with either the Union for Change or the CPDM-led coalition are 
the UNDP, headed by Bello Bouba Maigari, and the CDU, headed by 
Adamou Ndam Njoya.

Although multiparty elections were held in 1992, the flawed 
presidential race represented a step backward in Cameroon's 
democratization process.  The widespread electoral 
irregularities attributed principally by international 
observers to the Government undermined public confidence in 
President Biya's professed commitment to political reforms.  
There were also irregularities during the annual voter 
registration period, which resulted in a sharp decrease in 
registered voters nationwide.  According to estimates made 
public by Minister of Territorial Administration Gilbert Andze 
Tsoungui, the number of registered voters fell by 20 percent.  
MINAT ascribed the decrease to the removal of fictitious or 
underage persons from the rolls.

Political reform efforts focused on revising Cameroon's 1972 
Constitution, which dates from the one-party era.  However, the 
constitutional reform process has been tightly controlled by 
the Presidency and has permitted minimal public or opposition 
participation.  A multiparty commission established in 1991 to 
draft a new basic law was adjourned in February 1992 prior to 
completing its mission.  In May, however, the Government 
unilaterally released a draft which it claimed to be the work 
of the multiparty commission.  The May draft retains a 
centralized presidential system, in which human rights 
guarantees may be superseded by subsequent legislation.  In the 
next phase of the constitutional reform process, the President 
promised to appoint a constitutional consultative committee, 
including opposition delegates, to review the work of the 
technical committee of lawyers and academics and prepare a 
"quasi-final draft."  The President will decide on the final 
version to be submitted for ratification by either the National 
Assembly or a popular referendum.  As of year's end, the 
Government had taken no further steps to advance the 
constitutional reform process but maintained that there will be 
a new Constitution in 1994, as well as municipal elections.

Members of the President's ethnic group, the Beti, wield a 
disproportionate share of political power, particularly in key 
economic and security portfolios.

Women serve in prominent positions in the executive, 
legislative, and judicial branches of the Government, but are 
underrepresented among the senior leadership.  Only 2 women sit 
in the 44-member Cabinet, and 1 woman sits on the 14-member 
Supreme Court.  There are 17 women in the 180-seat National 

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights monitoring groups were 
permitted to operate in Cameroon, but their effectiveness was 
impeded by the Government.  

Numerous nongovernmental civic associations included the 
National League for Human Rights, the Organization for Human 
Rights and Freedoms, the Association of Women Against Violence, 
the Cameroonian Association of Female Jurists, the Cameroonian 
Association for Children's Rights, and the Human Rights Clinic 
and Education Center.  Financial hardships, inexperience, and 
occasional fear of government reprisals discouraged these 
nongovernmental civic associations from publicly criticizing 
the Government's human rights record.  For the most part, 
therefore, these groups sought primarily to heighten awareness 
of human rights issues rather than investigate specific alleged 
violations.  In order to accomplish this, they distributed 
informational publications and held awareness clinics and 
meetings.  One group, the Cameroonian Association of Female 
Jurists, made public announcements of its activities on radio 
and television programs.

The presidentially appointed National Commission for Human 
Rights and Freedoms, occasionally critical of the Government, 
was refused access to political detainees and was unable to 
conduct investigations due to lack of funding by the Prime 
Minister's office.  It also failed to report publicly on its 
investigations into allegations of human rights abuses.

Members of the International Federation of Editors and 
Journalists were unable to investigate reported harassment of 
the independent press, when they were twice denied visas to 
Cameroon and, as noted in Section 1.c., the ICRC suspended 
visits to prisoners and detainees because of Government 

While government officials often make public statements giving 
their version of alleged human rights abuses, they generally do 
not respond publicly to specific charges of wrongdoing made by 
domestic or international monitors.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The preamble to the 1972 Constitution prohibits discrimination 
based on sex, enshrines freedom of religion, and mandates that 
"everyone has equal rights and obligations."  However, 
discrimination based on race, language, religion, or social 
status is not explicitly forbidden.  Both English and French 
are official languages in Cameroon.


Despite constitutional provisions, women remain subservient to 
men.  Polygyny is permitted by law and tradition, but polyandry 
is not.  The extent to which a woman may inherit from her 
husband is normally governed by traditional law in the absence 
of a will, and customs vary from group to group.  In many 
traditional societies, custom grants greater authority and 
benefits to male than to female heirs.  In cases of divorce, 
the husband's wishes determine custody of children over the age 
of 6.  A married woman may not legally obtain contraceptives or 
be sterilized without her husband's consent.  While a man may 
be convicted of adultery only if the sexual act takes place in 
his home, a female may be convicted irrespective of venue.

Women's rights advocates report that violence against women has 
surged in recent years, and that the law does not impose 
effective penalties against violators.  Wife beating is not a 
legal ground for divorce.  In cases of sexual assault, a 
victim's family or village often imposes direct, summary 
punishment upon the suspected perpetrator through means ranging 
from destruction of property to lynching.  While there are no 
reliable statistics on violence against women, the number of 
newspaper reports indicate the frequency is high.  In September 
a senior Ministry of Health official publicly estimated that a 
high percentage of emergency room admissions nationwide were 
cases of spousal abuse.


The Constitution guarantees a child's right to education, and 
schooling is mandatory through age 14.  Babies and small 
children are sometimes held in prison if their mothers are 
incarcerated.  Child marriages are not common, although young 
girls often wed in their midteens, especially in rural areas.  
The Cameroonian Association for Children's Rights is concerned 
with a wide range of children's rights issues, including child 
incarceration and child marriages.

Female genital mutilation (circumcision), which has been 
condemned by international health experts as dangerous to both 
physical and psychological health, is usually practiced on 
girls at an early age.  It includes the most severe form of the 
abuse, infibulation, and continues to be practiced in some 
areas of the Far North and Southwest Provinces.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There are frequent and credible allegations of discrimination 
among Cameroon's more than 200 ethnic groups.  Ethnic 
favoritism is a factor in both private and public sector 
employment.  The Bamileke, the country's largest single ethnic 
group (with at least 20 percent of the population), believe 
they have been systematically denied political power 
commensurate with their numbers and economic importance.  
Opposition newspapers frequently attacked the Beti, while those 
close to the Government criticized the Bamileke and Anglophone 

Outbreaks of ethnic violence occurred between the Kotoko and 
Choa Arab communities in Far North Province, between Mbo and 
Bamileke residents in West Province, and in Bui Division 
Northwest Province.

An important ethnic, political division falls along linguistic 
lines.  The Anglophone minority (20 percent) often charges that 
the Francophone majority does not share real power and that the 
Government provides fewer economic benefits to English-speaking 
regions.  In April the All-Anglophone Conference enumerated a 
long list of Anglophone grievances and called for a two-state 
federal system, divided into French-speaking and 
English-speaking states, to protect their minority language 
rights.  The heavy police and gendarmerie presence in 
English-speaking Southwest Province, ostensibly to stop the 
flow of Nigerian contraband (see Section l.f.), contributed to 
Anglophone resentment.

     People with Disabilities

The Constitution does not protect the disabled.  Lack of 
facilities and care is particularly acute for the mentally 
handicapped.  Although Cameroonian society is generally 
tolerant of physical disabilities, which are commonplace, the 
Government has not mandated accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

A new Labor Code passed in 1992 allows workers to form and join 
trade unions of their own choosing.  Under the new rules, 
groups of at least 20 workers may organize a union but must 
then register with the Ministry of Labor.  Provisions of the 
Labor Code do not apply to civil servants, employees of the 
penitentiary system, or workers responsible for national 
security.  At year's end, some but not all of the implementing 
decrees had been issued for the new Code.

Ministry officials explained that they had received 
applications to create national confederations but that these 
could not be authorized before local unions and regional or 
sectoral federations were formed.  The Federation of National 
Educators (SYNES) applied in 1991 for legal status as a public 
service association, since government workers are not permitted 
to form trade unions.  The Ministry of Public Service had not 
accorded legal status to SYNES by year's end.  In response to a 
complaint filed by SYNES, the ILO Committee on Freedom of 
Association criticized the Government for delays in registering 
the new union and for failure to respond to charges that its 
members were subject to harassment.

The new Labor Code explicitly recognizes workers' right to 
strike but only after mandatory arbitration.  As the continuing 
economic contraction caused the Government and state-owned 
enterprise sector to fall behind in salary payments in 1993, 
numerous wildcat strikes occurred.  Workers at both the 
Cameroonian Press Corporation (SOPECAM), which publishes the 
government daily Cameroon Tribune, as well as the Cameroonian 
Transport Corporation walked off the job on separate occasions 
during the year, demanding payment of salary arrears.  One 
SOPECAM strike lasted more than 6 weeks; the others were of 
shorter duration.  Employees returned to work after management 
agreed to make partial payment.  Other workers staged sit-ins 
or temporary work stoppages during the year at Yaounde's 
Congress Hall (where arrears totaled 11 months) and the Bamenda 
provincial hospital.  The new Labor Code provides for the 
protection of legal strikers and prohibits retribution against 
them provided that they follow the labor arbitration procedures 
outlined in the Code.

The only labor confederation in Cameroon is the Confederation 
of Cameroonian Trade Unions (CSTC), formerly affiliated with 
the ruling CPDM party under the name Organization of 
Cameroonian Trade Unions.  The CSTC formally declared its 
political independence in 1992, and secretary general Louis 
Sombes publicly criticized the Government during 1993.  
However, since no other labor organizations have been 
legalized, the CSTC is still widely regarded as a 
quasi-official labor confederation, even by many of its own 
members.  There are no known individual unions entirely 
independent of government and political party controls.  The 
only new union registered by the Ministry of Labor in 1993, the 
Union of Contract Employees and State Agents (SYNCAE), is an 
affiliate of the CSTC.

The CSTC is a member of the Organization of African Trade Union 
Unity and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. 

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The 1992 Labor Code provides for collective bargaining between 
workers and management in local work places, as well as between 
labor federations and business associations in each sector of 
the economy.  As of December 31, sectoral collective bargaining 
negotiations had not been undertaken, although the Government 
instructed individual state-owned enterprises to negotiate 
salary reductions with workers.  Prior to passage of the new 
Code, the Government collaborated with the CSTC and employers 
to set wages through a complicated formula that took into 
account the sector and region of employment and the worker's 
education level.

The Labor Code prohibits antiunion discrimination, and 
employers guilty of such discrimination are subject to fines 
ranging up to the equivalent of $3,500 (1 million CFA).  
However, employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination do 
not have to reinstate the workers who have been discriminated 
against.  The Ministry of Labor reported no complaints of such 
discrimination in 1993.

In November the CSTC disputed the legality of wage cuts in 
public and public corporation sectors and called for a general 
strike.  Although there was no labor union organized to 
represent civil servants as a whole, the first efforts to form 
a public sector union were made in November.  

Eight firms have obtained approval to operate under Cameroon's 
industrial free zone regime, and four had begun operations by 
the end of the year.  Free zone employers are exempt from some 
provisions of the Labor Code but must respect all 
internationally recognized worker rights.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by the new Labor Code, 
although it specifically excludes "any work or service 
extracted from any person as a consequence of a conviction in a 
court or law" and "work or service in the general interest, 
forming part of the civic obligation of citizens."  In 1993 
Cameroonian prisons continued to allow inmates to be contracted 
out to private employers or used as communal labor for 
municipal public works.  There are credible reports that 
slavery continues to be practiced in the Lamidat of Rey Bouba, 
an isolated traditional kingdom in North Province.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Code establishes that no child be employed before the 
age of 14.  Ministry of Labor inspectors are responsible for 
enforcing the minimum age of employment but lack resources for 
an effective inspection program.  In rural areas many children 
begin work at an early age on family farms.  Some rural youths, 
especially girls, are often employed by relatives as 
domestics.  Street vendors in the cities are sometimes under 14.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Under the 1992 Labor Code, the Ministry of Labor is responsible 
for setting a single minimum wage applicable nationwide in all 
sectors of the economy.  As of the end of the year, the minimum 
wage had not been set.  A decree establishing the monthly 
minimum wage at approximately $80 (25,000 CFA) had been 
submitted to the Prime Minister for approval but had not been 
signed by year's end.  The Labor Code establishes a standard 
workweek of 40 hours in public and private nonagricultural 
firms, and 48 hours in agricultural and related activities.  
The Code makes compulsory at least 24 consecutive hours of 
weekly rest.  The Government sets health and safety standards, 
and the Ministry of Labor inspectors and occupational health 
doctors are responsible for monitoring these standards.  
However, they  lack the resources for a comprehensive 
inspection program. (###)

[end of document]


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