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Nominally a multiparty republic, Cameroon continues to be ruled 
in fact by President Paul Biya and a circle of advisers drawn 
largely from his own ethnic group and from his party, the 
Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM).  The reigning 
CPDM's power was last challenged in 1992 in relatively free 
National Assembly elections and highly flawed presidential 
elections.  The CPDM successfully dominates the National 
Assembly through its controlling share of a ruling coalition 
that has rendered the one significant opposition party in the 
Assembly, the National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP), 
essentially powerless.  In addition, Cameroon's 1972 
Constitution gives extraordinary powers to the President, 
including the authority to govern by decree during the 10 
months of each year when the Assembly is not in session.  Few 
significant opposition measures ever come to a vote.

Internal security responsibilities are shared by the national 
police, the National Intelligence Service (DGRE), the 
gendarmerie, the Ministry of Territorial Administration 
(MINAT), Military Intelligence (SEMIL), the army, and to a 
lesser extent, the Presidential Security Service.  The police 
and the gendarmerie have dominant roles in enforcing internal 
security laws.  As in previous years, security forces committed 
numerous and egregious human rights abuses.

Cameroon's economy has continued to contract dramatically, 
despite abundant natural resources.  In January the much-needed 
devaluation of the CFA currency, recommended by the 
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank went into 
place.  While it provided a significant boost to agricultural 
exports, city dwellers and salaried workers were badly 
pinched.  Financially, the Government has a burdensome foreign 
debt and runs a chronic budget deficit.  Its capacity to 
collect revenues is hampered by widespread and long-standing 
corruption and inefficiency.

The authorities continued to commit serious human rights 
abuses, including a number of extrajudicial killings.  In at 
least one case army troops, trying to control ethnic conflict 
in Far North province and to deal with a serious problem of 
banditry in that area, massacred civilians, including women and 
children, in retaliation for attacks on troops by bandits.  In 
numerous instances, the police and other members of the 
security forces beat and tortured suspected criminals.  They 
routinely beat prisoners throughout the country; in several 
instances, they beat and abused opposition party activists to 
intimidate and repress political activity.  The Government 
rarely tries or punishes human rights abusers, thus creating a 
climate of impunity in which the abuses continue to flourish.  
The Government also restricted, to one degree or another, 
almost all of the human rights discussed in this report, 
including freedom of press and assembly, the right to a fair 
trial, and the right to change the government.  The Government 
has failed to carry out repeated promises to undertake 
constitutional reform or hold multiparty elections.  
Discrimination and violence against women remain a serious and 
growing problem.


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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

While there were no killings known to have been politically 
motivated, public security forces continued to be responsible 
for a number of extrajudicial killings.  There were several 
reliable reports of detainees having been beaten to death in 
prisons around the country.  The most serious incidents 
occurred in Far North province near the Chadian border, where 
government security forces were called in to quell ethnic 
violence between Choa Arabs and members of the Kotoko ethnic 
group and to stamp out banditry.  Security forces were 
responsible for arbitrary arrests of suspected perpetrators 
and, in at least one case, for a retaliatory attack on a 
village suspected of harboring them.

Malloum Eli, a Choa Arab arrested by government security forces 
in late January in connection with an assault on government 
security forces, which resulted in the death of nine soldiers, 
reportedly died in detention at an army barracks in the village 
of N'Djamena, Far North province.

In an apparently unrelated incident, three Choa Arabs, Harouna 
Djidda, Allakhou Mahmat, and Issa Mahmat, died in the custody 
of security forces shortly after their arrest on January 21 in 
Far North province.  Djidda and Mahmat were credibly reported 
to have been tortured to death, while the third, Issa Mahmat, 
is reported to have been summarily shot.

On February 17, army troops, after an exchange of gunfire with 
bandits, were credibly reported to have entered a village of 
Choa Arabs in Far North province and to have massacred in 
retaliation as many as 55 people, most of them women and 
children, and wounded many others.  While local provincial 
officials at first disputed the Choas' account of the incident, 
admitting only that several villagers were injured during an 
arms search, a report dated February 25 by a Far North 
Provincial Commission found that a number of deaths had in fact 
occurred.  Villagers claimed the army surrounded the village 
and opened fire indiscriminately.  Military officials later 
claimed that their troops had returned fire in self-defense.  
It has not been possible to verify either side's account of the 
events.  The National Commission on Human Rights and Liberties, 
a government-appointed and funded group, did not have 
sufficient funds to visit the site of the alleged massacre or 
perform an investigation.

The Government is faced with a difficult situation in northern 
Cameroon where several ethnic groups carry on banditry and 
internecine disputes.  Chadians, some of them engaged in 
banditry, generally move easily across the border.  There were, 
however, reports that authorities arrested, mistreated, and 
possibly killed detained Chadians suspected of illegal entry or 

On April 19, soldiers in Edea, Littoral province, arrested 
Desire Nken for suspected burglary and tortured him to death at 
a nearby military base the same day.  Photographs of his badly 
beaten body were widely disseminated in the private press.  The 
Government ostensibly investigated the incident but announced 
no results.  During the night of May 25-26, a secondary school 
student was shot to death during a riot by a gendarme in the 
town of Nanga Eboko, Center province.  According to a report by 
a Ministry of Education official who investigated the case, 
gendarmes removed the student's body to their headquarters, 
extracted the bullet, and stabbed the body to make it appear 
that the boy had died during the riot by nonofficial means.  A 
robbery suspect, Christian Pidi Ekoka, died on July 15 in the 
custody of Douala gendarmes, following what the attending 
physician determined to have been a severe beating that had 
produced multiple injuries.

In September the head of a notorious special police unit that 
has been widely and credibly accused of engaging in 
extrajudicial arrests, tortures, and murders was arrested.  
Credible reports indicate that his arrest was precipitated in 
part by his extrajudicial activities.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of long-term disappearances.  However, 
police and gendarmes frequently failed to inform detainees' 
family members or attorneys of their whereabouts.

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

The Penal Code proscribes torture, renders inadmissible in 
court evidence obtained thereby, and prohibits public servants 
from using force against any person.  In spite of this, 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.  Public security forces 
are credibly reported to operate a number of unofficial prisons 
and torture centers of which one, the Chateau Americanos, is 
particularly notorious.  These unofficial prisons have been 
inaccessible to outside observers from the International 
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or other humanitarian 

In November the authorities arrested and jailed two Yaounde 
police officers after they allegedly stripped and beat a 
submagistrate who had attempted, as part of his official 
duties, to visit prisoners.  No public legal proceedings had 
begun involving police officers by the end of the year.

Security forces habitually inflict degrading mistreatment on 
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 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.

In July the government-supported National Commission on Human 
Rights and Freedoms, with a grant from the Canadian Government, 
sponsored a 3-day human rights conference for military and 
police officers.  Some 70 officers attended.  In November the 
ICRC sponsored a course on law and order and the code of 
conduct in combat, which was attended by 30 instructors from 
the army, marines, and gendarmerie.

On January 12, following a riot at the University of Yaounde,  
security forces supported by helicopters sealed off the 
University and attacked the students with tear gas, then 
transported them to the infamous Chateau Americanos.  Many were 
badly beaten before being released the next day.  In another 
incident, a squad of gendarmes assaulted four activists in a 
branch office of the opposition UNDP Party near Bot Maka, 
Littoral province, as they returned from a party meeting on 
April 30.  The four were badly beaten and left unconscious by 
the roadside.

Similarly, on May 21, several members of the Progressive 
Movement, an opposition party, were badly beaten by gendarmes 
and riot police when they attempted to hold a meeting at the 
Bamenda Omnisport Stadium in Douala.  The Government had 
earlier banned the intended meeting.

On September 25, a U.S. resident of Yaounde was struck in the 
face and kicked in the groin by a police officer when stopped 
at a roadblock and accused of speeding.  Unusually, the victim 
later received an official apology.  This incident typifies 
police conduct at roadblocks.  It is widely believed that some 
police have targeted expatriates for harassment in order to 
extort money.

Prison conditions are life threatening, especially outside 
major urban areas.  Between March and September, 21 inmates 
died in an epidemic of typhoid and tuberculosis in Douala's 
central prison.  There are serious deficiencies in food, health 
care, and sanitation in almost all prisons.  Some traditional 
rulers in Northern Cameroon continue to maintain private 
prisons which operate outside the authority of the government 
penitentiary system.  Prisoners are sometimes chained in their 
cells.  Beatings are common, with numerous credible reports 
appearing in the private press of prisoners having been burned 
by cigarette butts or painfully suspended over iron bars.  
Seriously ill prisoners are often denied adequate medical 
care.  Juveniles and nonviolent prisoners are often 
incarcerated together with violent adults.  Corruption among 
prison personnel is widespread.  The ICRC doesn't visit prisons 
because it is too infrequently allowed access to those 
detainees in whom it is interested.  These include detainees 
who are detained outside the official prison system.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary, prolonged detention remains a serious problem.  
Security forces failed to implement fully a Penal Code 
requirement that detainees be brought promptly before a 
magistrate and have held detainees incommunicado.

Police may detain a person in custody in connection with a 
common crime for up to 24 hours before bringing charges.  That 
period may be renewed three times.  However, the law only 
provides for the right to a judicial review of the legality of 
detention in a few areas of the country with an Anglophone 
majority.  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, he may hold the detainee 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 features of British common law.  Even there, 
bail is granted infrequently.

On July 30, the authorities arrested 28 members of the UNDP and 
charged them with having fomented civil disorder as a result of 
a riot in Maroua, North province, in which the motorcade of 
Hamadou Moustapha, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Town 
Planning, was attacked.  The Government claimed that the 
detainees either participated in the attack or instigated it.  
Leaders of the UNDP claimed that the detainees had nothing to 
do with the attack and that the Government instigated the 
attack as an excuse to arrest prominent members of the UNDP.  
At the end of the year, the detainees remained in police 
custody without any indication of when a trial would be held.  
They were allowed access to attorneys.

The Government does not practice political exile.  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 court system is part of the executive branch of Government, 
subordinate to the Ministry of Justice.  Magistrates are thus 
subject, particularly in political cases, to government 
direction.  Corruption is endemic, and in many cases a 
favorable judgment goes to the highest bidder.  Some 
politically sensitive cases are never heard.

Magistrates acknowledge that rendering a decision in a 
political case that displeases the Government may result in 
transfer to a less desirable position.  Because appointed 
attorneys receive little compensation, the quality of legal 
representation for indigent persons 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.  Trials are public.

Traditional courts are important 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 their decisions to traditional authorities of higher 

There were no known political prisoners, as distinct from 
political detainees, at year's end.

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

Both invasions of the home and tampering with correspondence 
are illegal, but there were numerous credible reports that 
police and gendarmes harassed citizens and conducted searches 
without warrants.  Security forces, including police, 
frequently set up roadblocks to extract bribes from travelers.  
This longstanding practice appears to have increased as the 
economy declined.  In June a high-ranking CPDM official 
involved in a commercial dispute with a foreign citizen, rather 
than resolve his dispute through legal means, employed the 
police to seize the citizen's property unlawfully.  The foreign 
citizen then sought redress through the courts.  At year's end, 
the dispute remained before the courts without resolution.

On August 23, the national police breached accepted diplomatic 
immunity in forcibly entering U.S. Government diplomatic 
property (USAID and Administrative Compound) in Yaounde, 
removing three vehicles and miscellaneous items.  The bailiff 
claimed he had authority to seize the property pursuant to a 
court decision.  The bailiff also claimed to have an order of 
execution (warrant) signed by the Attorney General.  Police and 
bailiffs again forcibly entered the grounds on August 26 and 
again attempted to seize U.S. Government property.  The Embassy 
in both instances protested vigorously this violation of 
diplomatic immunity and twice received high-level apologies.  
Government officials repeatedly promised that the vehicles 
would be returned to the Embassy, but at year's end their 
return was still pending.

There were numerous 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 Constitution provides for freedom of expression 
and press, these liberties are not always respected.  In 1990 a 
new law established more liberal regulations to begin 
publication of newspapers and magazines.  That 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 the 
licensing of private radio and television stations, but at the 
end of 1994, 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 
radio and television journalists who have been transferred to 
less desirable assignments for remarks that the Government 
considered critical.

The Government publishes an official newspaper, the Cameroon 
Tribune, and determines the content of radio and television 
broadcasts.  Nevertheless, Government reporters sometimes write 
articles which implicitly criticize the ruling party or portray 
government programs in an unfavorable light.  The government-
controlled broadcast media provide disproportionately greater 
attention to CPDM functions, than to opposition events.

Approximately 40 to 50 private newspapers are published, most 
only sporadically.  These newspapers are often outspoken in 
their criticism of the Government and the President, but 
newspapers are not read widely outside the major cities.  
Censorship declined and was suspended completely for a period 
of about 6 weeks following a national communications conference 
in late August.  By mid-October, however, censorship was 
reinstituted, and police posted at printing plants to enforce 
it.  The Government continued to censor articles or newspapers 
that it considered libelous or a threat to the public order.  
As in earlier years, authorities seized or restricted articles 
critical of the Government and its supporters.

By year's end, the Government had censored 73 individual 
articles, seized 7 issues of various newspapers, and suspended 
3 newspapers for periods ranging from 1 to 3 months.  During 
the course of the year police arrested or intimidated several 
journalists and editors.

Authorities detained publishers and editors for publication of 
unfavorable news and commentary about the Government.  For 
example, on January 7, police arrested Ndzana Seme, publisher 
of Le Nouvel Independant, following an interview with 
Presidency Secretary General Joseph Owona in which Owona was 
quoted as having made unfavorable comments about the Bamileke 
ethnic group.  Police held Seme for 3 days without charges in 
three different Yaounde police stations.  His newspaper was 
suspended for 2 months.  Seme's wife was not notified of his 
arrest, nor was she permitted to visit him.  Ndzana Seme was 
arrested again on October 14 on charges of inciting public 
disorder and of slander against President Biya.  The charges 
were precipitated, apparently, by a series of articles dealing 
with inner circle political scandals in the Government.  The 
arresting authorities, however, cited no specific offending 
article.  After being held without bail for 2 1/2 months, his 
case was heard on December 23.  He was found guilty on both 
counts, and fined approximately $900, given a 1-year suspended 
prison sentence, and placed on probation for the next 3 years.

Although there are no legal restrictions on academic freedom, 
it is generally believed that there are state security 
informants on university campuses.  Some 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 the sometimes 
strident pro-opposition groups.  In July newly appointed 
Minister of Higher Education Peter Agbor Tabi decreed that 
university lecturers would not be permitted to depart Cameroon 
without his specific authorization.  In at least one instance, 
a departing professor was removed from an airplane destined for 
Bangui by security forces and forbidden to leave the country.  
The Education Minister's apparent primary purpose in initiating 
the travel ban, which has not been tested in court, was to stem 
the outward flow of trained cadres rather than inhibit the 
movement of political opponents.

     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.  Some 90 political parties operated 
legally, albeit with severe restrictions, along with a growing 
number of civic associations.

The Government severely hindered the ability of opposition 
parties to operate, generally by refusing them permission to 
hold meetings on various technicalities.  While the Government 
insisted that political parties were permitted to hold meetings 
if they had obtained a permit, it frequently denied permits on 
the grounds that the proposed meetings threatened public 
order.  Through such means, the Government prohibited the UNDP 
from holding meetings in its stronghold of Adamaoua and the 
North provinces, following a riot in Maroua in late July.  
Although the ban on meetings included all parties, the 
directive was clearly aimed at the UNDP.

Similarly, the Government in August banned meetings by the 
Social Democratic Front (SDF) Party, and several times 
prohibited the Progressive Movement Party from holding a rally 
in Douala.  Various bans and interdictions effectively limited 
the ability of opposition parties and coalitions to function 
normally.  On November 26, government security forces broke up 
a rally in Bafoussam by members of the Allied Front for Change, 
a coalition of 16 opposition political parties.  Police 
prevented John Fru Ndi, the head of the coalition, from 
entering the city to lead the rally and arrested several 
coalition activists.  The Government asserted that, as the 
coalition is not a legally recognized political party, it does 
not have the right to stage rallies.  The Government permitted 
the Allied Front for Change to hold an end-of-year rally in 
Yaounde on December 29, but discouraged attendance through 
intimidation tactics, such as roadblocks on routes leading into 
Yaounde, a heavy police presence around the stadium venue, and 
helicopters circling over the stadium.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Government generally does not restrict freedom of 
religion.  A religious group must be approved and registered 
with the Ministry of Territorial Administration in order to 
function legally.  There were no reports of Government 
harassment of Jehovah's Witnesses, although the Government has 
not returned properties confiscated in 1970.  The Witnesses are 
free to build new places of worship.

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

The law does not restrict freedom of movement within the 
country, but the Government does in fact impede domestic 
travel.  Police frequently stop travelers to check 
identification documents, vehicle registrations, and tax 
receipts as security and immigration control measures.  With 
increasing frequency, police demanded illegal payments from 
citizens at roadblocks or other points.

Although most opposition leaders traveled freely, some 
political activists faced restrictions.  The Government, for 
instance, occasionally used its passport control function to 
prevent dissidents from leaving the country.  In February, for 
example, Charly Gabriel Mbock, the national campaign manager 
for the SDF, was prevented from traveling to Benin where he was 
to represent his party at a conference.  Airport special police 
questioned Mbock for several hours under the apparent pretext 
that he was wanted for a criminal offense and freed him only 
after his flight had departed.  In several instances, 
opposition parties erected roadblocks or otherwise impeded free 
movement of the public.

Cameroon has long served as a safe haven for displaced persons 
and refugees from the region.  The Government estimates the 
total number of displaced Africans, mostly Chadians, at 
45,000.  Although Cameroon occasionally returns illegal Chadian 
immigrants, there were no reports of forced repatriation of 
recognized refugees.  Some illegal immigrants have been 
subjected to harsh treatment, including imprisonment (see 
Section l.a.).

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

Citizens have the constitutional right to change their 
government, but the 1992 presidential elections, which were 
marred by widespread government manipulation, and the near 
total dominance of the political process by the President and 
his party call into serious doubt the ability of citizens to 
exercise this right.

In contrast to the relatively open March 1992 National Assembly 
elections, the last presidential election held in October 1992 
was characterized by widespread irregularities; it was highly 
criticized by independent observers and widely regarded in 
Cameroon as fraudulent.

The Government's control over Cameroon's administrative 
apparatus is broad and deep.  The President appoints by decree 
the chief operating official, the Government Delegate, of 
Yaounde, Douala, Bamenda, and several other large cities, which 
have no elected mayors.  The governors of each of the provinces 
are also appointed directly by the President.  Important lower 
level members of the provincial administrative structures, 
including the senior divisional officers, the divisional 
officers, and the district chiefs are all appointed by the 
Prime Minister, who is also a member of the CPDM.  The 
governors and senior divisional officers wield considerable 
authority within the areas under their jurisdiction, including, 
significantly, the authority to ban political meetings that 
they deem likely to threaten public order.  Governors and 
divisional officers frequently exercised this authority during 
the year to ban meetings by opposition parties.

The CPDM's longevity is best explained by the fact that the 
extensive powers it derives from the 1972 Constitution enable 
it to maintain itself in power.  Opposition parties, 
recognizing that they are unlikely to win a significant measure 
of participation in the governance of Cameroon under the 
present Constitution, have consistently called for a process of 
constitutional reform that would lead to a greater 
decentralization of presidential power.  On December 15, the 
President convened a consultative constitutional review 
committee to review a draft constitution prepared by the 
Government without outside consultation.  The members of the 
committee were selected entirely by the President without 
reference to the wishes of any other groups or entities and 
were given 1 week to convey their responses to the Government's 
draft.  The committee's deliberations were not open to public 
scrutiny.  Far from mollifying opposition groups, this maneuver 
by the Government was seen as an effort to manipulate 
constitutional changes in a way that minimized public debate or 
broad participation.

In April the Government attempted to ban a meeting of the 
All-Anglophone Conference (AAC).  The AAC, a loose structure of 
Anglophone organizations primarily from Cameroon's Northwest 
and Southwest provinces, defied the ban and met secretly to 
discuss constitutional reform issues, primarily focusing on the 
creation of a federal system within Cameroon that would give 
the Anglophone West a greater degree of autonomy.  Government 
officials expressed concern that the AAC planned to issue a 
call for secession by the Anglophone provinces.  In their 
efforts to block the meeting, the Government first issued a ban 
order, then placed security forces around the scheduled meeting 
site.  AAC delegates contravened the Government's efforts by 
holding a series of secret meetings.  The delegates, rather 
than calling for secession, called for renewed efforts to 
negotiate a federal constitution within a reasonable time.

The Government has focused its energies on weakening and 
destabilizing all sources of opposition to the hold exercised 
by the Beti ethnic group in the circle around the President and 
within the CPDM.  However, while the President's inner circle 
is heavily drawn from his own Beti ethnic group, all levels of 
the administration include significant numbers from other 
ethnic groups.  There are no specific discriminatory laws 
prohibiting women or minorities from participating in 
government or in other areas of public life.  Women are 
represented in the President's Cabinet (2 of 44 members), the 
National Assembly (21 of 180 members), the CPDM, the judicial 
system, and numerous state-run enterprises, although not in 
numbers proportional to their share of the population.  
Suffrage is universal at age 20.

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

Domestic and international human rights monitoring groups 
continued to operate.  Nevertheless, the Government impeded 
their effectiveness through intimidation.  It limited access to 
prisoners, delayed issuance of visas to international monitors, 
and, in the case of the governmental National Commission on 
Human Rights and Freedoms, withheld financial resources.

Among numerous nongovernmental civic associations, some of the 
most active include 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 sometimes discouraged these groups from publicly 
criticizing the Government's human rights record.  
Nevertheless, several organizations issued press releases to 
denounce specific human rights abuses.

In general the Government did not respond publicly to specific 
allegations of wrongdoing by human rights monitors.  Instead, 
it issued a "white paper" on the state of human rights in the 
country, which was widely criticized by independent observers 
as an attempt to distort and justify its actual record of 
abuses.  The ICRC did not visit prisoners in 1994 because past 
experience indicated that, even when the Government permitted 
ICRC access to prisons, it did not always provide access to 
detainees of particular concern.  A few other international 
organizations conducted investigations, and one in particular, 
Paris-based Rapporteurs Sans Frontieres, denounced the 
Government's repeated detention of journalists.  Amnesty 
International issued reports on several cases of alleged human 
rights abuses, and Article 19, a London-based organization, 
also investigated abuses.

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

The 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 


Despite constitutional provisions recognizing women's rights, 
women do not, in fact, enjoy the same rights and privileges as 
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.  While a man may be convicted of adultery only if the 
sexual act takes place in his home, a female may be convicted 
without regard to venue.  In the northern provinces, 
traditional leaders (Lamidat) prevent their numerous wives from 
ever leaving the palace.

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.  Spouse abuse 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 indicates its frequency is high.


The Constitution provides for a child's right to education, and 
schooling is mandatory through age 14.  Nevertheless, rising 
school fees and costs for books have forced many families to 
forego sending their children to school.  Babies and small 
children are sometimes held in prison if their mothers are 
incarcerated.  Familial child abuse is not common, but is one 
of several targeted issues of children's rights organizations.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), which has been condemned by 
international health experts as dangerous to both physical and 
psychological health, is not practiced widely but is practiced 
in some areas of Far North and Southwest provinces.  It 
includes the most severe and dangerous form of the abuse, 
infibulation, and is usually practiced on young, preadolescent 
girls.  The Government does not recognize FGM as a problem and 
has allocated no resources to education on the issue.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There are frequent and credible allegations of discrimination 
among Cameroon's more than 200 ethnic groups.  President Biya's 
Beti ethnic group receives special preferences in all sectors 
affected by the Government.  As a result, Betis hold a 
preponderance of key positions in Government, the security 
forces, and the military.  In other sectors, discrimination by 
other ethnic groups is common.  Virtually all ethnic groups 
tend to provide preferential treatment to fellow members of 
their group when they are able to do so.

An important ethnic and political division falls along 
linguistic lines rooted in the colonial period.  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.  
As noted in Section 3, the Government tried to prevent the 
Second Annual Convention of the All-Anglophone Conference from 
taking place in Bamenda, the capital of Northwest province.

Cameroon's indigenous population of Pygmies (a term which in 
fact encompasses several different ethnic groups) primarily 
resides in the forest areas of the south and southeast.  While 
no legal discrimination exists, other groups often treat the 
Baka as inferior and sometimes subject them to virtual slave 

     People with Disabilities

The Constitution does not specifically 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

The 1992 Labor Code allows workers to form and join trade 
unions of their own choosing.  It permits groups of at least 20 
workers to organize a union but also requires registration 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.  Some sections of 
the Labor Code have never taken effect, as not all of the 
implementing decrees have been issued.  No new implementing 
decrees were issued in 1994.

The National Union of Teachers of Higher Education (SYNES) 
applied in 1991 for legal status as a public service 
association, as did the National Union of Contract Officers and 
State Agents in 1994.  At year's end, the Ministry of Public 
Service had not accorded legal status to either union.  The 
Government also never responded to a 1993 finding by the 
International Labor Organization  Committee on Freedom of 
Association that the Government was at fault for delays in 
registering SYNES, and for failure to respond to charges that 
its members were subject to harassment.

The Labor Code explicitly recognizes workers' right to strike 
but only after mandatory arbitration.  It provides for the 
protection of legal strikers and prohibits retribution against 

As the economy contracted, the Government and state-owned 
enterprise sector fell behind in salary payments, and several 
strikes occurred.  The civil servants' strike which had begun 
in December 1993 continued into February 1994.  Since the 
Government has never recognized civil servants' unions, it 
considered the strike illegal.  In January, 11 members of the 
National Union of Secondary School Teachers, SYNAES, were 
arrested, detained for 5 days at provincial police 
headquarters, and reportedly beaten.  Subsequently, over 150 
secondary school teachers were dismissed, and at least 75 
teachers had their salaries suspended.  In addition, the 
president of SYNES and the president of the National Order of 
Cameroon Teachers as well as other leading activists in the 
strike were dismissed from their civil service positions.

Despite an agreement between the Government and public sector 
employees in early March which barred any further punishment of 
civil servants who took part in the strike, many public sector 
employees complained of continued harassment and intimidation, 
including 11 professors at the University of Yaounde, who were 
suspended for "irregular absences."  The 11 who were suspended 
were among the most active supporters of the strike.

The only labor confederation is the Confederation of 
Cameroonian Trade Unions (CCTU), formerly affiliated with the 
ruling CPDM party under the name Organization of Cameroonian 
Trade Unions.  The CCTU formally declared its political 
independence in 1992, but Secretary General Louis Sombes' 
attempts to exert that independence met with considerable 
government opposition in 1994.  In April the CCTU President, 
also a member of the CPDM's Central Committee, dismissed Sombes 
in spite of the opposition of the remaining members of the CCTU 
Executive Committee.  When Sombes continued to exercise his 
duties as Secretary General, police detained him and several of 
his associates for several hours.  Meanwhile, a new secretary 
general, appointed by the CCTU President, took office.

In May the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions 
(ICFTU) condemned the actions of the police and of the CCTU 
President as "actions which violate internationally recognized 
labor standards and practices as set out by conventions of the 
International Labor Organization."  Nevertheless, in early 
September, police broke into CCTU headquarters, changed the 
locks on Sombes' office doors to bar his entry, and locked 
Sombes and his family out of their CCTU-owned official 
residence.  Although a Yaounde court subsequently ruled that 
Sombes should be reinstated in his position, he had not 
regained access to his office by the end of the year.

The CCTU is a member of the Organization of African Trade Union 
Unity and the ICFTU.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Labor Code provides for collective bargaining between 
workers and management in local workplaces, as well as between 
labor federations and business associations in each sector of 
the economy.  Nevertheless, no sectoral collective bargaining 
negotiations had been undertaken by the end of 1994.

The Labor Code prohibits antiunion discrimination, and 
employers guilty of such discrimination are subject to fines 
ranging up to the equivalent of $2,000 (1 million CFA).  
However, employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination do 
not have to reinstate the workers who have experienced 
discrimination.  The Ministry of Labor reported no complaints 
of such discrimination in 1994.

Three firms obtained approval in 1994 to operate under 
Cameroon's Industrial Free Zone regime, and four more submitted 
applications.  Free zone employers are exempt from some 
provisions of the Labor Code but by law must respect all 
internationally recognized worker rights.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is officially prohibited by the 
Labor Code.  However, 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 may 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.  Often, 
rural youth, especially girls, are employed by relatives as 
domestics, while many urban street vendors are under 14.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Under the Labor Code, the Ministry of Labor is responsible for 
setting a single minimum wage applicable nationwide in all 
sectors.  In 1993 the Prime Minister failed to sign a decree 
establishing the monthly minimum wage at approximately $80 
(25,000 1993 CFA).  The devaluation of the CFA in January 
rendered the proposed minimum wage unacceptable, and a new 
minimum wage had not been negotiated by the end of 1994.

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 rest per week.  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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