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Title:  Cameroon Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State 
Date:  March 1996 
 
 
 
 
                               CAMEROON 
 
 
Nominally a multiparty republic, Cameroon continues to be dominated 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 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.  On 
December 23, the National Assembly passed amendments to the 1972 
Constitution which for the first time provide for presidential term 
limits and certain new legislative institutions, including a partially 
elected senate and regional councils.  However, the amendments did 
little to strengthen the independence of the judiciary or to moderate 
the President's power to dominate legislation.   
 
The national police and the gendarmerie have dominant roles in enforcing 
internal security laws.  The security forces, including the military, 
remain under the effective control of the President, the civilian 
Minister of Defense, and the civilian head of police.  These forces, in 
particular the police and gendarmes, continued to commit numerous human 
rights abuses. 
 
Cameroon has a diversified agricultural and industrial base, with a 
small but important offshore petroleum sector.  Over 58 percent of the 
population lives in rural areas, and agriculture accounts for about 25 
percent of gross domestic product (GDP).  The petroleum sector accounts 
for about only 7 percent of GDP, but it supplies nearly a third of the 
Government's budget.  Principal export crops are timber, coffee, cocoa, 
cotton, bananas, and rubber.  Although there are numerous public 
enterprises and state monopolies, recent reforms have reduced the 
Government's predominant role in the economy.  Following years of 
contraction, the economy stabilized after a 50 percent currency 
devaluation in 1994 for the African franc zone, and exports shot up.  
GDP declined by 6.3 percent per year from 1985 to 1993.  The precipitous 
decline pushed per capita income from its peak of $ 1,080 to $532 per 
year.  Economic growth for 1994/95 was estimated at 3.3 percent. 
 
Cameroon's human rights record continued to be poor, and the Government 
continued to commit numerous and serious human rights abuses.  On many 
occasions, it prevented opposition political parties and other 
opposition groups from exercising the right of free assembly, with the 
police sometimes using excessive force to break up demonstrations.  In 
midyear it launched a campaign to intimidate the private press that 
included increased censorship of articles, the arrest of journalists, 
the suspension and seizure of newspapers, and numerous beatings of 
vendors and distributors.  The Government's censorship campaign appeared 
motivated, in part, by its desire to control the outcome of the 
nationwide multiparty municipal elections--arbitrarily postponed in 1992 
and 1994 and finally scheduled for January 1996.  Citizens' ability to 
change their government remained limited. 
 
Additional egregious abuses included the routine beating by police of 
suspected criminals; arbitrary arrest; the prolonged detention of 
prisoners; life-threatening prison conditions; infringements on the 
right to privacy; and continued violations of worker rights.  
Discrimination and violence against women remained serious problems.  
Discrimination against minorities and indigenous people continued.  Mob 
violence and intertribal disputes resulted in many deaths. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
Freedom from: 
 
  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were no killings known to have been politically motivated.  
However, on the night of April 22-23, an unknown assailant(s) brutally 
murdered the Reverend Engelbert Mveng, a Jesuit priest and prominent 
Cameroonian historian, in his residence outside of Yaounde.  The murder 
was only the most recent of several unsolved murders of clergy over the 
past several years.  The police announced an investigation into the 
case, but at year's end, no progress had been reported.  The Government 
was widely criticized for not seriously pursuing an investigation into 
this and other church murders, leading to widespread speculation about 
government complicity.  
 
Security forces continued to use excessive force in dealing with 
civilians, and there were a number of incidents in which civilians died.  
In early January, for example, a police officer killed a 7-year-old 
girl, Appolonie Ngah Essala, when he opened fire on a taxicab that 
failed to halt at one of the numerous police roadblocks in the city.  In 
condemning the shooting, Yaounde police officials promised that the 
officer would be sanctioned and face legal action in court, but such 
sanctions, if applied, had not been made public by year's end.  In 
another incident in mid-January, gendarmes wounded a Yaounde high-school 
student, Eric Tonye, who was fleeing the scene of a car crash.  Shortly 
thereafter, while in police custody, the student died from loss of 
blood.  Witnesses claimed that the  youth died from a lack of medical 
attention while in police custody.  There was no investigation into the 
case.  
 
A number of intertribal land disputes in Northwest and West provinces 
resulted in many deaths.  For example, in May and June, a land dispute 
between Bali and Chomba people in  
 
Northwest province led to repeated outbreaks of fighting that resulted 
in the deaths of an undetermined number of people.  At year's end, no 
charges had been brought against persons implicated in these incidents.  
In June fighting over land rights broke out in West province between 
Bamoun agriculturalists and Bororo cattle herders, reportedly killing 
seven persons.  The authorities created an official commission to 
resolve the matter and made some arrests. 
 
There was an upsurge of mob violence directed at persons  suspected of 
witchcraft and sorcery, resulting in a number of deaths.  For example, 
in Littoral province on the night of May 12-13, a mob burned to death a 
woman, E. Madeleine, who had been accused of sorcery.  Mob violence also 
resulted in the deaths of a number of persons suspected of criminal 
acts.  In late May, a mob in Bamenda, Northwest province, beat to death 
an individual named Mbete after accusing him of stealing food.  Police 
often fail to intervene to prevent such acts of mob violence and rarely 
arrest perpetrators after they occur. 
 
  b.  Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.  However, 
politically motivated detentions are commonplace, and police and 
gendarmes frequently fail to inform detainees' family members or 
attorneys of their whereabouts.  Families, associations, or political 
parties concerned about the whereabouts of a detained person commonly 
have to make inquiries at local police or gendarme headquarters to 
determine whether a family member or associate had been taken into 
custody. 
 
  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 credible reports 
of security forces inflicting beatings and other cruel treatment.  Often 
the beatings are reported to occur, not in prison facilities, but in 
temporary detention cells in a police or gendarme facility. 
 
Security forces frequently 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.  Although abuses are rarely punished, the 
Government has made some efforts to discourage abuses by security 
forces.  It made available in October a report on almost 100 Gendarme 
officers who were sanctioned for human rights abuses in recent years. 
 
On June 10, Mahamamat Djibril, a member of a Cameroonian human rights 
nongovernmental organization (NGO), the Movement for the Defense of 
Human Rights and Liberties, was arrested in the town of Maga, Far-North 
province.  According to a credible report, Djibril had gone to the local 
gendarmerie office to inquire into a case of alleged police abuse.  Upon 
stating his business, he was reportedly seized, assaulted by three 
gendarmes, and detained for 3 days before being brought before a court 
in Yagoua where he was charged with assaulting a police officer and 
creating a disturbance. 
 
There were numerous credible reports that police beat newspaper vendors 
and distributors, particularly in the port city of Douala, who attempted 
to sell suspended newspapers (see Section 2.a.). 
 
A U.S. citizen was arrested in Douala on February 3 and charged with 
theft.  Before they established his U.S. citizenship, police beat him on 
the soles of his feet with the flat side of a machete on two occasions.  
He was reportedly gagged during one of the beatings.  The police did not 
provide diplomatic notification of the arrest until 5 days after it 
occurred.  The authorities never provided a response to a diplomatic 
protest of the delay in notification, nor to a request for an 
investigation into the alleged mistreatment. 
 
On October 25, a Peace Corps volunteer was approached by an apparently 
intoxicated policeman in an East province bar and, without provocation, 
threatened with bodily harm.  When the volunteer attempted to leave the 
scene, he was struck in the face.  Despite a diplomatic protest, at 
year's end there was no indication that any disciplinary action had been 
taken against the policeman. 
 
Prison conditions are life threatening, especially outside major urban 
areas.  Serious deficiencies in food, health care, and sanitation occur 
in almost all prisons, including those run by traditional rulers in the 
north.  Prisoners are reported to be sometimes chained in their cells.  
Beatings are common, with numerous credible reports appearing in the 
private press of prisoners having been burned by cigarettes 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.  Sexual abuse of juvenile 
prisoners by adult inmates appears to be common.  Corruption among 
prison personnel is widespread.   
 
Some high-profile prisoners, including several political opponents of 
the Government, have been able to avoid some of the abuse that is 
routinely meted out to many common criminals.  Some are held in elite 
wings of certain prisons where they experience relatively lenient 
treatment. 
 
In northern Cameroon, traditional Lamibe (chiefs) are permitted by the 
Government to operate their own private prisons outside the government 
penitentiary system.  Private prisons in the chiefdoms of Rey Bouba, 
Bibemi, and Tcheboa have the worst reputations, including allegations by 
members of the National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP) that 
their members have been detained in them and that some have died from 
mistreatment. 
 
Because of the Government's refusal to guarantee the International 
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to all detention centers, 
official as well as unofficial, the ICRC has declined to visit any 
prisons since 1992. 
 
  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
Arbitrary, prolonged detention remained 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, renewable three times, before bringing charges.  
However, the law only provides for the right to a judicial review of the 
legality of detention 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, 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. 
 
The Government imprisoned several journalists for alleged libel.  Some 
of these cases were marred by judicial improprieties and appear to have 
been motivated by the Government's desire to inhibit criticism of 
important government figures or government policies (see Section 2.a.). 
 
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.  Other persons who received threats sought political asylum 
abroad (see Section 2.a.). 
 
  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The judiciary is subject to political influence.  Amendments to the 
Constitution passed on December 23 provide for the independence of the 
judiciary but do not make clear how this will be achieved.  Under the 
amendments, the President retains power to appoint members of the bench, 
as he has in the past.  The period for which judges will be appointed is 
not defined in the Constitution.  Judges and magistrates acknowledge 
that rendering a decision that displeases the President may well result 
in a transfer to a less desireable position or nonreappointment. 
 
The legal system is strongly influenced by the French legal system, 
although in the Anglophone provinces certain aspects of the Anglo-Saxon 
legal tradition apply.  The court system includes the Supreme Court, a 
court of appeals in each of the 10 provinces, and courts of first 
instance in each of the country's 56 divisions.  The courts are 
notoriously corrupt and inefficient.  Justice is frequently denied or 
delayed.  Powerful political or business interests appear to enjoy 
virtual immunity from prosecution while critics of the Government are 
sometimes jailed on specious grounds of libel.  Prisoners may be 
detained indefinitely during pretrial proceedings. 
 
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 rank. 
 
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, and those convicted have the right to appeal 
their sentences. 
 
There were no known political prisoners at year's end (see Section 
2.a.).  However, a controversial court case in Far North province 
involving members of an opposition political party, UNDP, continued 
during 1995.  In mid-1994 the authorities arrested 29 prominent UNDP 
activists from that province, including the party's local division head, 
Amadou Adji, following a rock-throwing attack on a motorcade in which 
the provincial governor and a cabinet minister, who had defected to the 
Government from the UNDP, were riding.  The Government charged them with 
various offenses, including obstruction of a public highway, banditry, 
and assault, occasioning one death.  UNDP leaders claim that all were 
arrested on political grounds, regardless of whether they were present 
when the incident broke out, and that the real culprits were juveniles 
who escaped.  The authorities released 15 of the detainees, including 
Adji, in February pending trial, held 7 in detention, and dropped 
charges against 6 others in March.  The trial opened on July 27 but was 
postponed in August, first at the request of the prosecution, and later 
at the request of the defense.  The UNDP argued that the judge in the 
case, a member of President Biya's ethnic group, was biased against the 
defendants and permitted irregular courtroom procedures that favored the 
prosecution. 
 
Attorneys presented closing arguments on December 14, but the judge did 
not issue a verdict.  Instead, he postponed his decision until February 
8, l996, after the municipal elections scheduled for January 21.  
Because the accused have not been convicted of a crime they may 
participate in those elections.  However, a postelection conviction 
would render them ineligible to hold office, and the seven that remain 
in prison cannot participate in the electoral campaign.  Defense 
attorneys and UNDP leaders were concerned that the judge would use a 
guilty verdict to annul election results unfavorable to the Government.   
 
  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
Both invasions of the home and tampering with correspondence are 
illegal, but there were numerous credible reports that police and 
gendarmes harassed citizens, conducted searches without warrants, and 
seized mail.  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 the 
press, the Government does not always respect these liberties.  In fact, 
it vigorously censors and intimidates the large private press.  A 1990 
law established more liberal regulations to begin publication of 
newspapers and magazines, but it also formally authorized prepublication 
censorship and granted the Ministry of Territorial Administration the 
authority to suspend or revoke the right to publish.  In December the 
National Assembly passed a new press law restricting the Government's 
right to censor individual articles in advance of publication but 
expanding the Government's right to ban or seize publications "which 
threaten the public order or good morals," terms which the new law does 
not define. 
 
The law also provided for the licensing of private radio and television 
stations, but, as of late 1995, the Government had granted no licenses 
and retained complete control of the electronic media.  The Government 
informed license applicants that, while private stations are 
theoretically legal, there exists no statutory framework for issuing 
licenses.  Public servants employed by the official media face 
retribution for openly criticizing the Government.  In addition to 
direct censorship, many private newspapers were harassed and intimidated 
into practicing a degree of self-censorship. 
 
The Government publishes an official newspaper, the Cameroon Tribune, 
and determines the content of radio and television broadcasts, the most 
important media for reaching the public.  While government reporters 
sometimes run stories which implicitly criticize the ruling party or 
portray government programs in an unfavorable light, the government-
controlled media provide disproportionately high levels of coverage to 
CPDM functions, while giving little attention to opposition events. 
 
There are 40 to 50 private newspapers which publish sporadically; only 
about 10 appeared on a regular basis in 1994-95.  While these newspapers 
are often outspoken in their criticism of the President and the 
Government, the press is not read widely outside the major cities 
because of the high cost of a newspaper to the average citizen, as well 
as distribution problems.  Despite its advantage, starting in the spring 
the Government waged a severe campaign of intimidation against the 
press, which included frequent and arbitrary censorship of articles 
(particularly those critical of leading government figures), the arrests 
of journalists, beatings and arrests of newspaper vendors and 
distributors, repeated seizures of newspaper copies, and finally the 
outright suspension of the leading independent journals.  The Government 
claimed that they had violated prepublication censorship laws, although 
one newspaper's suspension notice was based on the "behavior" of the 
editor, grounds which have no known basis even in Cameroonian press law.  
The repeated seizures of thousands of copies of newspapers dealt a 
severe blow to many financially strapped independent newspapers, two of 
which were bought in September by progovernment businessmen.  By late 
1995, fewer newspapers appeared regularly on the streets, and most of 
those appearing had adopted a decidedly more cautious tone. 
 
The manager of the government-directed Cameroon Radio and Television 
Corporation arbitrarily suspended from January 1 through March 2 a 
weekly radio and television program created by a 1991 law to allow 
political parties represented in the National Assembly to represent 
their views.  The entirely illegal suspension of the program appeared 
designed to inhibit expression by members of the UNDP, the only major 
opposition party represented in the National Assembly, of their claim 
that the Government was engaged in efforts to destabilize their party. 
 
Of the many arrests made during the year, several stand out.  On May 4, 
gendarmes arrested Patrice Ndedi Penda, editor of the independent 
newspaper, Galaxie, and detained him overnight in a Douala prison.  His 
arrest, which was made without a legal warrant, stemmed from a year-old 
court case in which Penda had accused a government minister of an 
impropriety.  The judge in the case had declared himself incompetent to 
rule on the matter, and the case had been considered closed.  In 
obtaining the May 4 arrest, the concerned minister is believed to have 
improperly prevailed upon contacts within a Douala gendarme unit.  A 
Douala court later ruled that the arrest and detention had been illegal.  
In the same month, several thousand copies of Galaxie's four editions 
for May were seized and destroyed. 
 
On June 6, the Government arrested Ndzana Seme, the publisher of Le 
Nouvel Independant, on grounds of having committed outrage to the Head 
of State and inciting to rebellion after he published an article 
accusing the head of the Government's security services of embezzlement 
and other financial improprieties.  Ndzana Seme had been jailed on 
similar charges in 1994 and held for 2 1/2 months without bail.  He 
received a stiff fine and a suspended sentence in that case.  During the 
June 6 arrest, police reportedly beat two of the publisher's associates.  
Following his June arrest, the authorities held Ndzana Seme in a Yaounde 
prison for 2 months and did not bring formal charges against him until 4 
to 5 weeks after his arrest.  In August a court sentenced him to 2 
months' imprisonment but immediately released him on the grounds that he 
had already served the sentence.  In November a court convicted him on 
additional charges of outrage to the Head of State and sentenced him to 
12 months in prison and a large fine.  At year's end, Ndzana Seme had 
gone into hiding to evade the authorities. 
 
In a similar case, in August a court sentenced Pius Njawe, publisher of 
Le Messager, to 2 months' imprisonment on charges he defamed the head of 
the Government's security services in an article alleging financial 
improprieties.  The sentence was suspended on appeal. 
 
In mid-July, a court sentenced Paddy Mbawa, an outspoken critic of the 
Government and the publisher of the Anglophone Cameroon Post, to 9 
months in prison on two counts of having libeled a prominent 
businessman.  Mbawa and his supporters claimed that the charges against 
him were part of a government conspiracy to silence him and to destroy 
his newspaper.  The 9-month sentence was unusually severe for a case of 
this type, and, in addition, the court proceedings against him were 
marked by judicial irregularities.  Mbawa was jailed on August 10 
although the court's failure to provide a written judgment in the case 
prevented him from filing a timely appeal.  Subsequent appeals and 
requests for bail were denied.  At year's end, Mbawa remained in prison, 
and the Government had filed a new set of charges against him, accusing 
him of libel and antigovernment rhetoric.  If convicted, he could face a 
lengthy prison term. 
 
In April Julius Wamey, the former editor in chief of the Cameroon Post, 
a newspaper that is often harshly critical of the Government, sought 
(and subsequently received) political asylum in the United States.  He 
reported that he had been subject to police harassment and death threats 
in Cameroon. 
 
In August the Government arbitrarily suspended indefinitely four major 
private newspapers, La Nouvelle Expression, Le Messager, Dikalo, and 
Challenge Hebdo.  All four had been outspokenly critical of the 
Government.  The Government based its suspension order of three of the 
newspapers on their alleged defiance of censorship rules.  La Nouvelle 
Expression had the proof that it had abided by the censorship rules; it 
was suspended on other grounds, that of the "behavior" of the editor.  
The newspapers' editors argued, accurately, that the censorship rules 
were arbitrary and capricious. 
 
There were dozens of instances of press seizures throughout the year and 
many arrests of newspaper vendors.  For example, in mid-April the 
authorities arrested three newspaper vendors, handled them roughly, and 
briefly jailed them in Douala on grounds they were selling a banned 
edition of Le Messager.  The edition carried an article critical of the 
Vice Prime Minister.  In August the authorities arrested several dozen 
newspaper vendors in Douala and Yaounde on grounds that they had 
distributed suspended newspapers.  While only briefly detained, the 
police beat many of the vendors, and magistrates handed out heavy fines. 
 
Although there are no legal restrictions on academic freedom, free 
political discussion at the university is dampened by the presence of 
armed security forces, reported state security informants, as well as 
the sometimes strident pro-opposition groups.  Some professors believe 
that their political viewpoints and activism have had a negative impact 
on professional opportunities and advancement.  In August the Abbe Jean-
Marc Ela, a respected theologian and professor of sociology at the 
University of Yaounde, sought political asylum in Canada claiming that 
he had received death threats. 
 
  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 
113 political parties operated legally, albeit with severe restrictions, 
along with a growing number of civic associations. 
 
The Government restricted the ability of opposition parties to operate, 
generally by refusing them permission to hold meetings on the grounds 
that the proposed meetings threatened public order.  There were many 
instances of government interference during the year, even when the 
parties had followed proper advance procedures.  For example, on March 
25, police antiriot forces dispersed militants of the Social Democratic 
Front (SDF), a major opposition party, who had gathered peacefully in a 
Yaounde public square for a memorial service dedicated to deceased SDF 
members.  In dispersing the gathering, the police injured a number of 
persons and briefly arrested 18 persons.  The police also disrupted a 
number of SDF municipal election rallies in the South and Center 
provinces in October and November. 
 
There were a number of examples of official interference with activities 
of the Union of Democratic Forces (UFDC).  On January 31, the Yaounde 
authorities banned a UFDC rally intended to install newly elected party 
officials.  On February 1, Yaounde police dispersed a meeting of the 
Allied Front for Change, a coalition of 16 major opposition parties, 
including the UFDC, when Front members gathered in UFDC headquarters to 
elect a coalition president.  On March 22, police barricaded UFDC 
headquarters to prevent Mongo Beti, a celebrated Cameroonian writer and 
intellectual, from delivering a lecture on his book criticizing the 
French role in Africa. 
 
The Government attempted frequently to interrupt meetings of groups 
supporting greater autonomy or independence for the Anglophone region.  
On July 3, for example, gendarmes in Bamenda, Northwest province, used 
tear gas to disperse a group welcoming leaders of the Southern Cameroons 
National Council (SCNC), a pro-Anglophone group engaged in a public 
campaign.  On the same day, gendarmes surrounded the Bamenda home of an 
SCNC leader and prevented free entry or exit.  The governor of Southwest 
province banned all demonstrations, meetings, and rallies by SCNC or the 
Liberal Democratic Alliance (LDA) party throughout the Fako division of 
the province.  On July 13, gendarmes broke up an LDA rally in Kumba, 
Southwest province, even though party organizers had followed the 
required advance procedures. 
 
The Government's efforts to intimidate opposition party meetings had an 
impact.  Several parties reported that the Government's repressive acts 
had discouraged them from attempting to hold rallies or other 
organizational activities. 
 
In a related incident, on August 31, Yaounde police disrupted a workshop 
on election monitoring by prohibiting participants from meeting in the 
hotel where they had made prior arrangements or in any of several 
alternative hotels.  The seminar organizers, members of the private 
organization Conscience Africaine, had taken all the necessary legal 
steps to obtain advance approval for the seminar.  The Government later 
relented after the conference had already been moved to a diplomatic 
venue. 
 
  c.  Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
generally does not restrict this freedom.  However, religious groups 
must be approved and registered with the Ministry of Territorial 
Administration in order to function legally. 
 
  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The 1972 Constitution provides all citizens the right to settle in any 
place and to move about freely, subject to statutory provisions 
concerning public order, security, and tranquility.  In reality, 
government forces commonly impede domestic travel on specious and 
arbitrary grounds.  Police frequently stop travelers to check 
identification documents, vehicle registrations, and tax receipts as 
security and immigration control measures.  Security forces, including 
police, frequently set up roadblocks primarily to extract bribes.  This 
long-standing practice appears to have increased as the economy 
declined, although security forces did not take the drastic 1994 salary 
cuts imposed on civil servants. 
 
The Government occasionally uses its passport control function against 
those it considers a potential threat.  For example, it withdrew the 
passport of Victorin Hameni Bieleu, the President of the UFDC party, 4 
years ago, and he has been unable to obtain a new one. 
 
Cameroon has long served as a safe haven for displaced persons and 
refugees from the region, and it cooperates with the United Nations High 
Commissioner for Refugees.  Although the Government occasionally returns 
illegal immigrants, there were no reports of forced repatriation of 
recognized refugees.  However, there were continuing reports that some 
illegal immigrants have been subjected to harsh treatment, including 
imprisonment. 
 
Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Citizens have the constitutional right to change their government, but 
dominance of the political process by the President and his party limit 
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.  
Municipal elections, which had been repeatedly postponed in 1992 and 
1994 were finally scheduled for January 1996. 
 
Considerable controversy surrounded the Government's handling of 
preparations for these local elections.  The electoral registration 
period was marred by widespread and credible charges that administrative 
obstacles rendered it difficult for many citizens to register.  There is 
no independent nonpartisan national election commission, and the 1992 
municipal election law, passed by a CPDM-dominated National Assembly, 
favors the incumbent party.  Government authorities have broad powers 
permitting them to determine candidates' eligibility for office, monitor 
the operations of local polling commissions, announce election results, 
and invalidate entire lists of candidates. 
 
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 (see 
Section 2.b). 
 
In December the National Assembly passed a set of government-introduced 
amendments to the strongly centralized 1972 Constitution.  All debate 
was held behind closed doors.  The amendments included term limits for 
the President, the creation of a partially elected (70 percent) and 
partially appointed (30 percent) Senate, and the creation of a set of 
regional councils with limited powers over local affairs.  The 
amendments did not weaken presidential powers, and the independence of 
the judiciary remained questionable. 
 
There are no specific discriminatory laws prohibiting women or 
minorities from participating in government, in the political process, 
or in other areas of public life.  Women are represented in the 
President's Cabinet (2 of 44 members), in the National Assembly (22 of 
180 members), in the CPDM, in the judicial system, and in numerous 
state-run enterprises, although not in numbers anywhere near 
proportional to their share of the population.  In June two women were 
named to secretary-general posts in the Ministries of National Education 
and Tourism. 
 
While most of the key members of the Government, such as those from the 
Ministries of Territorial Administration and Defense, are drawn from the 
President's own Beti ethnic group, all levels of the administration 
include participants from other ethnic groups and regions.  Suffrage is 
universal at age 20. 
 
Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The Government permits numerous domestic and international human rights 
monitoring groups to operate.  It sometimes impeded the effectiveness of 
these nongovernmental organizations, including the ICRC, by limiting 
access to prisoners, refusing to divulge information, and otherwise 
inhibiting their activities.  On occasion, human rights workers have 
been beaten and harassed (see Section l.c.).  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, Conscience Africaine, the Movement for the 
Defense of Human Rights and Liberties, the Human Rights Defence Group, 
and the Human Rights Clinic and Education Center.  Financial hardships, 
inexperience, and occasional fear of government reprisals sometimes 
discouraged these nongovernmental civic associations from publicly 
criticizing the Government's human rights record.  Nevertheless, several 
organizations issued press releases to denounce specific human rights 
abuses.  Many held seminars and workshops on various aspects of human 
rights. 
 
The governmental National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, whose 
operations had been hampered in previous years by lack of official 
funding, in 1995 received sufficient funds from the Government to enable 
it to carry out limited activities.  The Commission has submitted 
reports to the President and the Prime Minister but has never released 
these publicly.  It organized events or hosted several human rights 
seminars during the year.  These included a national poster campaign in 
February to educate the population about their civil and human rights 
and a human rights seminar in March in Bamenda for government officials. 
 
The Government cooperated with the ICRC in preparing a draft training 
manual for gendarme units to be used in riot control and other 
"maintenance of order" operations.  In September the Government 
permitted a U.S. military unit to offer a seminar for the first time on 
peacekeeping, disaster relief, democracy, and military code of conduct 
to a selected group of military officers.  The seminar included 
considerable human rights content.  In October a government ministry 
shared with diplomatic officials a report of sanctions taken against a 
number of gendarmes accused of human rights violations in 1993 and 1994.  
While sketchy, the report marks one of the few times the Government has 
demonstrated a willingness to publicize sanctions taken against the 
forces of law and order.  
 
Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex and mandates that 
"everyone has equal rights and obligations."  However, it does not 
explicitly forbid discrimination based on race, language, religion, or 
social status.  The Government does not effectively enforce these 
constitutional provisions. 
 
  Women 
 
Credible reports indicate that violence against women has surged in 
recent years and that the law does not impose effective penalties 
against violators.  Spousal 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 beating.  While there are no 
reliable statistics on violence against women, the number of newspaper 
reports indicate the frequency is high. 
 
Despite constitutional provisions recognizing equal 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 irrespective of venue.  In the 
northern provinces, traditional leaders (Lamibe) prevent their numerous 
wives from ever leaving the palaces. 
 
  Children 
 
The Constitution provides that a child has the right to an education, 
and the Government sets mandatory schooling through age 14.  
Nevertheless, rising school fees and costs for books have forced many 
families to forgo sending their children to school.  The degree of 
familial child abuse is not known but is one of several targeted issues 
of children's rights organizations.  Babies and small children sometimes 
accompany their mothers to prison. 
 
Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by 
international health experts as damaging to both physical and 
psychological health, is not widely practiced in Cameroon, but it occurs 
in some areas of the Far North and Southwest provinces.  It includes the 
most severe form of the abuse, infibulation, and is usually practiced on 
young, preadolescent girls.  The Government does not recognize FGM as a 
problem and has not allocated resources to educate the public on the 
issue. 
 
  People With Disabilities 
 
A 1983 law and subsequent implementing legislation provide certain 
guarantees for persons with disabilities.  These include access to 
public institutions, medical treatment, and education.  The Government 
is obliged to bear part of a disabled person's educational expenses, to 
employ disabled persons where possible, and, as necessary, to provide 
them with public assistance.  These rights and guarantees are, in fact, 
rarely respected.  There are few facilities for disabled persons and 
little public assistance of any kind.  Lack of facilities and care for 
the mentally disabled is particularly acute.  Society tends to treat the 
disabled as tainted, leaving it to churches or foreign NGO's to provide 
assistance. 
 
  Indigenous People 
 
Cameroon's population of indigenous Pygmies (a term which in fact 
encompasses several different ethnic groups) primarily resides in the 
forest areas of the south and southeast.  While they suffer no legal 
discrimination, they are subject to much societal and economic 
discrimination; other groups often treat the Pygmies as inferior and 
sometimes subject them to virtual slave labor. 
 
  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.  This has resulted in Betis holding a preponderance of key 
positions in government, the security forces, and the military.  In 
other sectors, discrimination by other ethnic groups is not uncommon.  
Virtually all ethnic groups tend to provide preferential treatment to 
their coethnics where they are able to do so. 
 
An important ethnic, 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. 
 
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.  In practice, independent unions have found it extremely 
difficult to obtain registration.  Registered unions are invariably 
subject to government domination and interference.  Provisions of the 
Labor Code do not apply to civil servants, employees of the penitentiary 
system, or workers responsible for national security.  In lieu of 
strikes, civil servants are required to negotiate grievances directly 
with the minister of the concerned department and with the Minister of 
Labor.  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 1995. 
 
The Labor Code explicitly recognizes workers' right to strike but only 
after mandatory arbitration.  Arbitration proceedings are not legally 
enforceable and may be overturned by the Government.  The Labor Code, in 
theory, provides for the protection of legal strikers and prohibits 
retribution against them.  In fact, the Government responded 
aggressively to a number of strikes, many of which were occasioned by 
long-term arrearages in civil service salaries.  In January it dismissed  
20 University of Yaounde administrative employees after they staged a 
strike demanding payment of several months salary arrearages.  While in 
May the Government acceded to part of the demands of the Yaounde urban 
council workers for back pay, in June and July it used security forces 
to help terminate strikes over salary arrearages by members of the 
Cameroon Public Servants Union (CAPSU), an independent and unregistered 
union, and by Public Works Workers (Grands Travaux).  In the latter 
instance, on August 7 the Government called out the Presidential Guard 
to evict workers from a state-owned building. 
 
In September the National Union of Secondary School Teachers (SNAES), a 
registered union, filed a complaint with the International Labor 
Organization (ILO), charging that the Government had illegally assigned 
members of the union's executive committee to remote areas in 
retaliation for union participation in a December 1993 to February 1994 
strike over salary arrearages and improved professional status for 
teachers.  SYNES, the National Union of Teachers of Higher Education, 
submitted a complaint to the ILO concerning the Government's long-term 
refusal to register it. 
 
In March the Government encouraged the creation of a new labor 
confederation, the Union of Free Trade Unions of Cameroon (USLC), with 
which it maintains close ties.  Previously, the sole labor confederation 
had been the Confederation of Cameroonian Trade Unions (CCTU), formerly 
affiliated with the ruling CPDM party under the name Organization of 
Cameroonian Trade Unions.  While both organizations appear to be 
dominated or at least thoroughly intimidated by the Government, the 
creation of the USLC was widely interpreted as an effort by the 
Government to create a rival trade union confederation more firmly under 
its control. 
 
Earlier, in January the Government had permitted the CCTU to hold a 
congress and agreed not to interfere in the union's activities and to 
respect the decisions of the CCTU majority.  In 1994 the Government had 
engineered the ouster of Louis Sombes, who was seen as a threat to 
government control of the union, from his post as Secretary General.  
The ILO and other international trade union organizations criticized the 
Government's action, and Sombes was reelected to the secretary general 
post in the January election.  
 
In June the ILO expressed regret over the Government's silence in 
response to its 1994 inquiries concerning government interference in the 
leadership of the CCTU. 
 
The CCTU is a member of the Organization of African Trade Union Unity 
and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.  The USLC, 
established in March, filed an application for membership with these 
organizations. 
 
  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.  
Nevertheless, no sectoral collective bargaining negotiations had been 
undertaken by year's end. 
 
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 francs).  However, employers found guilty of 
antiunion discrimination do not have to reinstate workers fired for 
union activities.  The Ministry of Labor reported that there were no 
complaints of such discrimination in 1995.  In contrast, CCTU delegates 
reported that many trade unionists were dismissed from their jobs in 
1995 due to union activities.  The Cameroon Railroad Corporation 
suspended all union activities in 1995 and fired some union members. 
 
Cameroon has an industrial free zone regime.  The Government approved 
several firms to operate under it in 1994 but none in 1995.  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 Labor Code.  However, 
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 age 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 the 
age of 14.  There are no special provisions limiting working hours for 
children. 
 
  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 February 
the Prime Minister set the wage at approximately $47 (24,000 CFA francs) 
per month.  The wage does not provide a decent living for the average 
worker and family. 
 
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 
Ministry of Labor inspectors and occupational health doctors are 
responsible for monitoring these standards.  However, they lack the 
resources for a comprehensive inspection program, and there is no 
provision in the Labor Code authorizing workers to remove themselves 
from work situations that endanger health or safety.  Workers do have 
the right to report a dangerous situation to a Ministry of Labor medical 
doctor.  The doctor may inspect the suspect work site and recommend 
remedies but, in many cases, fails to do so. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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