Stop the human rights violations in the South-west and North-west regions of Cameroon now: A call on all relevant stakeholders

Authors: Basiru Bah, Essa Njie, Theophilus Michael Odaudu and Urerimam Raymond Shamaki on behalf of the 2018 class of the Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria)

Basiru Bah Essa Njie Theophilus Odaudu Urerimam
Raymond Shamaki

For the Centre for Human Rights latest press release on the human rights violations in Cameroon, please visit www.chr.up.ac.za/StopCameroonViolations

Since 2016, the human rights situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon has been deteriorating. It all started with peaceful protests organised by lawyers, teachers and students in the region demanding the appointment of Anglophone Cameroonians to key positions in the judiciary, civil service and educational institutions. The state responded with brutal force killing at least 10 people and injuring hundreds. This crack down increased agitation in the region and further calls for reform and even secession. The government militarised the area and conducted series of operations against protesters killing even more people. Amnesty International has reported arson attacks, torture, incommunicado detentions, arbitrary and extra-judicial executions, murder and other inhumane acts against civilians. These atrocities are committed by both the Cameroon security forces and armed separatist movements. The end of 2017 to date has seen more than 150,000 people being internally displaced and over 20,000 fleeing to neighbouring Nigeria in the wake of increased violence in the region. Cameroon is edging closer to civil war every day as the world watches in silence.

In light of the above human rights violations currently unfolding in Southern Cameroon, we urge the government of Cameroon to abide by its obligations as a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We also urge the government to ensure accountability by conducting prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations as well as prevent arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and death in custody. We also urge the government to avoid excessive and unnecessary use of force, especially when dealing with protests. We urge the government to also resort to solving the conflict in Southern Cameroon through meaningful engagement so as to find lasting solution to the crisis.

The Cameroonian government has failed in its responsibility to protect its citizens from grave human rights abuses. Under article 4(h) of the AU Constitutive Act, the AU has the responsibility to intervene in grave circumstances such as crimes against humanity. This is another opportunity for the AU to demonstrate its capacity to apply African solutions to African problems. As it is commonly said, ‘without peace, development is not possible; and without development, peace is not durable.’ We therefore call on the AU and the UN to undertake fact-finding visits to Cameroon to ascertain the exact extent of violations and propose appropriate solutions to end the conflict.

The international community has the responsibility to intervene to protect civilian populations where is seen to be unable or unwilling to protect its people from human rights violations. The Cameroonian situation appears to be ripe for intervention to prevent an escalation of the current situation into one of anarchy, chaos and armed conflict that could threaten international peace and security. Urgent action must therefore, be taken immediately to arrest the situation. As Martin Luther King Jr. rightly posited, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’

About the Authors:

Basiru Bah is a lawyer by training but spent most of his professional career in academia. He is currently an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation student at the Center for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. Prior to joining the program he was a teaching assistant at the University of The Gambia.

Essa Njie holds a BSc in Political Science from the University of The Gambia, where he works as a Graduate/Teaching Assistant in the Political Science Unit. He is  currently pursuing MPhil in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa at the Centre for Human Right, University of Pretoria, South Africa. He has an interest in promoting the civil and political rights of all people, especially in Africa. His research interest lies in post-dictatorship democratization in Africa and how different institutional and constitutional designs can be utilized in peacemaking and peace-building processes in the continent.

Theophilus Odaudu is a Nigerian lawyer with passion for human rights and public policy. He obtained his LLB from the University of Abuja; and an LLM from University of Ibadan. Theophilus is a Principal Legal Officer with Kogi State Ministry of Justice in Nigeria and volunteers for several human rights NGOs. Presently, he is pursuing an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria.

Urerimam Raymond Shamaki is currently a student of the LLM in human rights and democratisation in Africa, 2018 at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa. He is a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

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