The gendarmes also arrested several other journalists on the same occasion, including the reporting team of Vox Africa, a pan-African television service. Radio remained the most important medium and reached most citizens. There were approximately privately owned radio stations operating in the country, three-fourths of them in Yaounde and Douala.
The government required nonprofit rural radio stations to submit applications to broadcast, but they were exempt from licensing fees. Commercial radio and television broadcasters must submit a licensing application and pay an application fee with the application. After a license is issued, stations must pay an annual licensing fee, which was expensive for some stations. Although the government did not issue new broadcast licenses during the year, companies operated without them under a government policy of administrative tolerance. Several rural community radio stations functioned with funding from the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and foreign countries.
The government prohibited these stations from discussing politics. Television had lower levels of penetration than print media but was more influential in shaping public opinion in urban areas. There was one private cable television network. The 19 independent television stations skirted criticism of the government, although their news broadcasts sometimes focused on poverty, unemployment, and poor education, pointing to the role of government neglect and corruption. The government levied taxes to finance CRTV programming, which gave the station a distinct advantage over independent broadcasters.
The government was the largest advertiser in the country. Some private media enterprises reported government officials used the promise of advertising or the threat of withholding it to influence reporting of the government's activities. Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists and media outlets practiced self-censorship. Libel Laws: Press freedom is constrained by strict libel laws that suppress criticism.
These laws authorize the government, at its discretion and the request of the plaintiff, to criminalize a civil libel suit or to initiate a criminal libel suit in cases of alleged libel against the president and other high government officials. Such crimes are punishable by prison terms and heavy fines. The libel law places the burden of proof on the defendant. Government officials abused this law to keep local journalists from reporting on corruption and abusive behavior.
From September to December , Tchatchouang published a number of articles that accused Ngalle of embezzlement. The court also suspended the newspaper for an undetermined period of time. There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail.
The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications officially denied having initiated the measure, although some government officials alleged that intelligence services had made the suspension decision. The suspension was brief. Although there were no legal restrictions on academic freedom, state security informants reportedly operated on university campuses. Professors said that participation in opposition political parties or public criticism of the government could affect their professional opportunities.
Responses to Information Requests
Although the law provides for freedom of assembly, the government restricted this right in practice. The law requires organizers of public meetings, demonstrations, and processions to notify officials in advance but does not require prior government approval of public assemblies and does not authorize the government to suppress public assemblies that it has not approved in advance. However, officials routinely asserted that the law implicitly authorizes the government to grant or deny permission for public assembly.
Consequently, the government often refused to grant permits for assemblies organized by persons or groups critical of the government and used force to suppress public assemblies for which it had not issued permits. The government also prevented civil society organizations and political parties from holding press conferences, where criticism of the presidential election, corruption, and abuse of power were expected. The prefect alleged that the planned events, organized by political and civil society organizations, were likely to disturb public order. The organization sought to brief the public on its proposed agricultural policy for presidential candidates.
Security forces forcibly disrupted demonstrations, meetings, and rallies of citizens, trade unions, and political activists throughout the year. The use of excessive force by security forces resulted in numerous injuries to demonstrators. For example, on February 23, the Douala anti-riot police used water-cannon trucks and tear gas to disrupt a demonstration organized by opposition parties and human rights organizations and activists to commemorate the victims of the February riots.
On May 31, police detained 37 members of the Cameroon Coalition for Food Self-Sufficiency and prevented more than members from demonstrating for increased government support for farms and a curb on imports. The law provides for freedom of association, but the government limited this right in practice.
The law prohibits organizations that advocate any type of secession, resulting in the disruption of SCNC meetings on the grounds that the purpose of the organization rendered any meetings illegal see section 3. The conditions for government recognition of political parties, NGOs, or associations were arduous, interminable, and unevenly enforced. The process forced most associations to operate in uncertainty, in which their activities were tolerated but not formally approved. Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, security forces impeded domestic and international travel during the year.
The government cooperated with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, and asylum seekers. In-country Movement: Security forces at roadblocks and checkpoints in cities and on most highways extorted bribes and harassed travelers. Police frequently stopped travelers to check identification documents, vehicle registrations, and tax receipts as security and immigration control measures.
There were credible reports that police arrested and beat individuals who failed to carry their identification cards as required by law see section 1. During the two-week presidential campaign, the government closed the country's airspace to all but the president on the day he traveled to Maroua to launch his campaign and on the day he returned. Opposition candidates charged that the closure was intended to limit their campaign activities. Foreign Travel: The government also closed the borders and canceled all flights from the evening before the election until after the polls had closed.
Exile: The law prohibits forced exile, and the government did not use it; however, some human rights monitors and political opponents remained in self-imposed exile because they felt threatened by the government. In between 10, and 15, refugees and residents in and around the Adamawa Region villages of Djohong and Ngaoui were displaced following attacks and looting by unidentified armed groups from the Central African Republic CAR. Officials in the Adamawa Region reported that most of the refugees have been assimilated and that only a few hundred IDPs remained.
IDP children attended local schools, and the government provided refugees with medical care. The country's laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system of providing protection to refugees. The country continued to host approximately , refugees, the vast majority of whom were from CAR.
Refugees were given the same rights to basic services as the host population. Refugee access to legal remedies — as with the general population — remained limited. Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees and provided it to more than , persons, including , from CAR, 7, from Chad, and 4, from Nigeria. Section 3. The law provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully; however, President Biya and CPDM members controlled key aspects of the political process, including the judiciary.
The election was peaceful but marred by irregularities, including polls that opened late, a voter list that contained numerous duplicate entries, insufficient time to distribute registration cards, inadequate training of polling officials, and the absence of indelible ink. These shortcomings effectively disfranchised an unknown number of voters and created opportunities for multiple voting and ballot box stuffing. Domestic and international observers concluded that the irregularities did not significantly affect the election outcome.
Citizens residing overseas registered and voted. The opposition's failure to unite behind a single candidate divided the opposition vote 22 ways and contributed to voter apathy and cynicism. The government claimed that 66 percent of the population cast ballots. In May the government amended electoral legislation to increase the number of council members from 12 to In July the president appointed six new members, who included prominent figures from civil society.
On October 7, one of the new appointees was dismissed for allegedly receiving money from the CPDM to manage part of its public relations campaign. After the election the Supreme Court received 20 complaints from political parties, 10 of which demanded either the partial or complete annulment of results as a result of irregularities. On October 19, the court dismissed all the cases for lack of evidence or late submission. According to CHRAPA, coverage of campaign activities by the state media was biased, providing extensive coverage of the campaign activities of the incumbent but not of opposition parties.
The government greatly increased the number of municipalities run by presidentially appointed delegates, who have authority over elected mayors, effectively disenfranchising the residents of those localities. Delegate-run cities included most of the provincial capitals and some division capitals in pro-opposition regions; however, this practice was almost nonexistent in the southern regions, which tended to support the ruling CPDM party.
In municipalities with elected mayors, local autonomy was limited, since elected local governments relied on the central government for most of their revenue and administrative personnel. Political Parties: There were more than registered political parties. Fewer than 10, however, had significant levels of support, and only five had seats in the National Assembly.
Membership in the ruling political party conferred significant advantages, including in the allocation of key jobs in parastatals and the civil service. The president appoints all ministers, including the prime minister, and also directly appoints the governors of each of the 10 regions who also serve as CPDM officials. The president has the power to appoint important lower level members of the 58 regional administrative structures as well. Onerous requirements for registration of parties and candidates restricted political activity. In the National Assembly passed a constitutional amendment that removed presidential term limits and added provisions for presidential immunity.
Although considerable national discussion of the proposal ensued, the National Assembly ultimately passed the revisions in a manner that allowed no debate and underscored the CPDM's unfettered control of all government branches. Neither the electorate nor its elected representatives had an opportunity to affect the outcome of the constitutional exercise. Residents of the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions tended to support the opposition SDF party and consequently claimed to suffer disproportionately from human rights abuses committed by the government and its security forces.
The Anglophone community complained of being underrepresented in the public sector. Although citizens in certain Francophone areas — the East, Far North, North, and Adamawa regions — voiced similar complaints about under-representation and government neglect, Anglophones claimed they had not received a fair share of public sector goods and services within their two regions.
Many residents of the Anglophone regions sought greater freedom, equality of opportunity, and better government by regaining regional autonomy rather than through national political reform, and have formed several quasi-political organizations in pursuit of their goals.
Authorities sometimes refused to grant opposition parties permission to hold rallies and meetings and arrested SCNC activists for participating in SCNC activities. The government considered the SCNC illegal because it advocates secession and has never registered as a political party or organization. On February 9, gendarmes from Bali subdivision, Mezam Division, Northwest Region, arrested and detained for five days Chief Ayamba Ette Otun and two other SCNC members for circulating tracts calling for the independence of Southern Cameroon and warning the government against the mistreatment of Southern Cameroonians.
Participation of Women and Minorities: Women held 23 of seats in the National Assembly, six of 61 cabinet posts, and a few of the higher offices within the major political parties, including the CPDM. The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and corruption was pervasive at all levels of government. Officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and the World Bank's most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a severe problem.
The public perception was that judicial and administrative officials were open to bribes in almost all situations. In June the National Institute of Statistics published a study, indicating that 87 percent of Cameroonian households considered corruption a major issue in the country.
During the year the government sanctioned hundreds of government employees for corruption, embezzlement, and mismanagement. According to the Report by the Ministry of Justice on Human Rights in Cameroon in , authorities investigated 20 cases of corruption and cases of embezzlement of public funds in ; the courts heard 16 cases of corruption and cases of embezzlement of public funds. The National Anticorruption Commission CONAC is the country's principal independent anticorruption agency; however, it was subservient to the president and lacked autonomy.
Between January and December , CONAC received petitions regarding corruption, of which involved embezzlement and 41 involved tender violations. CONAC recommended prosecution for all cases received. In the National Financial Investigations Unit ANIF , a separate financial intelligence unit that tracks money laundering, referred to judicial authorities 35 of the reports received of suspicious transactions.
Between its creation in May and , the ANIF referred to judicial authorities of reports received of suspicious transactions. The ANIF has been informed of no trials or hearings addressing any of the reports it has referred. Police were corrupt. Individuals reportedly paid bribes to police and the judiciary to secure their freedom. Police demanded bribes at checkpoints, and influential citizens reportedly paid police to make arrests or abuse individuals involved in personal disputes. Police were sanctioned for corruption during the year. Some officers convicted of corruption were relieved of their duties but retained their jobs.
On October 13, the secretary of state in charge of the gendarmerie ordered the arrest of 13 gendarmes caught extorting money from truck drivers on the Ebolowa-Ambam-Kye-Ossi highway. The 13 remained in detention awaiting trial at year's end. Judicial corruption was a problem. According to several press reports, judicial authorities accepted illegal payments from detainees' families in exchange for a reduced sentence or the outright release of their relatives.
Judges were susceptible to executive influence and often stopped or delayed judicial proceedings in response to governmental pressure. Many powerful political or business interests had virtual immunity from prosecution, and politically sensitive cases sometimes were settled through bribes. There were no developments in the transfer to the judiciary of 47 corruption cases involving agriculture officials. The trial continued at year's end.
On March 21 and April 25, the Douala High Court held hearings in the arrest and detention of Jean-Baptiste Nguini Effa, former general manager of the government-owned National Petroleum Distribution Company, and six of his close collaborators, all of whom were charged with embezzlement. The constitution and law require senior government officials, including members of the cabinet, to declare their assets; however, the president had not issued the requisite decree to implement the law by year's end.
There are no laws providing citizens with access to government information, and such access was difficult. Most government documents, such as statistics, letters exchanged between various administrations, draft legislation, and investigation reports, were not available to the public or the media. Section 5. Although a number of domestic and international human rights groups investigated and published findings on human rights cases, government officials repeatedly impeded the effectiveness of many local human rights NGOs during the year by harassing their members, limiting access to prisoners, refusing to share information, and threatening and using violence against NGO personnel.
The government collaborated with domestic NGOs to address child labor, women's rights, and trafficking in persons. For example, on February 11, in Douala, gendarmes of the Littoral gendarmerie legion in the Bonanjo neighborhood arrested and detained Mboua Massock, a political and human rights activist who was distributing tracts calling for popular resistance against the Biya government. Massock, who was arrested in and for similar activities, was interrogated and released 10 hours later.
In February Ngo Mbe presented a report on the human rights situation in the country at the fifth platform for human rights defenders in Dublin, Ireland. She subsequently received a threat letter for "tarnishing the image of the president of the republic" and was the victim of repeated thefts. During the year Ngo Mbe was followed by a car with no registration plates, her telephone was tapped, and her computer, mobile phone, and wallet were stolen. Although the NCHRF remained hampered by a shortage of funds, during the year it conducted a number of investigations into human rights abuses, visited prisons, sought to obtain medical attention for jailed suspects, and organized several human rights seminars for judicial officials, security personnel, and other government officials.
Although the commission rarely criticized the government's human rights abuses publicly, its staff intervened with government officials in specific cases of human rights abuses by security forces. During the year the commission hosted a seminar on lessons learned during the presidential election. During the year the NCHRF continued its efforts to stop "Friday arrests" the practice of detaining individuals on Friday to prolong the time before court appearance. On January 26, the NCHRF published a report in which it characterized administrative detentions as a "lethal weapon" in the hands of some administrative authorities.
In February the government facilitated the visit of a delegation from the African Union's Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, which was investigating conditions of detention and other issues. Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Assembly's Constitutional Laws, Human Rights and Freedoms, Justice, Legislation, Regulations, and Administration Committee reviews human rights legislation submitted by the government and was instrumental in the National Assembly's November 29 passage of a law criminalizing the trafficking of adults. On December 6, the government released the Report by the Ministry of Justice on Human Rights in Cameroon in , which focused primarily on government actions to address human rights issues, such as judicial and disciplinary action taken against officials accused of corruption or other inappropriate conduct.
The report documented hundreds of investigations, disciplinary actions, and prosecutions in see sections 1. The law does not explicitly forbid discrimination based on race, language, or social status, but does prohibit discrimination based on gender and mandates that "everyone has equal rights and obligations. The law prohibits homosexual acts. Rape and Domestic Violence: Although the law criminalizes rape and provides penalties of between five and ten years' imprisonment for convicted rapists, police and the courts rarely investigated or prosecuted rape cases.
The law does not address spousal rape. A study conducted in reported the rapes of hundreds of thousands of girls and women between and see section 6, Children. Due to social taboos associated with sexual violence, the great majority of rapes went unreported. For example, the media reported on only four rape cases during the year — one in Buea, Southwest Region and three in Yaounde. Although the investigation did not result in an arrest in the Buea case, police arrested the three suspected Yaounde perpetrators, who were charged with rape and remained in detention awaiting trial at year's end.
The German Agency for International Cooperation, in collaboration with local NGOs, continued its campaign to raise awareness of rape and educate citizens on penal provisions against rape. Campaign activities included the distribution of leaflets and T-shirts bearing messages, conferences in schools and women's associations, and radio broadcasts. The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, although assault is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment and fines. In a study from La Maison des Droits de l'Homme, a Douala-based NGO, reported that approximately 39 percent of women suffered from physical violence.
Women's rights advocates asserted that penalties for domestic violence were insufficient. Spousal abuse is not a legal ground for divorce. Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment. The government did not conduct any public education campaigns on the subject, and there were no statistics available on its occurrence, although it was thought to be widespread.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children, but societal pressures continued to reinforce taboos on discussing contraception and all other sex-related issues, particularly in northern rural areas.
Prenatal care, skilled attendance during childbirth, and postpartum care were not available to many women, particularly to those living in rural areas.
According to statistics, the maternal mortality rate was estimated at 1, per , births. In cooperation with NGOs, the government conducted programs to educate couples, especially men, on responsible spacing between childbirths. The Ministry of Public Health produced radio and televised information programs on responsible parenthood and encouraged couples to use contraception to space the timing of their children. Women were equally diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections, and all government and civil society campaigns against the disease targeted both men and women.
Discrimination: Despite constitutional provisions recognizing women's rights, women did not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men, and some provisions of civil law were prejudicial to women. For example, the law allows a husband to deny his wife's right to work, and a husband may also end his wife's right to engage in commercial activity by notifying the clerk of the commerce tribunal.
Customary law imposes further strictures on women since in many regions a woman was regarded as the property of her husband. Because of the importance of custom and tradition, civil laws protecting women often were not respected. For example, in some ethnic groups women were precluded from inheriting from their husbands. The Ministry of Women's Empowerment and the Family worked with other government agencies to promote the legal rights of women. Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from the parents, and it is the parents' responsibility to register births.
Parents must obtain a birth declaration from the hospital or health facility in which the child was born and complete the application. The mayor's office subsequently issues the birth certificate once the file is completed and approved. Because many children were not born in formal health facilities, and many parents were unable to reach local government offices, many births were unregistered. Statistics on unregistered births were unavailable.
Official Reports | U.S. Embassy in Cameroon
In recent years the government created special civil status centers in remote areas to enable rural residents to register their children. Citizens unable to avail themselves of these resources often turned to a thriving industry for fabricated birth certificates, which were required to register children for school or obtain a national identification card. The government continued its program begun in to issue birth certificates to Baka Pygmies , most of whom did not have birth certificates see section 6, Indigenous People.
The program also assisted Baka in registering for school. Education: Schooling is mandatory through the age of 14, but parents had to pay uniform and book fees for primary school students and tuition and other fees for secondary school students, rendering education unaffordable for many children. The government continued its three-year program to improve school access by building new classrooms, recruiting new teachers, and providing water fountains.
The low school enrollment rate was attributed to cost, with girls' participation further reduced by early marriage, sexual harassment, unwanted pregnancy, prejudice, and domestic responsibilities. Child Abuse: Child abuse was a major problem, although no statistics were available. Newspaper reports often cited children as victims of kidnapping, mutilation, and even infanticide. There were credible stories of mothers usually young, unemployed, and unmarried abandoning their newborns in streets, garbage cans, and pit toilets. On February 2, the minister of social affairs in partnership with UNICEF launched a nationwide campaign to sensitize the public on child abuse, including sexual abuse, child labor, and child trafficking.
A study conducted by the German development organization GTZ reported that an estimated , women and girls have been raped in the past 20 years: 20 percent of rapes were perpetrated by family members, and the average age of victims was 15 years. Child Marriage: While the minimum legal age for a woman to marry is 15, many families tried to marry their female children before they turned 12 years old. Early marriage was prevalent in the northern regions of Adamaoua, North, and particularly the remote Far North, where many girls as young as nine faced severe health risks from pregnancies.
There were no statistics on the prevalence of child marriage, but the courts heard one forced marriage case in Statistics on its prevalence were unavailable. Internal migration contributed to the spread of FGM to different areas. The majority of FGM procedures were clitorectomies. FGM usually was practiced on infants and preadolescent girls. Public health centers in areas where FGM was frequently practiced counseled women about the harmful consequences of FGM. In February the government disclosed an action plan to prevent FGM and to draft legislation to end the practice.
Until legislation has passed, the plan provides for government collaboration with civil society organizations to care for victims and prevent new cases. In February, in the Briqueterie neighborhood of Yaounde, the minister of women's empowerment and the family held meetings with Muslim civil society organizations to assess the FGM zero-tolerance program in which they had been involved in previous years. Breast ironing, a procedure to flatten a young girl's growing breasts with hot stones, was perpetrated on many girls, according to press reports. The procedure was considered a way to delay a girl's physical development, thus limiting the risk of sexual assault and teenage pregnancy.
Girls as young as nine were subjected to the practice, which resulted in burns, deformities, and psychological problems. The law does not specifically provide a minimum age for consensual sex. Children under the age of 18 were engaged in prostitution, and the problem was believed to be pervasive, although no statistics were available.
Displaced Children: Approximately 2, children lived on the streets of the major urban centers. The Project to Fight the Phenomenon of Street Children, a governmental project in partnership with NGOs, gathered information on street children and offered healthcare, education, and psychosocial care. The project also bolstered the intake capacities of specialized centers. In the Ministry of Social Affairs reunited five street children with their families and placed 82 in institutions.
Due in part to the scarcity of facilities for persons with disabilities and lack of public assistance, the president in April promulgated a law to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. The law requires that both new and existing government and private buildings be designed to facilitate access by persons with disabilities; secondary public education be tuition-free for persons with disabilities and children born of parents with disabilities; and initial vocational training, medical treatment, employment be provided "when possible," and public assistance be provided "when needed.
Societal discrimination continued against persons with albinism. Such discrimination occurred less frequently than in previous years, but employment opportunities for persons with albinism remained limited, although at least one such individual occupied a senior position in the government. The organization called on the government to provide reduced healthcare costs, better access to education, and equal employment opportunities for persons with albinism.
Society largely treated those with disabilities as outcasts, and many felt that providing assistance was the responsibility of churches or foreign NGOs. The population consists of more than ethnic groups, among which there were frequent and credible allegations of discrimination. Ethnic groups commonly gave preferential treatment to fellow ethnic group members in business and social practices. Northern areas continued to suffer from ethnic tensions between the Fulani or Peuhl and the Kirdi, who remained socially, educationally, and economically disadvantaged relative to the Fulani in the three northern regions.
Traditional Fulani rulers, called lamibe, continued to wield great power over their subjects, who often included Kirdi, and sometimes subjected them to tithing and forced labor. Isolated cases of hereditary servitude were alleged, largely Fulani enslavement of Kirdi.
Many Fulani hired Kirdi at exploitive wage levels to perform tasks that the Fulani considered menial and beneath them. Vigilante violence against persons suspected of theft resulted in at least two deaths during the year. Public frustration over police ineffectiveness and the release without charge of many individuals arrested for serious crimes contributed to vigilante violence. For example, on March 4, inhabitants of the Makepe neighborhood of Douala burned to death two thieves, who allegedly stole the motorbike of an elderly inhabitant of the neighborhood.
An investigation was ongoing at year's end. An estimated 50, to , Baka, including Bakola and Bagyeli Pygmies , resided primarily and were the earliest known inhabitants in the forested areas of the South and East regions. While no legal discrimination exists, other groups often treated the Baka as inferior and sometimes subjected them to unfair and exploitative labor practices. The government did not effectively protect their civil and political rights.
Some observers believed that sustained logging was destroying the Baka's unique, forest-oriented belief system, forcing them to adapt their traditional social and economic systems to a more rigid modern society similar to their Bantu neighbors. Local Baka along the path of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline continued to complain that they were not compensated fairly for their land and had been cheated by persons posing as Baka representatives.
The committee held thousands of meetings with local citizens over the years, including more than during the year in Cameroon. The committee finished adjudicating active compensation claims during the year and began shifting resources toward eradicating malaria and conducting other corporate social responsibility projects affecting populations along the pipeline.
Some local Baka continued to claim that they were not fairly compensated. The Ministry of Social Affairs continued efforts begun in to provide birth certificates and national identity cards to Baka; however, 95 percent of Baka did not have identity cards at year's end. Ministry teams reported that efforts to reach Baka were impeded by the difficulty in accessing their homes deep in the forest, but that slow progress was being made.
During the year ministry teams located dozens of Baka to assist them with registration and voting. During the year 10 persons were arrested for suspected homosexual activity, although most were not engaged in homosexual acts at the time of arrest. Gay men and lesbians generally kept a low profile because of the pervasive societal stigma, discrimination, and harassment as well as the possibility of imprisonment. Gay men and lesbians suffered from harassment and extortion by law enforcement officials. According to one human rights NGO, government officials and private citizens sometimes conspired to make false allegations of homosexuality to harass enemies or extort money.
In March Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was sentenced to three years in jail by the Yaounde lower court for homosexual activity. On July 25, police detained three men returning from a bar in Yaounde because two of the men appeared effeminate, according to the Association for the Defense of Homosexuality and Human Rights Watch. The three were jailed for one week before being charged, and the two who appeared effeminate were beaten on the soles of their feet until they confessed to being gay, according to a civil society group working on their behalf; the third man was released.
An arrest warrant was issued for the third man, who was convicted and sentenced in absentia to the same punishment. On January 13, following the EU decision to finance the Project to Provide Assistance and Guidance to Sexual Minorities, the then minister of external relations Henri Eyebe Ayissi convoked Raul Mateus Paula, the EU ambassador, to convey the government's opposition to the decision, noting that the law criminalizes homosexuality.
Several lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations operated in the country. There was a pattern of discrimination against members of such groups, although no official cases were available for citation. Discrimination against persons suspected of practicing witchcraft was a problem in rural areas. Suspected witches were shunned and forced to travel to neighboring villages to buy food or maintain garden plots. Women whose children died at birth, for example, were suspected of selling their newborns to mystic forces in exchange for living a long life.
The law allows workers to form and join trade unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively, but the government imposed numerous restrictions in law and in practice. The law does not permit the creation of a union that includes both public and private sector workers or the creation of a union that includes different or even closely related sectors. The law requires that unions register with the government, permitting only groups of no fewer than 20 workers to organize a union by submitting a constitution, bylaws, and nonconviction certifications for each founding member.
The law provides for prison sentences and heavy fines for workers who form a union and carry out union activities without registration. Trade unions or associations of public servants may not join a foreign occupational or labor organization without prior authorization from the minister responsible for "supervising public freedoms. The constitution and law provide for collective bargaining between workers and management as well as between labor federations and business associations in each sector of the economy. The law does not apply to the agricultural or other informal sectors, which included the majority of the workforce.
Legal strikes may be called only after mandatory arbitration. Workers who ignore procedures to conduct a legal strike can be dismissed or fined. Only if mediation fails at all three levels can workers formally issue a strike notice and subsequently go on strike. The provision of the law allowing persons to strike does not apply to civil servants, employees of the penitentiary system, or workers responsible for national security, including police, gendarmerie, and army personnel.
Instead of strikes, civil servants were required to negotiate grievances directly with the minister of the appropriate department in addition to the minister of MINLESI. However, employers found guilty were not required to compensate workers for discrimination or to reinstate fired workers. Industrial free zones are subject to labor law, except for the following provisions: the employers' right to determine salaries according to productivity, the free negotiation of work contracts, and the automatic issuance of work permits for expatriate workers.
Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not always respected in practice, and the government interfered with union activities. The government applied the law inconsistently, and some sections of labor law had no force or effect because the presidency had not issued implementing decrees. Government interference reportedly took various forms, including selectively recognizing certain trade unions and inconsistently applying the laws.
Government officials stated that the government provided union certification within one month of application; however, independent unions, especially in the public sector, found it difficult to register. Some independent unions accused the government of creating small non-representative unions amenable to government positions and with which it could negotiate more easily.
The government also bribed union leaders to call off strikes. For example, transportation union strikes scheduled for early October were allegedly called off after union leaders received personal compensation from the government. Arbitration decisions are legally binding but were often unenforceable when the parties refused to cooperate. It was not uncommon for such decisions to be overturned or simply ignored by the government or employers. There were a couple of collective bargaining agreements signed during the year. Once agreements were negotiated, however, there was no mechanism to enforce implementation, and the government ignored some of its agreements with labor unions.
Security forces arrested union leaders. In March gendarmes of Bamenda, Mezam Division, Northwest Region, arrested and detained for several hours union leaders who conducted a legal strike at the Ayaba Hotel to demand that hotel workers be paid several months of salary arrears. The union leaders were charged with disturbing public order. Information surfaced during the year that in November police in Yaounde dispersed a rally organized by members of the Public Sector Central Trade Union CSP to demand improved working conditions.
Accused of holding an "illegal demonstration" and "disturbing public order," the trade unionists were brought before the public prosecutor without having an opportunity to consult a lawyer. The public prosecutor ordered their provisional release the same day, and they remained awaiting trial at year's end. Antiunion discrimination occurred. The blacklisting of union members, unfair dismissal, creating employer-controlled unions, and threats against workers trying to unionize were common practices. The government has often created or used fake trade unions to counter strikes, especially in the transportation sector.
Information surfaced during the year that in January , management at Orange Telecom suspended five workers in retaliation for a strike. The constitution and law prohibit forced labor. Cameroon is a republic in Central Africa which is characterized politically by a strong presidency and a single dominant party within the multiparty system of government. Cameroon is classified by the World Bank as having a lower-middle-income economy.
Other main commodities of Cameroon include coffee, cocoa, cotton, rubber, bananas, oilseed, grains, cassava, livestock and timber. Cameroon exports multiple agricultural products to the U. The country is also eligible for preferential trade benefits with the U. Cameroon is a relatively young country, as more than 60 percent of its population is under the age of The country has experienced rising rates of poverty, particularly in rural areas. In , it was reported that 24 percent of the Cameroonian population lived below the income poverty line of USD 1.
Cameroon hosts more than , refugees and asylum seekers, primarily coming from the Central African Republic, and increasingly, fleeing violence in Nigeria caused by the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
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It is only able to host them with UN support due to its own limited resources. Migrants and refugees appear to be at risk of harassment and extortion by the police; police have frequently stopped travelers to review their documentation, and refugees have reported extortion by police when traveling even when they carried UNHCR-issued identification cards. These minorities notably include the Baka and Mbororo. The Baka are indigenous to the forested areas of the South and East, and the Mbororo are pastoralists primarily residing in the North, East, Adamawa, and Northwest Regions.
These two groups have reported to experience marginalization, land grabs, and denial of access to water. While this is a relatively low rank, Cameroon still ranks ahead of two countries on its borders: Chad , and Central African Republic According to the Trafficking in Persons Report , trafficking risk may be found among Cameroonian children in export supply chains in agriculture, including the onion, cotton, tea, and cocoa sectors.
Additionally, Cameroonian children are vulnerable to trafficking in sectors including artisanal gold mining, gravel, fishing, and construction. Cameroon has long experienced negative net migration, but the rate of emigration has declined: in , net immigration was estimated to be ,, while in it was estimated at , Refugees made up None of the persons of concern were considered stateless. Over 20 percent of the population was considered internally displaced. Cameroonian law provides for limited freedom of association, as legal rights to form and join unions, legally strike, and collectively bargain were provided for but subject to statutory limitations and other substantial restrictions.
For example, the Minister of Territorial Administration may suspend or dissolve an association depending on whether it is judged to be disrupting public order or threatening state security. The ability to freely associate may be further limited by unclear, delayed, and unevenly enforced conditions for operating as a legal, government-recognized organization.
Notably, the law on collective bargaining does not apply to the informal sector; this restriction includes the agricultural sector, where the large majority of the population is employed. In , the ITUC added Cameroon to the list of countries found to deny or constrain free speech and freedom of assembly. The minimum wage for all sectors has been set at CFA 36,, and represents a significant increase from the previous minimum wage of CFA 28, The legal workweek in the non-agricultural formal sector is 40 hours per week, while in the agricultural and related sectors, it is 48 hours per week.
There were also exceptions for certain formal sectors, such as the limit of 54 hours per week for household and restaurant staff. Workers are required to receive at least one day of rest per week. They may work overtime hours beyond these weekly hour limits. The stipulation on provision of health services, however, is not enforced, and health and safety standards have not been enforced in the informal sector where most of the population is employed. The constitution affirms that all individuals have the right and the obligation to work, but does not specifically prohibit specific types of discrimination.
The U. Department of State has reported that individuals have experienced employment-related discrimination based on their ethnicity, HIV status, disability, and sexual orientation, and that legal requirements have been difficult to enforce because the majority of work takes place in the informal sector. The law sets the legal minimum working age at 14, and requires that children between ages 14 and 18 receive contractually-assured training from their employers.
Children under 18 are prohibited from performing various hazardous tasks, working at night, and working longer than eight hours per day. Primary education is compulsory by law. Department of State has reported that human rights groups operate in the country, but are obstructed by uncooperative, critical and hostile officials within the government. Human rights activists have received anonymous threats, and there have been several reports of intimidation and attacks on individual human rights activists.
The government did not conduct investigations or other activities to halt these incidents. Department of State has reported that labor laws have been waived throughout the IFZs to attract or retain investment. The law establishing IFZs includes several noteworthy exceptions to the Labor Code regulations; in IFZs, the employer has the right to determine salaries according to productivity, freely negotiate work contracts and enjoy automatic issuance of work permits for foreign workers. While IFZs do contain certain legal exceptions, the U. Cameroon score a In addition to the conflict related to Boko Haram in the North and violence in the Central African Republic to the East, there are other sources of tension and instability within the country.
International Crisis Group has described options for effective political expression by the opposition as minimal, and social discontent as widespread.
Department of State has rated the overall crime level in Cameroon as critical. Department of State reports that Cameroon has faced violence from Boko Haram on the Nigerian border, and from the spillover from violent clashes in the Central African Republic. Bandits have also operated in these border regions. Towns in the Far North Region which border Nigeria were judged to be particularly dangerous.
The actions of the Cameroonian security forces have been cited as contributing to the internal displacement of around , people in the Far North region. There, security forces have also harassed the approximately 27, Nigerian refugees that struggle to live outside of the refugee camp which itself holds some 59, Nigerian refugees without adequate food and basic services.
According to Amnesty International, the state and its security forces have arbitrarily arrested individuals suspected of supporting Boko Haram and have detained them in unofficial and inhumane detention centers, often despite having little or no evidence for the arrests. These detainees number in the hundreds, and are denied access to lawyers. The mass arrests of people accused of supporting Boko Haram have contributed to prison overcrowding and worsening conditions.
In , the government increased anti-corruption activities, but despite these efforts, corruption remained pervasive. There have been reports, for example, that some police involved in the issuance of identification documents collected additional fees, and there have been reports of police extorting traveling refugees. Corruption can also hinder the resolution of cases of illegal expropriation of land by the government, such as for large development infrastructure.
Local sources have reported to the U. Department of State that corrupt activities such as the diversion of resources have hindered the response to Boko Haram, a national security threat that is directly correlated to the number of refugees and internally displaced persons in the country. Cameroon is scored in the low human development category, according to the UN Human Development Index, with a rank of out of countries and a score of 0.
In , the most recent year for which data was available, Cameroon had a relatively high level of poverty, with nearly The Far North has historically been the poorest region, and poverty levels have been exacerbated by the crisis with Boko Haram. Before the crisis, three out of four million inhabitants were found to live under the poverty line,  and approximately 46 percent of children in the region went to school. There have been some anecdotal reports of distrust against recently arrived IDPs due to suspicions that they may have supported Boko Haram.
The government has drafted a law on the prevention and suppression of gender-based discrimination, but other laws such as those regulating property ownership discriminate against women. Women may experience discrimination based on their gender, and indigenous women in particular were reported to experience discrimination around land rights and access to education. Women may be limited in their ability to inherit land and carry out other activities in rural areas depending on the customary law in place in the area. Some traditional legal systems in Cameroon treat women as the legal property as their husbands.
Approximately 20 percent of the Cameroonian population was considered internally displaced.