Posted in Child Protection, Human Rights, SGBV

BREAKING THE SILENCE: My truth about sexual abuse

Henrietta_Ifyede2

Henrietta Ifyede (2019)


I remember vividly that faithful day, it was my birthday, the 31st of June and I just turned 9 and as usual, uncle Chike, my mom’s twin brother came to pick me again from school. He was my favourite uncle, always showering me with gifts and even that morning he had brought a cake and birthday packages for my classmates. I was in Grade 6. We got to his house and this time he offered to bath me, but I told him I bath myself at home, he insisted, and I obliged. My breasts were just developing, and he kept asking me if I had been touched there before and I nodded in negation. He proceeded in washing my vagina and dipped his hand in and I told him my mom allows me to wash it myself with my hands, but he assured me he could wash it better because my hands were not long enough to go deep.

We finished, and he took me to his room, we were alone as my only cousin, his son was in boarding house at the time. He brought out his penis and I fidgeted, he asked me not to be afraid because he won’t harm me. He started telling me of how I am his favourite niece and that he just wants to show me what this ‘stick’ is used for. He asked that I be calm, and in his own words, ‘with time, you will enjoy it’. He started fondling my breast and I started crying, he petted me and said he’ll make sure he’s goes gently, I didn’t understand what he was saying, but he proceeded in putting his penis in my vagina and I screamed, he covered my mouth and kept saying sorry while still penetrating me until he released some whitish substance as I didn’t know it was called sperm.

He went on to say I could lick it that the taste was good, and he put it in my mouth and I swallowed. I froze and couldn’t move, then he cleaned me up and said to me, ‘don’t tell anyone this, or I’ll kill you’. He called my mom told her not to bother picking me up that he will bring me home, he carried me into the car and on the way home bought me ice-cream and a lot of all the goodies I liked. I did as I was told and never told anyone. With time I became used to it and it continued till I was 11. I knew what an orgasm was before I could spell the word.

My house was the typical Nigerian home where the word ‘sex’ was a taboo. To the point that if a Nollywood movie was showing and a kissing scene came on, the channel will be changed. Nigerian parenting 101 is raising kids with great high-handedness, in fear and in religiousity. In Nigerian parenting 101, the child is never right. If only my parents paid more attention to me. I was a timid child growing up but became a complete recluse when uncle Chike started abusing me but my parents thought it was just the usual ‘shy’ me warming up to teenage life. I hated my birthdays because it reminded me of the day I died.

On my 11th birthday, my mom came to surprise me with a cake in school, supposedly bought by uncle Chike who was out of town with my dad, and I remember my mom saying to me, ‘uncle Chike says he misses you and would take you out when he’s back’. On that same day, a class mate of mine had been reportedly raped by her pastor and her mom came to see the principal and so my mom overheard. I got back home that day and overheard my mom narrating the story to uncle Chike over the phone, saying ‘how are they sure that it was the pastor that did it?’ ‘a pastor cannot do something like that’, ‘what will a married man and a man of God be looking for in a 12-year-old?,’ and she ended by saying, ‘well, thank God it’s not my daughter o’. That night I cried myself to sleep.

The next day uncle Chike returned and picked me up from school to his place, he showed me all the beautiful things he bought for me and as usual tried to penetrate me and for the first time in a long while, I resisted and fought back in tears, I told him I was going to tell my parents and he laughed and said, ‘even if you tell your mom, she won’t believe you’ and he was right. Later that day when I got home, my mom was narrating the story to my dad and suddenly, I blurted out, ‘mommy uncle Chike put his penis inside my bum bum’ and they turned in shock. They spoke in unison, ‘uncle Chike?, that’s not possible’. She started yelling at me and was more concerned with where I learned the word penis from. They told me never to say such to anyone again because uncle Chike would never do that as I was like his daughter. I found my voice and broke my silence, but my voice was abruptly taken away from me by the people I loved the most.

No! This is not my story. My mother doesn’t have a twin, and if you haven’t already noticed, June 31st does not exist. Lol. But this could have been me, or you reading this, it could be your unborn children, it could be anyone. Actually, if you were raised in Nigeria as a child and you were not sexually abused or harassed even in the subtlest way by neighbors, family friends, uncles and aunties, priests and other religious people etc then you’re among the very lucky few. Sexual violence is a global menace and the war against it is not another gender war because both male and females fall victim.

Abusers thrive because people, parents cover up abuse especially when the abuser is a friend, family member or someone we respect, and so abusers are so confident in the trust these people have in them and continue to perpetuate evil. I mean, How would a parent believe that her twin whom she shared the same womb with would molest her 9-year-old? Or that her pastor who has been performing miracles for the past 10 years can molest their child? Sounds ridiculous right? But that’s the reality of the average Nigerian child and more often than not, the child is silenced because, ‘what will people say?’ ‘how will the world look at us?’ they’d rather not wear the shame and dent their image than believe their kid. They’d rather not be known as ‘the parents of the child who was raped’ as if it were the child’s fault. Children may be innocent, but they never forget. They never forget their abuse nor how you responded to it.

But what of children who do not have the luxury of parents or siblings, who will defend or protect them??

The more reason we need to do better as a society. Some of you protect your brother, sister, father, aunt, mother and even friends that abuse and take advantage of others because you don’t want to break the ‘bro code’ or ‘girl code’. What you fail to realize is that one event can alter one’s life forever and the difference between someone who was sexually abused and another who was involved in a ghastly motor accident is that both died at the scene, but one lived to relive their death. As to who this is, your guess is as good as mine, hence, to hell with whatever code!!! For every time you stay silent in the face of sexual abuse, you empower the perpetrator to keep ruining lives.

We need to break this culture of shaming people who have been sexually abused because nobody asks for it. We need to create an enabling environment for people to speak out and not be mocked or blamed. Men and women alike. Most importantly, we need to teach kids that sex is not inherently bad. We need to teach them the right context for sex. We need to teach them CONSENT, and that NO means STOP, and not try harder. Teach kids about their sexual and reproductive rights from the moment they begin to learn to speak. In Nigerian parenting 102, do not be the one to raise the next generation of sexual predators.

We also need to change this misconception that all forms of sexual abuse MUST be VIOLENT with machete wounds, torn clothes etc. And that’s why we hear people ask questions like, ‘why didn’t you fight back?’, ‘why is there no mark on your body?’ and other trashy questions that inherently suggest that the victim was at fault for allowing the abuse. Not everyone reacts in the same way and certainly not every environment permits a fight back. You and I must make a conscious effort to fight sexual abuse.

To everyone who has been sexually violated, because you chose to rise above your death, you’re a SURVIVOR not a victim.

Love and light,

Henrietta Ifyede

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Posted in Human Rights, Refugee Rights

Cameroon’s Abandoned IDPs

20181009_Salim Sango
Resettlement Camp in the Gikomero neighborhood in Kigali, Rwanda. 2018 Kigali © Salim Sango

A year and a half after the launch in October 2017 of military operations in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest Regions in response to secessionist claims and assassination of uniformed officers, both regions, formerly called British Southern Cameroons, have witnessed the worst humanitarian crisis since its 1961 independence.

Late in 2017 and early in 2018, several armed groups were formed to respond to military operations and others were formed on grounds that they want to send away colonial forces and public administrators of the central government, and international organizations rightfully stated that there are about 20 armed groups operating in the two Anglophone Regions, where some localities are “No Go” zones for the armed forces because they are either partially or totally controlled by armed groups.

It is very sad to report that numerous executions have occurred, and the government has often gone silent about these happenings. Several families have lost one or more close ones, and Amnesty International reported on 18 September 2018 that over 400 people have lost their lives in the Anglophone Crisis, where 160 of them are uniformed officers, and 240 are civilians.

Abductions have oftentimes ended with the release of abductees, while at other times, they have resulted in their assassination. Absence of investigations to track, apprehend and judge suspects of such heinous crimes, coupled with outdated tactics of monitoring the application of international conventions applicable in wartime, have cost the lives of many innocent civilians and Cameroonians involved in this unending war.
On 1 October 2017, the government led massive mixed military operations in the two English-speaking Regions, starting with Mamfe, consisting of defense and security forces comprising the police’s Special Rapid Intervention Unit (ESIR), the national gendarmerie and the army’s Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), to dismantle what they assumed was a potential threat to national security. This operation, according the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on 30 October 2017, led to the displacement of over 2,000 refugees, where 3,000 were awaiting registration and an estimated 40,000 others were projected as potentially living in forests or attempting to cross Nigerian borders while fleeing ongoing conflicts in the two Anglophone Regions.

It is important to underline that on 20 March 2018, the UNHCR reported that 20,000 people had already been displaced due to this crisis. And on 11 October 2018, 7 months later, it further remarked that there was a 23% increase in the number of Cameroonian refugees displaced to Nigeria because of same crisis.
Even though the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has recorded 160,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of this armed conflict by 29 May 2019, the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) published a report on 25 August 2018 where it asserted that 411,358 people were displaced by the current crisis in both Regions. Between October 2017 to October 2018, a period of one year, there is a 92% increase on the initial number of refugees in both regions, which has to raise an alarm before government and international bodies.
Cameroon’s Plan d’Assistance Humanitaire d’Urgence dans les Régions du Nord-Ouest et Sud-Ouest 2018/2019 launched on 20 June 2018 to provide humanitarian assistance to 74,994 IDPs for an estimated +22 million USD is a mockery to IDPs because OCHA in a similar humanitarian assistance plan evaluated its aid to 160,000 IDPs at a value of 15,5 million USD, far lesser than Cameroon’s but reaching out to more than double Cameroon’s targeted beneficiaries. Cameroon’s plan does not consider that hostilities against civilians is the major reason for displacement. It does not also state whether the government intends to use dialogue or end hostilities as a solution to the humanitarian crisis.

The increase in the number of displaced persons are on one part due to the rise in military operations, with new, ongoing and aggravating conflicts, and on another part because of the deliberate raids and arsons on urban and rural settlements in both regions. In one of its last reports in 2018, CHRDA reported that 170 settlements were raided, with 113 being severe.

The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention) which Cameroon at the moment is last of the 27 to have ratified in May 2017 imposes primary duty and responsibility on her to provide humanitarian assistance to IDPs, regardless of their age, gender, national or ethnic origins. Besides providing humanitarian assistance, Cameroon also has an obligation to carry out an assessment of the needs and vulnerabilities of IDPs, including cooperating with other organizations to ensure that protection is provided to all and sundry.

By IDP, the Convention refers to persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, as result of or to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights and have not crossed international borders. This definition is broad and is not exclusively stationed on persons living in bushes or IDP camps. It includes students who have fled and abandoned their schools and places of residents, businessmen and women who have abandoned their businesses to flee to safer zones, teachers and other public servants who have abandoned their duty stations to seek refuge in safer localities and civilians who have abandoned their occupations. With this precision, it broadens the scope of protection, in favor of CHRDA’s latest report on the upsurge of IDPs, with a figure of +550,000. Several IDPs now live in homes with their relatives, while others now rent in houses in new locations. It is important to outline that these persons are equally IDPs and need equal protection.

The homes of IDPs have been destroyed, their relatives and even some of them displaced beyond national borders, killed, abducted, and recruited by armed groups, while the basic needs of ones living in deplorable conditions have neither fully nor partially been met.

Cameroon’s assistance plan envisaged that the Ministry of Defense will “rehabilitate” the burnt down or destroyed homes of 10,000 families at a cost of XAF 500,000 (about $870) per home, for a period of 18 months from June 2018. But 9 months after, there have not been any follow-up report attesting that this project has effectively been launched and is materializing on the field. What leaves one believe this action plan has been poorly prepared is the simple fact that either the plan corroborates the burning down or destruction through the recklessness of the army or the irresponsibility of the armed groups of 10,000 homes (thereby suggesting gross human rights violations by both parties to the conflict), or that the implementers of this project believe they will honestly spend all the XAF 5 billion allocated for this project without embezzling all or part of this sum and return any unspent amount. The delay to kickstart this important phase of Cameroon’s self-attributed share of humanitarian assistance to IDPs is a mere indication on one hand of its unpreparedness to protect IDPs and on the other hand, leaves one suggest corruption is at the helm of this abandonment of its IDPs.
Budgeting for the rehabilitation of the homes of IDPs depend very much on the field study carried out to determine the amount of damages and estimated cost of repairs. Some homes may have costs of repairs ten times the per-home planned budget meanwhile others may need very little retouch. The action plan has simply not been done after a fact-finding mission in disregard of Cameroon’s obligations to assess needs and to provide for those needs. This poor field study increases the prospects of Cameroon consciously embarking on an impossible mission.

In Rwanda, in the city of Kigali, the government constructed a model village to accommodate 324 people in the district of Gasabo in Gikomero. It took the Rwandan government 10 months and Rwf 930 million (close to XAF 600 million) for its Rwanda Defense Reserve Force to complete these 8 in 1 homes for its displaced population formerly living in high risk zones. If Cameroon’s plan relies only on the rehabilitation (and not the reconstruction) of 10,000 homes, it simply means this can be done in the 18 months with more human resource. But we are already 9 months late. The government is undermining the fundamental right to housing of its own people.


20181009_Salim Sango
Resettlement Camp in the Gikomero neighborhood in Kigali, Rwanda. 2018 Kigali © Salim Sango

Cameroon has obligations to ensure that IDPs are not attacked, killed, rendered homeless, recruited or held captive, by prosecuting suspects of such acts. Government should ensure that IDPs freely receive unhampered protection and assistance, necessary for satisfactory living conditions of dignity, security, sanitation, food, water, health and shelter, with particular attention to the rights of women and children. They are equally free to travel and flee ongoing conflicts or potential threats to their life and security. Local government authorities, including the Governors, Senior Divisional Officers, Divisional Officers and Mayors, have obligations not to coerce or intimidate residents in conflict zones to remain in these risky zones because it perpetuates human rights violations. Through these, these authorities are called upon to adopt measures that seek to protect the rights of IDPs and ensure their freedoms are guaranteed. Government can provide protection by issuing new birth certificates and national identity cards to all IDPs who lost theirs after fleeing armed conflicts, including providing duplicates of academic certificates/diplomas to persons who lost theirs.

With the rising number of IDPs in both regions, Ms Allegra Baiocchi, Humanitarian Coordinator in Cameroon, decried that the “humanitarian needs in Cameroon have never been greater,” with 437,000 IDPs affected by insecurity, representing 65% of the total number of IDPs across the national territory. Last year in May 2018, the estimated assistance budget for IDPs stood at $15 million. But in a recent report published on 21 February 2019, OCHA deplored the escalation of the budget for humanitarian aid which has risen to $93 million (6 times the amount budgeted 9 months ago), depicting a rise in the needs of IDPs in both regions. However higher the needs of IDPs have become, a fluctuation of the assistance budget has not incited the Cameroon government to review its June 2018 humanitarian assistance plan, which is unfit for current trends.

This analyzed, the Cameroon government began showing its interests in the protection of its IDPs but as time elapsed, these interests became history because of government’s preference for military interventions. No new action plan has been drafted to reflect the contemporaneous needs of IDPs from the Anglophone Regions but for OCHA’s assistance plan and even though few is seen to be done by Cameroon with the supply of humanitarian aid, much has either been willfully abandoned or recklessly carried out, thereby creating a great gap in humanitarian protection affecting more than 400,000 innocent Cameroonians whose only crime was to flee to protect their lives and those of their families. If nothing is done to halt military interventions and protracted conflicts, the number of IDPs may skyrocket to a more alarming rate by 31 December 2019.

Posted in Human Rights, Road Safety

“Roads Have Stories”: Commemorating World Day of Remembrance of Road Traffic Victims

 


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Cameroon, 19 August 2018 – Deadly crash of Divisional Officer of Figuil and family (source: CRTV)

Every year, at least 1.2 million people die from road accidents while over 50 million others incur non-fatal injuries. Currently estimated to be the 9th leading cause of death worldwide, road accidents are predicted to become the 7th death-leading cause by 2030 (Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2015).

It is evaluated that road traffic accidents remain the major cause of death for people aged 15-29 worldwide, followed by suicide, HIV/AIDS, and homicide. Low and middle-income countries are considered to be the major harbingers of these ignored alarming death tolls that tear apart families and societies, especially African youths.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), countries have to fight back this rising rate of road traffic deaths by implementing strict laws and standards aiming at reducing speed, increasing the use of motorcycle helmets, reduce drink-driving, augmenting the use of seat-belts and child restraints, curb drug-driving and distracted driving. According to WHO once more, policymakers also have a great role to play in these quests to reduce accidents by paying attention too to the safety of cars and roads in their efforts to reduce road traffic accidents.

The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR) was initiated in 1993 by road victims and was later adopted by the United Nations on 26 October 2005 following resolution 60/5. It is commemorated yearly on the third Sunday of November, to pay tribute to millions of people killed and injured on roads across the world. In 2018, the WDR is celebrated with the slogan “roads have stories”.

This day should be bookmarked by policymakers in the government, civil society and private bodies, to ensure that their policies are reflected on the field – on our roads, and that the recurrence of accidents or their deadly impacts be reduced consequentially.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of his/her person and because of this, governments and stakeholders have obligations and responsibilities to protect and fulfil these rights. As part of these obligations and responsibilities, because the protection of life is sacrosanct, African governments have to adhere to the strategies and recommendations of the WHO Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. They also have to ratify and nationalize the Road Safety Charter of the African Union, which was adopted on 30 January 2016 and has not yet been ratified by any State. This Charter carries along good principles, aiming at:

  • Facilitating the formulation of comprehensive road safety policies at country level,
  • Accelerating the implementation of national, regional and continental road safety programs,
  • Contributing to the coordination of road safety across Africa,
  • Promoting a better coordination of interventions by development partners in the road safety sector,
  • Encourage the participation of the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations in road safety issues, and finally,
  • To better manage data and information on road safety.

The right to life, safety and security of civilians should be of utmost consideration in public policing.

Our hopes for a more just, safe and peaceful world can only be achieved when there is universal respect for the inherent dignity and equal rights of all members of the human family.

– Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka,

UN Women Executive Director, 10 December 2013.

 

Posted in Community Work, Human Rights

Human Rights to Safe Drinking-Water and Sanitation in Cameroon

6 August 2018

Submitted to the

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking-Water and Sanitation, Leo Heller

 Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

About 71% of the earth’s surface is covered with water[1] but water remains one of the scarcest natural resource to humans. Water is a necessity to man for various domestic, agricultural, industrial and commercial purposes. This right is adopted for implementation under SDG 6 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. It is also implied in the right to health,[2] right to healthy environment, and right to development.

The right to water is however affected by other factors like climate change, drought, pollution, and human factors. Over one billion people lack access to safe drinking water while 2.6 billion others lack access to basic sanitation.[3] As humans, we have the right to enjoy available, acceptable, safe, accessible, sufficient and affordable water and sanitation services and/or facilities.[4]

This paper has been drafted based on desk research and field visits, with general reference to the state of human rights to water and sanitation in Cameroon and with specific case studies from two Regions, the North West Region (NWR) and South West Region (SWR) of Cameroon, in the neighborhoods of Alachu, Botaland and Mile 4.

Components of Safe Drinking-Water

(a) Available

Water should be readily available for man and for his/her uses. It should not be used or distributed disproportionately between people, communities, or business enterprises. There should be equality as to gender, ethnicity, race or social status as far as the use or distribution of water is concerned. The availability of water should not be conditional, for a determined duration or be short-lived. It should regularly be distributed.[5]

Adding to the issue of water, latrines or other forms of facilities to advance public health have to be constructed. These latrines need to be cleaned properly and frequently to keep it and its environment safe from contagious diseases or bacteria. It should not be constructed beside potable water sources which could affect the health of users or passersby.

b) Acceptable

The safety of water will be tampered with if it is not of acceptable characteristics. To be acceptable is to have a taste, color and odor of consumable quality.[6] Water should not be salty or sweet or bitter or present any component which is unfit for consumption. It should not be colorful or have any smell. This goes a long way to add emphasis on the way water is treated and catered for. Proper water purification products like chlorine and iodine should be used to kill diseases in disregard of other unpopular traditional methods of treatment or processing. Also, the distribution of water should be done in all hygienic ways. The pipes transporting water from the factory should be in good conditions fit for health. Public taps should not be constructed in areas where dirt is dumped or in bushy locations or around latrines.

c) Safe

In order to be safe, consumers must feel comfortable consuming the water without fear of being infected with water-borne diseases. Water should be hygienically treated against all infectious diseases or bacteria.

In Limbe, South West Region, in the neighborhood of Mile 4, women and children often sell in streets, markets, motor parks, and several other areas, without considering their surroundings. Some sell and dish food with water beside trash cans which are stinking, and the surroundings are unkept. Most of these trash cans are hardly disposed of immediately, or within reasonable timeframes. This unhealthy custom of neglecting the environment poses a risk to travelers using motor parks and buying from them, buyers purchasing in markets, or people buying in the streets.

Latrines and other forms of toilets should be in usable conditions which do not present any risk to their users. Local forms of latrines widely used in Cameroon sometimes are dug without proper care. Some collapse after they have been over used. Others are not closed, giving room for dangerous reptiles to enter and inhabit them.

20180804_070053                             Image A (Mile 4, Limbe)                    2018 © Salim Sango

d) Accessible

Available, acceptable and safe water should not be found at locations which present a difficulty to access, use or distribute them. Safe drinking water should not be found at very far distances from those who need it or be found at risky locations where there are dangers of enjoying the water. This condition applies to every individual in a vulnerable group like aged and disabled persons, [refugees,] prisoners, women and children.[7] In Cameroon, the number of households connected to public water has raised from 260,000 in 2014 to 421,000 in 2017, making a 61% increase.[8] But several other communities continue depending on water flowing from natural sources. However, these locations are not always catered for or cleaned, and present a high risk to the local population.

In the community of Alachu, Mile 8, Bamenda, North West Region, children of ages 9 and above trek for over 1km (0,6 miles) into bushes to fetch water necessary for their daily activities. Some go along with heavy containers of 10, 20 liters and more, carrying them either on their hands or their heads. They move these distances to get water to cook, drink, bathe and for other purposes.

IMG_2995         Image B (Alachu, Bamenda)        2018 © Rabiatou Aliyu N.

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Image C (Alachu)           2018 © Rabiatou Aliyu N.

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Image D (Alachu)           2018 © Rabiatou Aliyu N.

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Image E (Alachu)               2018 © Rabiatou Aliyu N.

Latrines in Cameroon though affordable, are neglected by the population because they are sometimes difficult to locate. Some of the latrines are not properly taken care of and they present health risks to users. Lack of sensitization sometimes causes the population to prefer defecating or urinating in bushes, gutters, or on piles of dirt.

e) Sufficient

Good drinking-water should equally be sufficient and not limited in supply. Each person is required to use a minimum of 20 liters of water daily in order to meet the most basic water needs.[9] Individuals, communities or business enterprises should not be discriminated upon. Water should be shared proportionately in order to meet these fundamental recommendations.

In Buea (South West Region) like in several communities across the national territory, many families dig wells wherein they fetch water to cook food, for drinking, doing laundry, bathing, and/or other activities. Water can be used for several purposes, including for keeping the environment and our property clean. This is also why it is necessary to have it in sufficient quantity because an unclean environment will have adverse impacts on the quality of water.

Image F (Muea, Buea)              Image G         2018 © Salim Sango

f) Affordable

Lastly, good and safe drinking-water should be affordable to everyone. The amounts or fees or taxes charged for using, connecting, distributing or repairing water and water sources should not be exorbitant and must conform to the income of a set of individuals or community.

The price for using public toilets in Cameroon is quite affordable, at a cost of 100 FCFA (20 cents) but they are highly underused.

State Obligations and Civic Responsibilities

a) State Obligations

States have the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the right to water and sanitation. States have to ensure that there is no direct interference with water and sanitation, ensure that there is no pollution, diversion or depletion of water resources, and lastly, they have to punish certain activities and defiant behaviors linked to water and sanitation.[10]

b) Civic Responsibilities

The local population, community and enterprises have a responsibility to respect each water user or consumer without discrimination. They must also ensure that water sources are clean and free from any infectious disease or waste. Enterprises have a duty of care not to pollute watercourses with toxic wastes or any type of waste susceptible to endanger the lives of people and the health of communities.[11]

In Limbe (SWR), in the neighborhood of Botaland village, certain families construct latrines nearby to water in order to dump their wastes easily. They construct external toilets, usually called latrines, and connect it to pipes which end of emptying themselves into water at Downbeach.

IMG-20180805-WA0001            Image H (Botaland village, Limbe)       2018 © Salim Sango

Litigating and Advocating for the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation

In cases of violation of the human right to water and sanitation, victims can proceed to claim their right through one of the following many ways:

a) National Remedies

The strategies to employ to claim our rights matter immensely but they should start with lobbying and advocacy in our local communities before local leaders like Chiefs, Mayors, Members of Parliaments or Senators representing the given constituency. Parliamentarians are those individuals who represent national, regional and local authorities.[12] They are a good starting point for any advocacy.

In case of failure of lobbying, it is important to bring the matter before the National Commission for Human Rights and Freedom (NCHRF), which by its mandate is charged with duties to protect the fundamental rights of citizens.[13]

Since the NCHRF is not mandated to file cases on behalf of victims of human rights abuses, victims can file suits before competent courts in the areas where the violations have been committed. The Court of First Instance and the High Court are competent courts to receive and adjudicate matters relating to violations of constitutional rights.

b) Regional and Sub-Regional Remedies

In case of exhaustion of local remedies, victims can approach regional bodies for advocacy or litigation. They can resort to international NGOs to put pressure on the government, or resort to regional bodies like the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights or sub-regional bodies like the ECOWAS Court (for West African States). However, Central Africa does not have a sub-regional court which means that the only regional bodies will be those created by the African Union.

c) International Remedies

There are multiple venues at the international arena. The first is to approach UN Special Rapporteurs on thematic mandates which was established in 2008.[14] The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking-Water and Sanitation is an independent expert recruited by the Human Rights Council to investigate, observe, report and recommend issues pertaining to his/her field of expertise. Communications can be sent directly to a Special Rapporteur in case of any violation of a human right to water and sanitation.

Adding to this option, we have the treaty-based bodies (e.g. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) which can adjudicate on Communications alleging violations of the right to water and sanitation. Cameroon has not ratified the protocol creating the CESCR and it makes it impossible for justice to prevail before this body.

Another means is to submit a Complaint to the Human Rights Council’s Working Groups on Communications alleging patterns of gross and reliably attested human rights violations.

All these mechanisms of justice for protection of human rights have their modus operandi which must be fulfilled before Complaints or Communications can be received and examined.

The human right to safe-drinking water is so fundamental that everyone should fight for it and once acquired, should protect it. Even though most international conventions do not implicitly state that safe drinking-water and sanitation are human rights, water remains a human necessity and everyone should enjoy such a right by virtue of his/her humanity and dignity.[15]

 


 

[1] USGS, How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth? https://water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html.

[2] General Comment No. 15 on the Right to Water (Articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) 2002, p 2 para 3.

[3] Human Rights and Access to Safe Drinking-Water and Sanitation. A/HRC/7/L.16, 20 March 2008, P 2.

[4] Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque. A/HRC/27/55 of 30 June 2014, p 5 para 13.

[5] ACHPR, Draft Guidelines on the Right to Water in Africa (2018), p 13 para 12.4.

[6] WHO, Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality: Fourth Edition Incorporating the first addendum (2017), p 219.

[7] Ibid n3, p 14 para 13.2.

[8] Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to resolution 16/21 of the Human Rights Council, A/HRC/WG.6/30/CMR/1, 18 May 2018, p 7 para 35.

[9] WHO, Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality, 4th Ed. (2011), p 85.

[10] Ibid n3, p 6-15 para 17-54.

[11] Principle 13, Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights (2011).

[12] Article 26(2)(d)(5), Cameroon Constitution of 1996.

[13] Article 2, Law N° 2004/016 of 22 July 2004 on the Creation, Organization and Functioning of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms.

[14] A/HRC/7/22.

[15] Article 25(i), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

Posted in Freedom of Press, Politics

Mimi Mefo: The “Pill” Government Could Not Swallow

 


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Mimi Mefo Takambou, born on 16 May 1989 in Bafoussam, doubles as professional journalist at the Equinoxe Television, based in Douala, Cameroon, where she works as Editor in Chief for English Service and Publisher for Mimi Mefo Info.

Mimi Mefo was arrested and detained on 7 November 2018 at the New-Bell Central Prison in Douala. The Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, held a press conference where he explained the reasons for her arrest, for propagating false information and contempt of public bodies and public servants.

 

After she was arrested, there was a widespread public outcry from her viewers, supporters, family, colleagues, and other media outlets, condemning what they coined as a “terror” attack to press freedom.

After 3 days of incarceration, while her fate was deferred to Monday, 12 November 2018 to be determined by the Military Tribunal, she was released on Saturday, 10 November 2018, surprising a good number of people.

Mimi was worried, underlining that every jailed journalist needs to be freed. According to Mimi, her release was thanks to the efforts, pressure, care, and support of God, friends, colleagues, family and defense team in Cameroon and in the diaspora. The reasons for her release are not widely known but one thing for sure is that she was a pill the government was not ready to swallow.

 

Posted in Politics

Cameroon – Mimi Mefo Arrested and Detained for Endangering State Security

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Douala, 7 November 2018 – The arrest and detention of Cameroon-born Equinoxe TV journalist Mimi Mefo in Douala, economic capital of Cameroon has hit the media sector.

She is accused by government for endangering state security by publishing on social media, information tarnishing the image of the Cameroon armed forces, after one of her posts in which she quotes the Cameroon News Agency accuses the army for killing an American-born Pastor killed accidentally, according to the Minister, in a gun battle opposing the Cameroon Defense and Security Forces (DSF) to the armed secessionist group popularly known as the “Amba Boys”, an armed group fighting the DSFs since October 2017.

Government spokesperson, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Minister of Communication, in a press conference, described the circumstances surrounding the death of the Pastor and the motives for placing Mimi Mefo under arrest at the Douala Newbell Central Prison while awaiting her trial before the Military Tribunal on Monday, 12 November 2018.

“A group of terrorists broke in on the morning of Tuesday, October 30, 2018, at about 10 a.m. in Bambui, a rural area located 14 kilometres from Bamenda in the Tubah Subdivision of the Mezam Division, with the aim to attack the university area and the Tubah Territorial Brigade.

At the same time, American-born Reverend Charles Truman Wesco of blessed memory was passing around when he received a 12-gauge oblique bird-shot fired by a sneaky terrorist. Several pellets reached the victim at the parietal level of his skull, one below the lower right jaw and the last one at the level of his shoulder. He eventually succombed to his wounds.

The Minister Delegate at the Presidency of the Republic in charge of Defence issued a release after this incident indicating that an investigation would be opened immediately. After the first elements of the said investigation were provided by the Judicial Police Officers of the North West Gendarmerie Legion, the remains were transferred to the Yaoundé General Hospital, where an autopsy was carried out in the presence of Cameroonian and American forensic doctors, a representative of the United States Embassy in Cameroon and the Government Commissioner to the Yaoundé Military Court.

During the autopsy, the pellets extracted from the remains confirmed that the shots that killed Reverend Charles Truman Wesco did indeed come from a 12-gauge weapon which is, as we know, used by the secessionist terrorists operating in the North-West and South-West regions.

The impacts left by the shots were effectively located in the right parietal part of the skull, the right face and the right shoulder of the victim; all things that confirm the position of the shooter stationed on the right side of the vehicle, a position occupied by the terrorists at the time of the incident.

Despite the evidence that has just been presented, Mrs MIMI MEFO TAKOMBO, presented as a journalist working in the audiovisual media of the Equinoxe group, stated in one of her posts dated 30 October 2018 at the address Mim237@Mimimefo237-2j that the American missionary was killed by the Cameroonian Army.

Let me give here the full text of her post. I quote: “Bambili in pictures! Doors destroyed, houses ransacked, animals killed. It has the picture of a war zone, where civilians are caught by “stray bullets” targeted killings. A missionary has died today after he was shot by soldiers”, end of quote.

As we can therefore see, the words of Mrs MIMI MEFO TAKOMBO who, in addition to altering the reality of the facts and spreading manifest untruths, do not fail to bring our Defence Forces into disrepute, which is highly detrimental to the morale of the troops, while they are engaged in a loyal and legal fight against criminal hordes with a secessionist agenda.

Summoned to the Gendarmerie Legion of the Littoral on 7 November 2018, Mrs MIMI MEFO TAKOMBO was heard and referred to the Government Commissioner at the Douala Military Court.

Mrs MIMI MEFO TAKOMBO, who of course benefits from the presumption of innocence, is being prosecuted in flagrante delicto before the Douala Military Court for the following facts:

– dissemination of fake news, news lies likely to harm public authorities or national cohesion, facts provided for and punished under Section 113 of the Criminal Code;

– insult against constituted bodies and civil servants, incitement to revolt against the Government and Institutions of the Republic, acts provided for and sanctioned by Section 154 of the Criminal Code.

The defendant was subsequently remanded in custody at the New-Bell Central Prison in Douala.

Issa Tchiroma Bakary,
Minister of Communication
Yaoundé, 8 November 2018