Humans need rights

About the situation of human rights in Cameroon

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789This morning there were no cars to be seen in the streets of Douala. There were also no other vehicles to be seen as it would normally be the case. Instead one could see people. Enraged, indignant and angry people. There was also no traffic noise this morning. Instead one could hear shots. Shots that were fired at the protesters. And the radio announced that the Ministry of Finance was burning. The smoke spread all over the city because the Ministry of Finance was not the only thing that was burning. Cars, petrol stations and governmental institutions were set on fire. For some people these impressions were the last thing they saw. It was February the 25th in 2008 and the protests had just started.

The protests lasted 5 days. They soon expanded to other cities in the country, one of them being Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. After all, it had only started with a strike in Douala. Bus-, taxi- and truck drivers were unhappy with the high petrol prices and bad working conditions. Thus they declared a strike for the 25th of February 2008. The reasons why further troubles attracted so many followers were the high numbers of unemployment among young people, the growing social disparities, corruption and high prices for food and petrol. Moreover, many citizens criticised the government of President Paul Biya, who had been in office for 25 years in 2008 and still clung to it. The banners of the mainly young protesters said “Biya is old and tired” and “We don’t have a future anymore”. They demanded peace and said “No!” to violence. But nevertheless there were conflicts with the police. The protests ended bloodily. The security forces fought their contestants violently. They used tear gas, water cannons and firearms against cudgels and stones on the other side. The government reported the deaths of 40 people. Human rights activists mentioned 140 deaths. The youngest victim was 11 years old. From the surviving protesters thousands were arrested and many of them were convicted after unfair trials.

This event is only one example for the violation of human rights in Cameroon. Amnesty International mentions imprisonment because of criticism of the government or because of homosexuality. There are also reports about harsh, in some cases even life-threatening detention conditions or even torture.

The most recent case is that of a man who is thought to be homosexual because of his fondness for Baileys. In Cameroon this is a reason for a trial. The lawyer of that man said that “proof” based on prejudice, such as gender-atypical professions, choice of dressing or preference of drinks, can already be sufficient for a conviction.

There is still a lot to be done until the people in Cameroon can lead a life as good as ours. But together we can achieve it! And you can help too: please support one of our projects!

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