Human Right Violation in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon
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Human rights is fundamental in all modern societies. As such, the institutions that each society entrusts the responsibility of human rights protection is a great one. Drawing from international, regional and national instruments of human rights protection; The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), The African Charter () and The constitution of Cameroon respectively, this piece of work thus presents the role of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms in Cameroon , in protecting the rights of Cameroonians in the Buea municipality from 2016-2019. General lapses in the activities of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms prompted this study. With the use of hypothesis and, research questions and foreshadowed questions the study brings out the role of NCHRF in the various domains /categories of human rights, as seen in the hypothesis:
- The National Commission and the Protection of Group and Collective Rights.
- The national commission and the protection of the right to self-determination and work
- The national commission and the protection of social rights and the right to healthy environment
The target population of this study are Cameroonians of different statuses residing in Buea Sub – Division in the South West region of Cameroon. A sample size of 100 has been use. From the hypotheses tested, the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms in Cameroon performs as follows; For H-1, 49% said Yes, 38% said No and 13 % had No Idea, for H-2 , 45% said Yes, 46% said No and 9% had No Idea and for H-3, 47% said Yes, 41 % said No and 12 had No Idea.
This study thus recommends that the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms in Cameroon should step up efforts in all spheres of its activities to ensure an improvement in the protection of human rights.This can have the effect of subordinating the importance of the exercise of freedom as a principal amoral ideal. One might seek to include freedom as a basic human interest, but freedom is not constitutive of our interest on this.
Human rights violation and is a phenomenon that is easily identified in every society. The protection of human rights can be traced to King Cyrus II of Persia, who began his reign by decreeing reforms on this clay cylinder. Most notably, he declared that exiled slaves could return to their homelands and implies that there will be religious freedom(that is to say right to worship) throughout the Persian Empire. This act became known as THE CYRUS CYLINDER –c539-530BC
After CYRUS CYLINDER, the Magna Carta of 1215 followed suit in the protection of human rights. This Great Charter provided a new framework for the relationship between the King in England and his subjects. It established for the first time that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. Most famously, it gave all ‘free men’ the right to justice and a fair trial.
With the Magna Carta already in place, the PETITION OF RIGGHTS was given birth to in 1628.This petition was sent by the English Parliament to King Charles I. It included the demands that the King could not tax the people without the Parliament’s consent nor imprison people without cause.
The Magna Carta was succeeded by the English Bill of Rights 1689. This English document set out political and civil rights, including the freedom to elect Members of Parliament, the protection of free speech in Parliament and that the king or queen could not interfere with the law. Increased awareness about the rights of man in society led to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789.This French Declaration set out the universal and inalienable rights of men/citizens (not women unfortunately!) It stated that all are born equal and free, all can participate in civil and political life, can think and speak freely, be presumed innocent until proven guilty and that all have the right to own private property.
During 1789 still, human rights protection gained more momentum as the United States of America passed its own bill of Rights, resulting to the first ten amendments of the US constitution. These include the freedoms of speech, press and assembly, the right to a fair trial and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
The Geneva Conventions of 1864-1977 further intensified the acts of human rights protection. These treaties focused on alleviating the effects of war on soldiers and civilians. The conventions state the neutral status of the sick and wounded, allow the provision of protection and relief for the wounded and establish the humane treatment of prisoners of war.
The developments in human rights did not favour women. So there was a serious campaign led by Kate Sheppard that resulted to The Women’s Suffrage of 1893. By this, women won the right to vote in September 1893. New Zealand became the first independent country where women could vote in parliamentary elections.
The first and second World Wars resulted in enormous loss of lives and property. That is why the United Nations as a means of ensuring the future protection of human rights passed the universal declaration of human rights in 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is part of the International Bill of Human Rights. The thirty articles cover the rights of the individual such as the freedom from slavery; political and civil rights such as the freedoms of speech and association; and economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to education and adequate housing.
In 1948 New Zealand lobbied to ensure “freedom from want” was alongside rights such as freedom of speech and freedom from torture.
In 1961, sentence of two Portuguese students simply because they toast to freedom made the British lawyer Peter Benenson to write an article that gained international support, leading to the creation of Amnesty International as the World’s largest human rights organisation. Benenson’s call to action sparked the idea that people everywhere can unite in solidarity for justice and freedom. Amnesty International was founded on this basis.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights came up in 1976. This covenant is also part of the International Bill of Rights. It covers civil and political rights such as the right to life and liberty, political participation and non-discrimination. New Zealand has many these rights written into its Bill of Rights.
The International Covenant on Economic Civil and Cultural rights was established in 1966. This covenant is part of the International Bill of Rights, along with its equivalent on civil and political rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It covers economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to work for fair wages, holiday and leisure time, the protection of the family and the right to adequate food, housing and clothing.
New Zealand ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1978
The commitment of governments to the above conventions has compelled them to put in place mechanisms and instruments to ensure that human dignity is restored , if not entirely but to reasonable extent. In the case of Cameroon, the protection of human rights is traced from the preamble of the constitution ,which affirms the attachment of the state of Cameroon to the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights(1948), the charter of the united nations ,the African charter of human rights and all the duly ratified international conventions relating thereto. The preamble of Cameroon constitution is regarded as a national instrument or means of human rights protection .This is because it is coming from the law of the land (constitution) which is build on the principle of sovereignty of states. Accordingly, Universal Declaration of human rights ,the charter of the United Nations and the African Charter on Human and people’s Rights are classified as international and regional means of protecting human rights .It was due to the existence of these human rights protecting machineries that the state of Cameroon being a member of international community and haven signed and ratified treaties to ensure the protection of human rights, created its first specialised body in the protection of human rights .This body which came in to existence in 1990 was known as the National Committee of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom. This first human rights protecting organ in Cameroon was entangled with a lot of difficulties that made the accomplishment of its mission impossible . The numerous short comings of this committee and its eventual failure in ensuring protection and promotion of the rights of Cameroonians led to its abandonment for a more neutral and effective committee (body).Hence ,the creation of the national commission of Human Rights by law No 2005/2016 of 22 July 2004 .
In Cameroon, just as in most African countries, the protection of human rights has a lot of difficulties as far as their functioning is concerned, with the protection and promotion of human Rights in the country. The problem that influenced this study lies in the inability of the national commission on human rights and freedom in Cameroon to fully [protect the rights of Cameroonians ,which is the very essence of their creation and existence .The prevalence of ‘’Human Rights’’ violation in Cameroon and the little efforts aimed at preventing these violations has prompted me to investigate the role of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms in the promotion and protection of Human Rights in Cameroon. In essence, how active has the commission been since its creation? What prospects does the commission have for the future challenges? These among others will constitute this study.
The following are the research questions of the study:
Do there exist a link between the activities of the national Commission and the protection of group and collective rights?
What is the impact of the activities of the national commission of the protection of group and collective rights?
To what extend do the activities of the National commission relate to the protection of social rights and rights to healthy environment?
The main objectives of this study are to:
- Establish a link between the activities of the national commission and the protection of group and collective rights.
- Assess the impact of the activities of the national commission to the protection of group and collective rights.
- Evaluate the extent to which the activities of the national commission relate to the protection of social rights and the right to health environment.