The rights of internally displaced children in Cameroon
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The general goal of this research is to examine the protection of the rights of internally displaced children in Cameroon. In Africa as a whole and in Cameroon in particular, people are delocalized from their various areas of residence and domiciles within the country.
The internal displacement of people does not affect a particular range of persons. Intraregional armed conflicts, natural disasters, together with economic and socio-political struggles have continued to result in the situation of internally displaced persons in Africa in general and in of persons.
It does not take into consideration age or sex. Every person living in a locality facing such situations warranting him to move will obviously move.
Compelled to leave their homes, Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are also victims of various forms of deprivations such as the loss of their homes and are usually exposed to particular risks in the domain of protection that is armed attacks in case of abuses during their running away, family separation in which there is a great increase in the number of separated children or unaccompanied.
There is equally the risk to be sexually violated, the arbitrary deprivation of their lands, their goods and displacement to zones barked by inhospitality in which they are most of the time excluded, marginalized, discriminated upon.
Faced with this, the IDPs are forced to make a remarkable effort to survive. There were approximately 33.3 million displaced persons across the world, half of which are in Africa. Hence Africa is the continent having the highest rate of internally displaced persons in the world.
Internally displaced persons upon safe arrival at their new but temporary location have basic needs such as reasonable shelter, food, potable water, healthcare, social security and several other needs.
As examples of wars that led to the internal displacement of people in general and of children in particular were ;the Biafra war in Nigeriafrom (1967-1970), the liberation struggle in Guinea Bissau(1963-1973), and the Nigeria- Cameroon BakassiPenisula conflict.
One must equally know that there are equally diseases like Cholera, natural disasters such as the Lake Nyosdisaster which occurred in 1986 which in one way or the other equally forcefully moved people reason being that a great proportion of the population of the affected area is forced to settle in other areas which they deem better for their settlement.
In a more specific illustration, that is ; with the case of Cameroon, some research have proved that there are 44,213,000 IDPs in north -west and south west regions of Cameroon (OCHA December 2018), 237,349 of returnees in far north region due to the Anglophone crisis and the Boko- Haram conflicts in the far north region.
The displaced persons have lost their source of livelihood resources and savings to disaster and suffer great hardship .
The government is responsible for providing them with basic needs during their stay in camp and adopting, implementing policies and techniques on how to manage them .
It is evident that IDPs become immediately dependent on others for basic needs such as shelter, water, limiting their participation to economic and political activities in their areas of displacement.
Above the basic needs ,that is shelter, water, food, there is the need for internally displaced children to benefit from several other rights ;education ,health and several others due to the fact that they are part and parcel of the Cameroon population and therefore should not be exempted from benefiting from these various rights and privileges. The non-respect of the rights of these children worldwide in general and in Cameroon in particular has been a call for concern.
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The situation of internally displaced persons in general and of children in particular in Cameroon is as a result of the Boko- Haram conflicts in the far north region of Cameroon ,and the anglophone crisis in South West regions. Concerning the Boko- Haram conflict, it is a branch of the islamic state of Iraq and Levant. It has been active in Nigeria since 2009 .
The name of the group means «western or non-Islamic education is a sin » .The Boko- Haram group began to have interest for Cameroon between 2011 and 2013 where it started spreading its ideology mainly in the Logone and Chari and Mayo Sava divisions of the far north.
The population of children in Cameroon under the age of 18 is 14% of the 22.2 million total population, 16% , children under the age of 5.
This depicts the fact that children constitute a great proportion of the population in Cameroon .
The Boko-Haram conflicts which involved the killing of people, the bombing of houses and villages gave no choice to the young population to migrate within their country for a better living. On the other hand was the anglophone crisis which is the most significant and most recent situation paving way for the internal displacement of persons .
This crisis has seen a considerable degree of armed violence in the North -West and South- West regions of Cameroon.
The socio-political crisis that began in October 2016 in the Anglophone North- West and South West regions mutated into armed conflict at the end of 2017.
This crisis has witnessed a considerable degree of armed violence in the North West and South -West regions of Cameroon . It can trace its origin back to nearly 60 years ago resulting from the dual trusteeship and mandate rule .
In January 1st1960 , French Cameroon gained independence and became Cameroun republic . Later that year, Nigeria gainedits independence from Britain and became a Federal republic . The British controlled southern Cameroons was then separated from Nigeria and was due to achieve full independence on October 1st 1961. Since then , Anglophones have
Oushed for autonomy. This call is actually supported in a UN resolution passed in April 1961 that defines the joining of the 2 former territories as a federation of 2 states equal in status and autonomous. In October 2016, lawyers went on strike in an effort to make the government translate the OHADA Uniform Act in English and to make certain reforms in the justice system as far as common law is concerned in which the lawyers were roughly manhandled by the security forces .
The Anglophone crisis resulted to a lot of destruction of property , loss of lives thereby forcing people and children in particular in the affected localities to move .
Many children found themselves moving to run away in order to find a place to continue the story of their lives where it ended. Some statistics have showed that there are 444.213 IDPs in the North- West and South West regions (OCHA December 2018), 237.349 returnees in the North -West and South- West regions (OCHA December 2018) .
In relation to the aforementioned crisis, there has been the promulgation of texts of the United Nation organization which will serve as a base for the for the future laws of Cameroon concerning the internally displaced.
Internally displaced persons shall enjoy in full equality the same rights and freedoms under international and domestic law as do other persons in their country.
The shall not be discriminated against in the enjoyment of any rights and freedoms on the ground that they are internally displaced.
Theseprinciples shall be observed by all authorities, groups and persons irrespective of their legal status and applied without any adverse distinction.
The observance of these principles shall not affect the legal status of any authorities , groups or persons involved.
Internally mdisplaced persons have the right to seek safety in another part of the country , the right to leave their country, the right to seek asylum in another country and the right to be protected against forcible return to or resettlement in any place where their life , safety , liberty and / or health would be at risk. More to that, the convention on the rights of the child brings forth articles on the protection of children.
For purposes of the present Convention, a child means every human being below the age of 18 years unless the law applicable to the child , the majority is attained earlier. Hence , internally displaced children are vested with rights which must be respected in Cameroon.
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Internally displaced children indeed have rights like other children who have not witnessed wars or situations leading to destabilization thereby causing the internal movement of children.
These rights have been protected through the provisions brought forth by international conventions to which Cameroon is a party to like the Geneva convention and the Kampala Conventions with the later being adopted in Uganda on the 23rd October 2009 and which was put in place on the 06th of December 2012, even though not respected stricto censo that is, the violation of the rights of internally displaced children is still a common phenomenon.
Many internally displaced persons in the South West and North West regions are living in overcrowded conditions without dignified shelter with basic hygiene and domestic difficulties.
Only about 8% of the population has been reached by the UNCHR. Protection incidents continue to be reported mostly by women in the 18-59 years of age bracket but also by unaccompanied and separated minors, people with disabilities and lactating and pregnant women.
-More to that is the fact that the internally displaced children in Cameroon face the problem of non-solarisation. Many of them being of tender age are found selling on the streets at periods at which they are supposed to be in schools exercising their right to education and exposing themselves to motor accidents and several other forms of a risk considering the dangerous society in which we live in.
-Another problem is that these children are not morally catered for and are not protected considering the trauma they have gone through. They are exposed to kidnapping, rape and other inhuman practices as they are on the streets vulnerable to society.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What are the laws protecting internally displaced children in Cameroon?
- Who are those to ensure the effective implementation of those rights towards these children?
- How effective are the mechanisms protecting internally displaced children in Cameroon?
What then are the possible recommendations and mechanisms for the protection of the rights of internally displaced children in Cameroon?
1.5 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The general goal of this research is to examine the protection of the rights of internally displaced children in Cameroon.
As specific objectives ;
- To analyze the laws protecting internally displaced children in Cameroon
- To examine the actors engaged in the protection of the rights of internally displaced children.
- To assess the effectiveness of the protection of internally displaced children in Cameroon
- To bring forth possible solutions or recommendations for effective protection of internally displaced children in Cameroon.
Further reading: Protection of children’s rights in Africa: a case study of Cameroon.