Human Rights in Cameroon
Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a briefing on the human rights situation in Cameroon.
Cameroon has been governed by President Paul Biya and his Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement since 1982. Though Biya has cultivated a reputation for stable, albeit semi-authoritarian rule, tensions in the English-speaking provinces and the ongoing fight against Boko Haram in the far north have led to a deterioration in the country’s human rights situation. Biya is up for reelection to another seven-year term in 2018, having removed presidential term limits in 2008.
Cameroon’s Anglophone minority makes up between 13 and 25 percent of the population and lives primarily in the western part of the country. Tensions with the Francophone-led central government have increased since late 2016, when the government suppressed an Anglophone protest movement. Last year, the situation escalated when one Anglophone faction symbolically declared the secession of the region and some Anglophone groups took up arms. While granting minor concessions, the government has arrested dozens of activists and deployed the military to put down unrest. According to the United Nations, approximately 21,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Nigeria over the past year.
Since 2014, Boko Haram has reportedly killed nearly 1,000 civilians in the far north of the country. The armed group’s brutal and often indiscriminate attacks have included suicide bombings, the kidnapping of women and girls, and widespread looting and destruction of property. Cameroon has played a key role in regional efforts to counter Boko Haram. However, Cameroonian security forces have also reportedly perpetrated serious human rights abuses in the north, including enforced disappearances and torture, sometimes leading to death in custody. UN research has found that such abuses can undermine the effectiveness of counterterrorism efforts and increase local radicalization.
Panelists will discuss the heightened crisis in Cameroon’s diverse society, and offer policy recommendations for improving respect for human rights and mitigating the country’s political and security challenges.
This briefing will be open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public, and the media. For any questions, please contact Kimberly Stanton at 202-225-3599 or Kimberly.Stanton@mail.house.gov (for Rep. McGovern) or Jamie Staley at 202-226-1516 or Jamie.Staley@mail.house.gov (for Rep. Hultgren).
Mr. Adotei Akwei, Deputy Director for Advocacy and Government Relations, Amnesty International USA
Mr. Jon Temin, Africa Director, Freedom House
Mr. E.J. Hogendoorn, Africa Deputy Program Director, International Crisis Group
Alexis Arieff, Specialist in African Affairs, Congressional Research Service
Rep. James P. McGovern, Co-chair, TLHRC
Rep. Jamie Raskin, Member, TLHRC
Rep. James P. McGovern, Opening Remarks: Human Rights in Cameroon
Amnesty International, Cameroon's Secret Torture Chambers
Amnesty International, A Turn for the Worse
International Crisis Group, Cameroon's Anglophone Crisis
Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2018: Cameroon
U.S. Department of State, 2017 Country Report on Human Rights Practices - Cameroon