Cameroon – Protests Continue

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The tensions between Anglophone and Francophone regions may be a sign of deeper problems.

Three activists are currently in detainment in Cameroon with their trials suspended, following a crackdown on anglophone protests. Agbor Balla, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibissi are among another 100 arrested, charged with sabotage, terrorism and inciting secessionism and civil war – charges that could carry the death penalty.

The Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium has also been banned since protests in mid-November 2016 and many local independent media outlets have been shut down. The protest action was marked by violent clashes between youths and the police.

Additionally in the northwest and southwest areas the internet has been shut off completely for over a month; according to reports the decision is expected to have cost the country in the region of US$1.39bn.

The tensions in the anglophone and francophone regions revolve around perceptions that the constitution contains bilingual principles but that these are not being respected or implemented satisfactorily. The Anglophone regions speak of a sense that they are forced to assimilate to accept what is dictated by the Francophone majority. During the colonial period Cameroon was ruled as two separate territories by both France and Britain.

Others, while recognising the historical trajectory, also state that the unrest is symptomatic of larger government problems, particularly surrounding corruption. For a lengthy period many groups in the north have complained of marginalisation and the lack of state presence.

There have been attempts at implementing a federal-type system to devolve some power to Anglophone courts and administrations, but these have reportedly been undermined by irresponsibility and corruption. The government initially argued that the Anglophone protestors were secessionists and did not acknowledge their legitimate claims.

Renowned Cameroonian scholar Achille Mbembe points out that the claims by Anglophones started as linguistic and cultural but have become far more political. ‘They don’t feel there is a place for them in this centralised state,’ said Mbembe.

There are different opinions concerning the scale support for Anglophones during the protest; some suggest that Francophone Cameroonians supported calls by trade unions and students. However other views have suggested that a ‘genocide’ is being planned and reject secessionist claims.

To date the international community has expressed little reaction and the African Union (AU) has not been involved in any efforts to resolve the situation, apart from one statement expressing concern. The President Paul Biya is also to stand for re-election next year, although the expectation is that he will secure another mandate, despite the growing discontent.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

CAMEROON: Linguistic Tensions
Political, Social & Cultural Series,
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21289A–21289C

CAMEROON: Anglophone Unrest [Free to Read]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21257A–21257B

CAMEROON: Rights Violations
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21074A–21074B

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Gay Rights in Africa

Recent arrests of homosexual men in Cameroon and a proposed new law there which, according to activists, equates homosexuality with paedophilia, have re-focused attention on the issue of gay rights – and the lack of – in Africa.  

Both Human Rights Watch  and Cameroon’s Association pour la Défense de l’Homosexualité (ADEFHO) said the men were arrested for appearing feminine and were tortured while in custody. Jeune Afrique carried an interview with Alice Ngom, lawyer and ADEFHO president .

Homophobia is widespread in Cameroon, with gay men frequently subjected to legal prosecution. In March, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was jailed for three years for homosexuality after apparently falling victim to entrapment by the security forces. Amnesty International, which has made Mbede into a prisoner of conscience, reported that he was serving his sentence at Kondengui central prison, known for its overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate food supplies.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in Africa are limited in comparison to other areas of the world, with homosexuality outlawed in 38 African countries. Homosexuality is often seen as an imported foreign lifestyle choice and a moral aberration.

In Mauritania, Sudan, northern Nigeria and parts of Somalia, homosexuality can be punishable by death. South Sudan, the world’s newest country, may also impose the death penalty.

In Uganda, offenders can get life imprisonment. Back in May, Uganda shelved controversial legislation (known by activists as the  ‘Kill Gays Act’) that would have seen the death penalty for certain homosexual acts after an international outcry (See Africa Research Bulletin Vol. 48. No. 5 p. 18856) but there are still people in parliament pushing for the bill to be passed. They argue that traditional values should count for more than donor funds.  You can take a look at MSBNC interview on the subject here.

One prominent Ugandan gay activist, David Kato, was murdered in January 2011, after a magazine published a list of prominent gay rights activists and their contact details, with a banner over the photos that urged, “Hang Them” (ARB Vol. 48 No 1 p. 18711).

In Ghana too, anti-gay sentiment runs high and is encouraged by politicians. After a speech by President Mills denouncing homosexuality and promising to take unspecified steps to combat it, Western Region Minister, Paul Evans Aidoo, made an order for the ‘immediate arrest of all homosexuals in the (Western) region’.”

On 4 August, however, the Coalition Against Homophobia in Ghana (CAHG), was formed to tackle ongoing anti-gay sentiment.

South Africa has by far the most liberal attitudes with a constitution which guarantees gay and lesbian rights, and legal same-sex marriage. Homophobia is still widespread however. Hundreds of activists marched on the KwaThema police station on 19 August to protest police inaction on “corrective rape”  – raping a lesbian to correct her “perversion” – in the township the Mail & Guardian online reported  Young lesbian activist Noxolo Nogwaza was raped and murdered in late April (ARB Vol 48. No 5 p.18857).

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans And Intersex Association (ILGA) gives details on gay rights throughout the world and displays a map comparing legislation.

ILGA has been putting pressure on Air France pilots to refuse to carry deported gay asylum seekers home from the UK.

Find out more with the following back issues of the Bulletin 

Africa

Homophobia Rife (Oct. 2010) p. 18599

Legalised Homophobia (Mar. 2010) – p 18347

Cameroon

Arrests (Oct. 2010) p. 18599

Kenya 

Anti-Gay Campaigns (March 2010) – p. 18348

Malawi

‘Queer Malawi’ Published  (May 2011) – p. 18857

President Pardons Gay Couple (May 2010) – p. 18421

Test Case for Gay Couple (March 2010) – p. 18347

South Africa

Hate Crimes Task Force (May 2011) – p. 18857

Potential to Lead (Jan 2011) – p. 18712

Uganda

Odious Bill Shelved (May 2011) – p. 18856

Murder of Gay Campaigner  (Jan. 2011) p.18711

Harassment (Oct. 2010) p.18599

Law Debate Continues (May 2010) – p.18421

Tougher Laws Mooted (Mar. 2010) p. 18347

Zimbabwe 

Gay Offices Raided (May 2010) – p. 18421