Annual Report: Cameroon 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Cameroon 2011

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Head of state: Paul Biya
Head of government: Philémon Yang
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 20 million
Life expectancy: 51.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 151/136 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 75.9 per cent

The government continued to restrict the activities of political opponents and journalists and to stifle freedom of expression. One journalist died in custody. Detention conditions remained harsh and often life-threatening. People engaging in same-sex sexual relations faced arrest and imprisonment. Members of the security forces implicated in human rights violations in February 2008 continued to enjoy impunity. At least 77 prisoners were on death row.

Background

Ahead of elections scheduled for late 2011, fears grew of potential instability after 28 years of rule by President Paul Biya. Opposition leaders accused the President of undermining the powers of the electoral commission, known as Election Cameroon (ELECAM). Parliament, dominated by the ruling Democratic Assembly of the Cameroonian People (RDPC), passed a bill in March giving the government oversight of poll preparations through the Ministry of Territorial Administration - a task previously carried out by ELECAM.

In September, President Biya reshuffled his government and replaced senior security service officials.

Armed clashes in the Bakassi region continued during the year. On 18 March the government announced that 19 soldiers of the elite Delta Rapid Intervention Battalion had been convicted for "acts of brutality against civilians" following clashes in February in the Bakassi Peninsula in which 24 civilians had been injured. Insecurity increased off the Bakassi coast, with boats being captured by a group calling itself African Marine Commando, and sailors being held hostage or killed.

In May, a Cameroon-Nigeria mixed commission started further demarcation of a disputed boundary that was settled by a decision of the International Court of Justice in 2002.

The government was reportedly planning to abolish female genital mutilation in its revision of the Penal Code.

Corruption charges

Dozens of former government officials and heads of state companies, some of them arrested during 2010, remained in custody awaiting trial on charges of corruption. Many of them claimed that the charges against them were motivated by political differences or jealousy.

  • At the end of the year, prisoners Titus Edzoa and Thierry Atangana were on trial on new charges of corruption brought against them, barely two years before they were due to complete the 15-year prison sentence they received in 1997. Their trial in 1997 had been unfair - it ended in the early hours of the morning, without the assistance of legal counsel - and was apparently politically motivated. Titus Edzoa had resigned as a senior government official to stand for president and Thierry Atangana was accused of being his campaign manager.

Freedom of expression

The government sought to silence critics of its policies, including journalists and human rights defenders.