The following information is based on the Amnesty International Report 2020/21. This report documents the human rights situation in 149 countries in 2020, as well as providing global and regional analysis. It presents Amnesty lnternational’s concerns and calls for action to governments and others. During 2020, the world was rocked by COVID-19. The pandemic and measures taken to tackle it impacted everyone, but also threw into stark relief, and sometimes aggravated, existing inequalities and patterns of abuse.


Security forces and armed groups continued to commit human rights violations and abuses. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced due to violence; and gender-based violence against women was widespread. The government continued to crack down on peaceful dissent and on critics. There were reports of torture and other ill-treatment in detention.


In February 2020, the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement party won the legislative and local elections. Prior to this, the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, led by Maurice Kamto, called for a boycott of the elections, and for electoral reform. President Paul Biya has been in power since 1982.

On 17 March 2020, the authorities adopted measures to control the spread of COVID-19, including by closing borders. On 31 March 2020, the President made a plea for public solidarity to help fund the health sector. Many critics raised concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the management of the funds, and about public policies which failed to address hardship resulting from loss of earnings. In April, hundreds of prisoners were released, but severe overcrowding continued to put detainees at increased risk of COVID-19.

Abuses by armed groups

Anglophone separatist armed groups continued to commit serious human rights abuses, and targeted people perceived as government supporters in the North-West and South-West regions.

In the North-West, a man was killed and his father injured on 15 January 2020, near Bamenda city, when they tried to avoid a checkpoint held by armed separatists. On 30 January 2020, four humanitarian workers were abducted by a separatist group which accused them of working for the government. They were released the next day. The organization for which they worked said that three of them were beaten and subjected to psychological torture. On 7 August 2020 a humanitarian worker was abducted from his home in the Batibo subdivision by unidentified assailants and later killed. Three days later, armed men killed a teacher in Nkwen district in Bamenda and threw his body into a river.

On 11 August 2020, the body of Confort Tumassang, a 35-year-old woman, was found on a road in Muyuka, a town in the South-West region. She had been beheaded by her attackers who were believed to be separatists. They posted a video of her execution on social media in which they accused her of complicity with security forces.

At least eight students were killed and others injured in an attack on a school on 24 October 2020 in the town of Kumba in Mémé division, South-West region. The authorities accused armed separatists.

Meanwhile, in the conflict in the Far North region, armed groups related to Boko Haram carried out hundreds of attacks, committing serious human rights abuses. Some of these amounted to war crimes. Between January and December, at least 312 civilians, including children as young as 10, were killed in at least 412 attacks, according to data compiled from UN bodies, media and other organizations.

Internally displaced people (IDPs) were victims of attacks. In August 2020, at least 18 people were killed and 11 injured when assailants threw an explosive device into a makeshift camp in which they were sleeping, near Nguetchewe village. Eight hundred IDPs had taken shelter in the area. In September 2020, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, a suicide bomb attack killed seven people and wounded 14 others at Koyapé, a village which hosted IDPs.

Also in the Far North region, as of December 2020, at least 124 people, mainly women and children, were victims of abductions by armed groups related to Boko Haram.

Unlawful killings

In the armed conflict with separatist armed groups, the military carried out attacks against villages in which people were unlawfully killed and their homes destroyed. There was a spike in such violence in the run-up to the elections in January and February.

In January 2020, soldiers shot at people in a market in Ndoh village in the South-West region, in a reprisal attack following reports of a soldier being killed in the area. At least 16 people were killed and five injured, including two boys aged 14 and 17.

On 14 February 2020, at least 21 people were killed, including children and two pregnant women, in the Ngarbuh neighbourhood in the North-West region. After NGOs investigated the incident, the government established a Joint Commission of Inquiry which, on 21 April 2020, concluded that 10 children and three women had died during “gunfire exchange” between the army, supported by members of a “vigilante group”, and an armed group. The authorities said that disciplinary procedures would be taken against all soldiers who participated in the operation, while others would face arrest. No official information was available on this at the end of the year.

Internally displaced people

As of November 2020, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 700,000 Cameroonians were internally displaced within or outside the North-West and South-West regions, as a result of violence. A further 60,000 people sought refuge in neighbouring Nigeria. More than 320,000 people were internally displaced in the Far North region.

Gender-based violence

The OCHA recorded 676 incidents of gender-based violence in the North-West and South-West regions in September (compared to 567 cases in August). The organization said that their records may not have reflected the total number of cases due to their limited access to affected communities. Of all reported cases, sexual violence represented 39%. Survivors of gender-based violence crimes were mostly women (64%).

Freedoms of expression and assembly

The authorities continued to crack down on peaceful dissent, banning demonstrations and arbitrarily arresting those who exercised their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. On 18 September 2020, four members of the Stand Up For Cameroon movement, a coalition of political parties, NGOs and others, were arrested by the gendarmerie in Douala city after attending a meeting at the Cameroon People’s Party headquarters. They were brought before a military court on false charges of attempted conspiracy, revolution and insurrection. The judge ordered their pre-trial detention in New Bell prison where they remained at the end of the year.

Maurice Kamto called for peaceful demonstrations to take place on 22 September 2020 to demand the President’s resignation. Governors of the West and Centre regions responded by banning all demonstrations for an indefinite period. The security forces surrounded Maurice Kamto’s house between 22 September and 8 December of 2020. At least 500 demonstrators were arrested on 22 September 2020, the majority of whom were members or supporters of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement. According to lawyers, 160 of them remained in detention in the towns of Douala, Yaoundé, Bafoussam and Nkongsamba and, as of 9 December 2020, 13 had been given prison sentences by civilian courts, and 14 had appeared before a military court.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The death in custody of journalist Samuel Ebuwe Ajiekia was finally revealed by independent media on 2 June 2020, and then by the National Union of Cameroonian Journalists. His whereabouts had been unknown for nearly a year, and his death had been kept secret by the authorities. On 5 June 2020, the Defence Ministry confirmed his death and said that he had died of sepsis on 17 August 2019 at the Cameroon Military Hospital in Yaoundé, although photographs of his body showed signs of physical torture and other ill-treatment. Samuel Ebuwe Ajiekia was arrested in Buea, the capital of the South-West region, on 2 August 2019, after he had criticized the government’s handling of the Anglophone crisis. He was initially detained at the Buea police station before being taken to an undisclosed location.

Cameroon Newsroom

March 4, 2022 • Press Release

Organizations Welcome TPS for Ukraine and Urge TPS Designation for Other Countries in Extreme Conflict

We at Amnesty International USA, Cameroon Advocacy Network, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and UndocuBlack Network, welcome the Department of Homeland Security’s designation of Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) This is a critical move to ensure that the estimated 75,000 nationals from Ukraine are free from the fear of being returned to the human rights catastrophe brought upon by Russia’s invasion.

July 19, 2017 • Report

Cameroon’s secret torture chambers: human rights violations and war crimes in the fight against Boko Haram’

Hundreds of people in Cameroon accused of supporting Boko Haram, often without evidence, are being brutally tortured by security forces, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

July 13, 2016 • Report

Right cause, wrong means: Human rights violated and justice denied in Cameroon’s fight against Boko Haram

More than 1,000 people, many arrested arbitrarily, are being held in horrific conditions and dozens are dying from disease and malnutrition or have been tortured to death, as part of the Cameroonian government and security forces crackdown on Boko Haram, Amnesty International revealed in a new report published today.

July 13, 2016 • Report

Right cause, wrong means: Human rights violated and justice denied in Cameroon’s fight against Boko Haram

More than 1,000 people, many arrested arbitrarily, are being held in horrific conditions and dozens are dying from disease and malnutrition or have been tortured to death, as part of the Cameroonian government and security forces crackdown on Boko Haram, Amnesty International revealed in a new report published today.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

September 15, 2015 • Report

Hundreds slaughtered by Boko Haram in Cameroon and abused by security forces

Boko Haram has slaughtered nearly 400 civilians in northern Cameroon, while a heavy-handed response by security forces and inhumane prison conditions have led to dozens more deaths, Amnesty International said in a report launched today.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

June 24, 2013 • Report

Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa

This report provides an analysis of the legal environment and wider context of human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent years have seen increasing reports of people being harassed, marginalized, discriminated against and attacked because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

May 17, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Cameroon 2013

REPUBLIC OF CAMEROON Head of state Paul Biya Head of government Philémon Yang As in previous years, the authorities continued to restrict the activities of political opponents and journalists. People …

June 28, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Cameroon 2011

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: …