U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Cameroon
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Cameroon, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa2d14.html [accessed 23 May 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
CAMEROONCameroon is a multiparty republic that continues to be dominated by President Paul Biya and a circle of advisers drawn largely from his own and related ethnic groups and from his party, the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM). Since Biya won the highly flawed 1992 presidential election, elections have been tainted by an electoral process that is controlled by the Government's Ministry of Territorial Administration. International and local observers generally view the process as not free and fair. The CPDM continued to dominate the National Assembly after elections in May that were characterized by numerous irregularities. In October Biya won reelection as the President in an election boycotted by the three main opposition parties, and generally considered by observers to be marred by a wide range of procedural flaws and not free and fair. The President retains the power to control legislation or to rule by decree. According to the ratified amendments to the 1996 Constitution, the presidential term is 7 years, renewable once. Biya began his first 7-year term on November 3. The amendments also provide for new legislative institutions, including a partially elected senate, elected regional councils, and an independent judiciary. The Government took no action to establish these new institutions, although the President announced that most of these would be acted upon in the course of 1998. The judiciary is subject to political influence and suffers from corruption and inefficiency. Internal security responsibilities are shared by the national police, the National Intelligence Service (DGRE), the gendarmerie, the Ministry of Territorial Administration, military intelligence, the army, and to a lesser extent, the Presidential Security Service. The police and the gendarmerie have dominant roles in enforcing internal security laws. The security forces, including the military forces, remain under the effective control of the President, the civilian Minister of Defense, and the civilian head of police. The police and gendarmes continued to commit numerous serious human rights abuses. Following nearly a decade of economic decline and widening financial imbalance, economic performance has improved, with annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaging more than 5 percent over the last 2 years. The Government began in 1996 to implement a program of structural reforms. The majority of the population is rural. Agriculture accounts for 25 percent of GDP, while industry and the services sectors account for 22 and 35 percent, respectively. The petroleum sector accounts for less than 10 percent of public revenues. Principal exports include timber, coffee, cocoa, cotton, bananas, and rubber. The Government's human rights record continued to be generally poor, and government officials continued to commit numerous serious abuses. Citizens' ability to change their government remained limited. International observers deemed the May national legislative elections to be flawed. Legislative by-elections held after some 150 legal challenges were submitted to the Supreme Court were also marred by charges of irregularities by opposition parties. Security forces committed several extrajudicial killings and often beat and otherwise abused detainees and prisoners, generally with impunity. Conditions remained life threatening in almost all prisons. Security forces continued to arrest and detain arbitrarily various opposition politicians, local human rights activists and other citizens, often holding them for prolonged periods and, at times, incommunicado. Security forces conducted illegal searches, harassed citizens, infringed on their privacy, and monitored some opposition activists. The judiciary is corrupt, inefficient, and subject to political influence. A 1996 law revoked formal press censorship and moved supervision of the press from the administrative authorities to the courts. However, the Government continued to impose some limits on press freedoms. Although independent newspapers enjoyed considerable latitude to publish their views, journalists continued to be subject to official harassment, trial, and conviction under criminal libel laws. The authorities obtained convictions against several journalists under these laws; some received stiff fines and suspended prison sentences. The Government continued to seize publications deemed threatening to the public order. On several occasions, the Government restricted freedom of assembly and association. At times, the Government used its security forces to inhibit political parties from holding public meetings. Government security forces impede domestic travel. Discrimination and violence against women remain serious problems. Discrimination against ethnic minorities and Pygmies continues. The Government infringes on workers' rights, and slavery persists in isolated areas. Mob violence resulted in some deaths.