The CAMs project is well under way in Mbalangi! Every Tuesday and Friday CAMs team members deliver workshops to the Mbalangi community on Good Governance, Accountability and Transparency, and Fair Justice. On Tuesdays we work with the Quarter Councils and local community leaders and members of social groups. On Fridays our work is with the Traditional Council. So far, both groups have participated in workshops titled “Introduction to Good Governance,” “Equal Participation of all Members of Society,” and “Equal Treatment and Respect for Human Rights.”
In each workshop, the attendees participate in an “icebreaker” activity, an interactive exercise that illustrates key concepts of the day’s workshop theme. Participants then review the key concepts of the previous week’s workshop. Finally, the main lesson of the day is presented. This main concept (for example, “Equal Participation” or “Equal Treatment”) is taught through discussion, lectures, and skits illustrating the concept’s manifestation in everyday life. Questions from the participants are encouraged, and often lead to excellent discussions on important topics such as corruption and mob justice. In particular, the CAMs team had an excellent discussion with some of Mbalangi’s Councilors about torture. Use of force is often seen as an effective way to punish criminals in Cameroon, and the leaders of Mbalangi are no exception. Our discussion regarding torture opened the way for more dialogue to come with the community, and is an issue that CAMs will be working on with Mbalangi for the duration of our project with the community.
The CAMs intern, Rachel Braden, has also begun conducting her research on the issue of mob justice (also known as jungle justice) in Mbalangi. This past week she interviewed citizens of Mbalangi, asking them questions that include “Do you believe that a thief should be physically punished (hurt) for what he has done once he has been proven guilty?” and “Do you believe that jungle justice is a good way to prevent future crime?” All interviewees except one acknowledged that mob justice does occur in Mbalangi, and all believed it was not a desirable way to combat crime. One issue that came up repeatedly was unemployment – the interviewees stated that most of the victims of mob justice were young men who had resorted to thieving because they were unemployed and had no better way to spend their time, or to earn money. The young generation’s potential is being wasted, they said, and if they were gainfully employed, mob justice would occur less frequently. The interviewees noted, however, that mob justice would not stop altogether just because there was more employment. Accusations of witchcraft are often at the root of incidents of mob justice, and these cases will not be stopped by providing employment. In light of these discoveries, Rachel is re-evaluating her research questions and will conduct more interviews with Mbalangi natives beginning tomorrow.
Finally, don’t forget to tune in to our radio show tonight! GCI’s Human Rights Hour is on Lake Site Radio, 91.8 in Kumba from 6:30-7pm. This month we are discussing international justice, in light of the Day of International Justice on July 17th. Tonight we will be discussing two important examples of international justice from the continent of Africa: the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.