Global Conscience Commemorates World Human Rights Day

Global Conscience Initiative organized a one-day workshop on December 10, 2007, to commemorate the 59th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. About thirty persons drawn from various backgrounds in Kumba assemble in the Global Conscience conference hall and for close to five hours brainstormed on articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the new Cameroon Criminal Procedure Code in the areas of arrest, detention and bail.

Opening the workshop, Global Conscience Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Samba Churchill said Global Conscience was joining the world in commemorating the anniversary of the UDHR for the first time, and that, regrettably, situations of human rights violations such as of arbitrary arrests and detentions, and of extortions in the name of bail fee were too rampant in Kumba. He lamented that one year after the introduction of the new CPC guaranteeing various rights enshrined in the UDHR, law enforcement authorities continue to violate human rights with impunity, especially with the complacency and lack luster attitude of the Department of Public Prosecution. The CEO observed that Kumba was like an island in Cameroon and reports the worst forms of human rights abuses in the Country. He asked aloud why the CPC was not being respected in Kumba.

Picking the cue, Hon. Mbile Norbert of the National Commission of Human Rights and Freedoms said ignorance on the part of the public was most responsible for the numerous cases of abuses in Kumba. He called for a broad educational campaign by all human rights and related groups and associations, and further urged that for better results, the groups and associations must work collectively, and in partnership with the legal department and the local administration.

Mr. Njaru Philip of Friends of the Press Network, A Kumba-based Human Rights out fit, explained the difficulties human rights activist face in their attempt to work with local authorities, especially the Department of public prosecution. Innocent Yuh, a Journalist of the Ocean City Radio in Kumba also reported cases of threats on the life of human rights defenders by the authorities.

Speaker after speaker spoke of various forms of human rights abuses in Kumba including the deplorable condition of police/gendarmerie cells, harassment of foreigners especially Nigerians, corruption, detention of juveniles with old and sometimes very hardened criminals, the lack of medical personnel in the Kumba prisons, medical neglect, abuse of prisoners’ rights to visitation, etc.

Mr. Tansa John, Coordinator of the Organisation for Sustainable Rural Infrastructure (OSRI) and the newly elected President of the Nigerian Union in Kumba, lauded the initiative of Global Conscience to organize the workshop. They expressed the wish for many more regular exchanges, broader publicity of the events, and the involvement of grassroots organisations such as cultural and women’s groups, drivers associations, churches and others.

The Deputy Mayor of Kumba I Council, A representative of the Police, Journalists of the print and audio media in Kumba, business men and women, aspiring lawyers and many others attended the workshop. The workshop ended with the formation of a resolutions committee and light refreshments. Global Conscience wholly funded the workshop with little donations from a few members of the public.

Resolutions of the workshop:

A six-man committee sitting after the open workshop took the following resolutions:

1. The workshop frowned at the non attendance of some key invitees, and urged that subsequent workshops and seminars should be given the widest publicity

2. The creation of a civil society forum bringing together leaders of Associations, NGOs, CBOs, Churches, cultural groups, unions, etc.

3. The created civil society forum should meet and dialogue with local administration and the Department of Public prosecution on the role of civil society organisations in the promotion and protection of human rights and democracy.

4. That the forum should organize regular visits to cells and prisons to assess their conditions and that of inmates.

5. That the forum should organize and raise funds to assist sick inmates in cells and prisons, and provide legal assistance to poor victims of arbitrary arrests and detentions.

6. That the forum should organize more training workshop and seminars at grassroots levels especially at the level of communities, grassroots and cultural associations and schools.

7. That the forum should also organize training for police, gendarmes and prison officials with the full participation of the national human rights commission and local administration.

8. That the forum should facilitate trainings for the local media practitioners to assume their fore role in the promotion of human rights.

9. That the forum should liaise with local administration for the creation of a more conducive and fear-free working environment for Journalists, and press for more job security for practitioners.

10. That the Nigerian Union should play a fore role in the defense of the rights of Nigerians in Kumba, and sensitize Nigerians on the need to regularize their residence in Cameroon.

11. That a follow up workshop should be organized on January 4, 2008.

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