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Children’s right to education amidst violence in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon have advocated for the peaceful access to education for all children in the past and at times we have faced opposition, including the questioning of the legal basis to this assertion. During this time, we have re-affirmed the fact that the right to access to education in all situations is protected within the framework of international law. While we very much welcome discourse and active engagement on such an important issue, we feel it is necessary to articulate some of the legal basis for our assertion. While this articulation is not meant to be exhaustive, we hope that the breath of sources of law and breath of situations in which they apply provide clarity as to the legal basis of our assertion.

 

International humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) provide protection for children’s right to access to education during peace and conflict situations. While IHL is the special body of laws that applies during recognised armed conflict, IHRL applies in peace times and in situations of emergency. IHRL can also be applicable during armed conflict when not at variance with IHL.

 

Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which apples to non-international armed conflicts, clearly creates obligations on the part of belligerents to a non-international armed conflict, or to put it plainly, on the part of all armed groups including state and non-state actors. If you directly participate in hostilities or you have effective control over those who do, Additional Protocol II applies to you and the entity in which you belong. Article 4(3)(a) of AP II requires, inter alia, the provision of education for children. It is clear that if there is an obligation to provide education then the targeting of educational facilitates and efforts to dissuade children from effectively enjoying their right to education would be a constructive breach of Article 4(3)(a). In addition, Article 13 AP II clearly prohibits the targeting of civilian populations and individual civilians. School children and their teachers constitute civilians and hence protected under this prohibition. In the case of an international armed conflict, Article 24 of Geneva Convention IV unequivocally obliges belligerents to facilitate the education of children in all circumstances. The clear use of the phrase “all circumstances” clearly limits any leeway for deviating from this obligation.

 

On its part, International human rights law (IHRL) applies in peace times as well as in situations of declared emergencies. Further, except in cases of discrepancy with IHL, IHRL is equally relevant during recognised armed conflicts. This is important as the common objective of these two body of laws remains the protection of persons. It is important to note that even when derogations to some civil and political rights are applied in times of declared national emergencies, it is seldom the case with the right to education1. Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes the right to education for everyone, while Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes the right to education for children. The CRC’s Article 38 goes a step further to bridge the gap between IHL and IHRL by invoking the obligation to respect and ensure the respect for rules of IHL relevant to children and the protection and care of children affected by armed conflict. The preamble of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Children on Children in Armed Conflict recognises the right of children in armed conflicts to special protection, including the right to education in peace and security. Additionally, Article 17 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights protects the right to education for all persons, while Article 11 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child protects the right to education for all children. When reflecting on the above referenced law, we are confident that the legal basis for our assertion is clear and rather definitive.

 

International governmental and non-governmental bodies play an important role in ensuring the respect of children’s right to education. This includes monitoring and reporting mechanisms of violations against children in conflict including their right to education. Of specific importance is the work of the UNSC on children and armed conflict. UNSC Resolutions 1998 (2011) and 1243 (2914) inter alia, urges all parties to armed conflict to refrain from actions that impede children’s access to education and encourages Member States to consider concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces and non-state armed groups in contravention of applicable international law.

 

This statement on the issue of children’s access to education should not be seen as Contra Nocendi International and/or Contra Nocendi Cameroon making a determination as to whether the situation in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon constitute an armed conflict nor should it be seen as an effort to characterise any perceived or actual conflict. The use of international humanitarian law is meant to be illustrative insofar as it shows the expectations of combatants in an armed conflict. We also wish to make it clear we stand firmly against any arbitrary extrajudicial killings and strongly encourage the peaceful expression of concerns and disagreements.

 

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon support the Safe School opened for endorsement in Oslo in 2015. The Safe Schools Declaration is an inter-

governmental political commitment developed through consultations led by Norway and Argentina. It provides the opportunity to provide political support for the protection and continuation of education in armed conflict and has been endorsed by 80 countries as of July 2018.2 We urge other states including Cameroon to endorse this declaration.

 

Procedure for Endorsement: Send a letter confirming the endorsement, signed by a government official, addressed to either 1) a duty station (Embassy or Permanent Mission) of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or 2) the Norwegian Ministry’s Section for Humanitarian Affairs (To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., CC: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

 

Gilbert Ajebe Akame

CNI/CN Cameroon

 

[1]UNESCO: Background paper prepared for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2011, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0019/001912/191225e.pdf

Contra Nocendi urges vigilance on press freedom in Africa

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon have been vocal advocates in support of press freedom in our countries of operation and globally. The issue of efforts to potentially erode press freedom are not limited to just one country in Africa. The new legislation in Mozambique, which seeks to raise journalist registration fees to absurd levels should be a stark reminder of how vigilant all of us who believe in press freedom in Africa should be.

 

Before commenting further, we must give credit to Lawrence Mute, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, for raising concerns about the recent developments In Mozambique. Continued engagement on the part of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its mandate-holders on the issue of press freedom in Africa is vital. As the Special Rapporteur stated, “Prohibitively high fees may have the effect of closing media space, thereby undermining Mozambique’s obligation to implement Article 9 of the African Charter.”i CNI and CN Cameroon completely agree. It is clear that administrative costs may require the imposition of reasonable fees, but the very high costs of registration fees are causes of concern.

 

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon call on all parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to respect their Article 9 obligations to protect press freedom. Beyond the rights of journalists, the freedom of information and press freedom of key elements are necessary for an informed electorate. All African citizens should be afforded access to information, including from journalists, so that they can keep themselves informed of what is going on in their country. A strong free press in a Member State should be seen as a badge of honour for all governments.

Enforced disappearance is a global problem and it needs to stop

As the United Nations marks the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Contra Nocendi Cameroon and Contra Nocendi International draw attention to the fact that enforced disappearances of people is a huge, widespread and global issue requiring urgent attention.  

The day has been observed on August 30 every year, starting on 2011.   

According to the UN, enforced disappearances has been used as a tactic to create and spread terror in societies and it not only affects the close relatives of those who go missing, but their community as a whole. It used to be seen only in military dictatorships but now it is becoming increasingly common in conflict zones around the world with the forced disappearance of opponents being used as a tool for political control.  

There are three main concerns with this year’s international day against enforced disappearance: the harassment of human rights defenders, relatives of the victims, witnesses and legal counsel working on such cases, the states using counter-terrorist activities as an excuse for breaching their obligations, and how perpetrators get away without being punished for causing enforced disappearances.  

Contra Nocendi supports the UN in drawing attention to these concerns and in also giving special focus to vulnerable groups like children and people with disabilities. We also urge all the countries to provide the affected families with access to look into the cases of disappearance, and investigate them thoroughly and impartially and also provide the victims’ families with remedies.  

Contra Nocendi observes the International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Today is the international day established by the UNESCO to “inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples.” At Contra Nocendi we wish to observe this day to take note of the history behind slave trade and analyse the way it has influenced the relations between Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas.  

The UNESCO has also marked this day as an opportunity to consider the consequences of the slave trade, which was a great tragedy with the inhumane trafficking and indiscriminate human rights abuse of people from various parts of the African continent. The UNESCO has invited the Ministers of Culture of all Member States to observe this day every year by conducting events by involving its people especially youngsters, educators, artists and intellectuals.  

The intervening night of August 22 and 23rd in 1791 was the day an uprising began in Santo Domingo located in today’s Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The slave rebels in this revolution played a crucial role in eventually abolishing the transatlantic slave trade and hence the UNESCO has chosen August 23rd to commemorate the role of this landmark in history.  

On this day, Contra Nocendi reflects on salutes the contributions of several important characters in the history of abolition who fought to win back the human rights of people who were caught and faced abuse and torture along the various slave routes between Africa’s west coast and countries and colonies in Europe and the Americas.  

Contra Nocendi stands up for the rights of victims on the first International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism

On the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, we at Contra Nocendi take a moment to remember all the people who are struggling to get their voices heard after being harmed and violated by terrorist attacks around the world. The international day is being marked for the first time in 2018.  

The United Nations has recognized August 21 as the annual day to remember the victims of terrorism in five of its Member States Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria.  

Terrorism is one of the most gruesome and difficult issue that the world is facing currently. Not only is it posing a threat to world peace, it is destroying millions of lives around the world with the growing number of attacks. The UN has recognized that victims of terrorism find themselves forgotten and neglected and, their voices ignored as soon as the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack passes. Such neglect has deep consequences for the victims, who have several medium and long-term needs that must be met in order to completely recover and get back to being part of the society.  

On this day, Contra Nocendi Cameroon and Contra Nocendi International recognize the needs of terrorism victims and the support they require to recover physically, emotionally, socially and financially to heal and live a life of dignity. Contra Nocendi also upholds the human rights of the victims and supports all stakeholders working toward promoting, protecting and respecting their rights.  

According to the UN’s sixth review resolution, it is important to build the resilience of victims and their families by providing them with support and assistance immediately after a terrorist attack. This is a very important step in the long term, to recognize that resilient victims are less vulnerable to attacks and could heal and recover sooner after suffering an attack.  

At Contra Nocendi, we recognize and support all the needs of terrorism victims and stand in solidarity with them and their families and all communities that are plagued with wars and violence globally.  

Contra Nocendi marks World Humanitarian Day

Contra Nocendi Cameroon and Contra Nocendi International stand up to take note of World Humanitarian Day. The day signifies the great work and contributions made by aid workers who risk their lives in pursuit of humanitarian services and garner support for people suffering in crisis situations and crossfires around the world.  

Contra Nocendi also endorses the campaign theme for this year’s World Humanitarian Day, which is the #NotATarget movement, whereby world leaders are being urged to do their best to protect civilians caught in armed conflicts around the world.   

While marking this important day, the United Nations also draws attention to people living in cities and towns who don’t have access to food, water and a roof over their heads because of the fighting going on in their regions, because of which they are also displaced from their homes. War situations are badly affecting women and children in several countries, with children being recruited to fight and women being assaulted and humiliated endlessly. When humanitarian workers try to deliver help in the form of aid and medical workers tend to the wounded and sick they face threats, and are not allowed to bring relief to the badly affected victims.  

Workers in such regions, against all odds, struggle to provide aid to those in need. But they continue to suffer from violence and attacks and we acknowledge their sacrifice on this important day.  

Contra Nocendi stands up to support these workers trying their best to alleviate the pains of victims in conflict zones globally, as they put their lives on line to help fellow human beings. We stand up not only for civilians, but also for people with disabilities, migrants, journalists and the elderly too.  

On this day, we also call on the global community, especially leaders to protect and safeguard the interests of people caught in armed conflict, and we would like to assert that civilians are #NotATarget.  

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