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Open letter to the Cameroonian Government, Anglophone Activists and the general public to safeguard the right to education for children in the Anglophone region

 

“To the young students, I implore you to be emboldened by the courage of young Malala Yousafzai, to stand up, raise your voices and fight for your right to education.” - Gilbert Ajebe Akame

 

The shutting down of schools in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon for a period of almost a year has not only been counterproductive, but was also particularly devastating for children of school-going age in the region. The recently released GCE Advanced and Ordinary level results, which showed a drastic drop in the percentage marks obtained by students in the two regions of Northwest and Southwest, bears testimony to the negative impact of the unfortunate closure of schools. Many have blamed the deterioration of events to the initial response by the security forces to the protests staged by teachers and lawyers. The brutal crack-down on peaceful protesters, the ill-treatment of protesting lawyers, the use of live ammunition resulting in the death of some protesters, the arrest and jailing of trade union leaders and others, all helped to bolster the efforts of the activists towards the closure and emboldened their stance which led to the eventual shutdown of the schools. The social media campaign initiated by these activists was characterised by manipulation, misinformation, threats, attacks on students, and burning down of schools, amongst others. The result has been the creation of an atmosphere of fear, distrust and lack of confidence amongst residents of the English-speaking regions. However, the security establishment has since failed to re-instil confidence in the school proprietors to re-open their doors and for students to feel safe going back to school.

The picture I paint here is only a simple narration of what is actually a very complex set of situations engineered by a web of actors and events that have culminated in the disruption to the smooth running of the 2016/2017 academic year. The government, politicians, school proprietors, parents, social media activists, the clergy and more, having found themselves trapped in a complex political conundrum, knowingly or otherwise, because of ignorance and manipulation, which led to them resolving to sacrifice an entire academic year to the detriment of helpless children. The various actions and inactions – in particular the inability by the government to ensure a safe learning environment – amount to an interference with the inalienable right to education especially for vulnerable groups such as children and girls.

The importance of education to the individual child and society at large cannot be over-emphasized. Education is the foundation for the growth and development of the full potentials of every child, and is a tool for the empowerment of less privileged groups and the elevation from a life of poverty. Very few in our 21st century civilization will remain indifferent to the plight of young children (in particular girls) who have been kept out of school against their will for an entire academic year and counting. No entity or party in any conflict is likely to gain credibility in the eyes of the international community for depriving such young ones their rights to education. It is a noble duty to protect children and girls when adults fight. It is dishonourable to mortgage the education of children to score political points. Advocates of the right to education don’t hesitate even in situations of armed conflicts or other instabilities to call for the absolute protection of children’s right to education. Malala Yousafzai, a staunch advocate of the right to education for young girls in the Swat Valley of north-western Pakistan, braved threats from the local Taliban terrorist group, to push for the right for these girls to attend school, even sustaining life-threatening gunshot wounds in the process.

Access to education is a universal human right – meaning it is guaranteed legally for all without discrimination – and states have an obligation to protect, respect and fulfil this right in totality. It is stated in the Universal declaration of human rights, and upheld by many international human rights instruments today. In fact, the right to education for children is enshrined in the Convention on the Right of the Child, boasting 196 state parties to the Convention.

Each of these states have the primary obligation to protect the enjoyment of this inalienable right by among other things, putting in place the appropriate measures to prevent the interference with it. The presence of violence and unrest should not be a limitation on the part of the state to fulfil its obligation The inalienability of the right to education demands that even in the current dispensation, the state of Cameroon must put in place measures including both diplomatic and operational, to guarantee a safe and serene education environment.

Parents also play a vital role in the education of their children. Key amongst their responsibilities is to ensure their children attend school and not deny them access to education. Parents in Cameroon are called upon to exercise this responsibility by giving priority to the education of their children. They should consider the best interest of the child in matters of their education and development of their full potentials.

The best interest of the child in matters of education, an important gateway to guarantee a bright future, should be considered, duly assessed and taken into consideration. In so doing, it is important for the voice of children to be heard and given due consideration; for their development and aspirations to be given priority; and for their right to education to be protected. It is my conviction that children of school-going age in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions will wish for nothing better than to be in school – just like their counterparts in the other regions of Cameroon – to play, learn and continue their journey of developing their full potentials.

To the young students, I implore you to be emboldened by the courage of young Malala Yousafzai, to stand up, raise your voices and fight for your right to education. Fight to guarantee your future and not depend on anyone else. To quote Malala’s famous words, “Let us pick up our books and our pens… they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.”

 

Gilbert Ajebe Akame

Executive Director - Contra Nocendi Cameroon

 

Contra Nocendi congratulates Kenya, but notes there is still cause for concern

Contra Nocendi International acknowledges the successful conclusion of the 2017 elections in Kenya with the official declaration of the winner – incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta – and wishes to congratulate the people of Kenya accordingly. However, as we continue to moniter the aftermath of the elections, we are still concerned about the use of excessive force against protesters and the on-going tension in general. We remain firmly against the deployment of firearms when engaging in the policing of peaceful protests. We further reiterate our support for the freedom to express concerns peacefully and constructively, and denounce the resort to violence to express anger in the event of what may seem to be unfavourable results to some groups.

We therefore urge all parties to refrain from the use of force or threatening to use force, and all candidates and political parties to urge their supporters to express themselves in a peaceful and constructive manner.

We have been extremely disappointed by reports of the loss of lives as well as serious injuries sustained at the hands of security forces, which show an utter disregard for the human rights of the people of Kenya. We call on the Kenyan authorities to conduct an independent and competent investigation in the matter and to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. We reiterate our stance that there is no legitimate role for firearms in the policing of peaceful protests. The policies of the deployment of firearms when policing protests must be put under thorough review and revised to make certain that the right to life and the right to peaceful protest are respected.

We are further alarmed by reports of the de-listing of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC). We urge the Kenyan authorities to look into the matter and to ensure the KHRC has a clear avenue of redress and judicial review for the decision by the NGO board. The freedom of association is an extremely important part of democracy and must be respected. The timing of the decision raises some very serious questions that must be answered.

Contra Nocendi International will continue to monitor the situation in Kenya, and encourage other local and regional human rights groups to do likewise.

Contra Nocendi Expresses Concern About the Use of Force Against Kenyan Protesters

 

Contra Nocendi International is extremely concerned about the reports of the use of force against protesters by Kenyan police. We urge the authorities to take this matter seriously and to conduct a prompt, effective and transparent investigation into the matter. We further urge authorities to exercise restraint, and remind them of their obligation to protect the right to peaceful protest. We emphasize strongly that there is no legitimate role for firearms when policing peaceful protests, as it is normal for passions to run high during and after an electoral process. Therefore, providing a safe and peaceful environment in which people can peacefully express themselves is a vital part of any democracy.

 

Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon, had earlier made this point in a joint submission to the African Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and the Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa, in support of their views expressed in the Draft Guidelines on Policing and Assemblies in Africa. We believe that the Special Rapporteurs are correct and we further underline our support for this contention. Contra Nocendi International and Contra Nocendi Cameroon both share the view that the use of firearms to police a peaceful protest is conduct that is inconsistent with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights.

 

It is time for the authorities in Kenya to exercise restraint and take caution to not deploy firearms to police peaceful protests while also putting in place safeguards to facilitate an environment conducive to the free exercise of the right to peaceful protest. The region and the continent looks to Kenya to set an example – let it be one of respecting the right to peaceful protest.

African Human Rights Legal Internship

Contra Nocendi International is seeking a legal intern to work with our team on a part-time basis. As an intern, you will support the legal team providing research on jurisprudence at the African Commission, African Court and the Courts of some of Africa’s regional economic communities. The intern will be provided training and the opportunity to expand their legal research skills as well as provide them with a better understanding on regional human rights law. The role is a great fit for a person with a background in human rights law and public international law, but we welcome candidates with a non-legal background as well.

Contra Nocendi International is an international human rights NGO based in Paris, France with an independent section based in Buea, Cameroon. Our current projects include expanding a monitoring consortium for treatment in detention in Burundi and a law clinic in the city of Buea in Cameroon. Both projects are needed to protect the human rights of vulnerable groups who are at risk to violence, discrimination and not being able to access legal services.

The role will report directly to the Head of Legal and will also interface regularly with the Executive Director of our Cameroon section. The role is designed to be held remotely and requires the ability to work independently.

 

Tasks:

  1. Provide research support to the legal staff with a focus on the jurisprudence of the African Commission, African Court and the Court of the regional economic communities

 

  1. Contribute to the production of reports and other materials as and when required

 

  1. Collaborate with you direct supervisor and the Executive Director of the Cameroon section on the use and dissemination of research conducted on the above reference jurisprudence

 

  1. The intern will be expected to provide two written statements each month written on behalf of Contra Nocendi International and will be expected to contribute to a larger research project before the end of the internship.

 

  1. Be flexible to respond to evolving priorities

 

Requirements:

 

  1. Bachelor's degree in law. An advanced degree related to public international law and/or international human rights law would be a plus. A research focus on Africa would be helpful.
  2. Must be fluent in English. A good understanding of French would be an advantage.
  3. Must have good political awareness and a high degree of professional maturity
  4. Ability to interpret complex information and communicate key findings effectively
  5. Excellent writing and editing skills in English or French is required. Writing and editing skills in both is a plus.
  6. Must have dependable internet access and the ability to work in a virtually connected and multi-cultural setting.
  7. Available at least 20 hours a week for 2 months and able to be proactive in communicating any change in your availability as soon as possible.

Application instructions:

To apply for this opportunity please send a covering letter explaining how you meet all the requirements for this position (one page max), a writing sample (five pages max) and a CV (2 pages max) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with "African Human Rights Internship" in the subject of the email. Applications can be made in French or English. Please also acknowledge either in your covering letter or your email that you are aware this is a volunteer role and that this position will be held remotely. Given the large number of applications, we regret that we may be only able to respond to short-listed candidates. Your language skills in both languages are likely to be tested during the interview process should you be invited for an interview, so please plan accordingly. Additionally, short listed candidates will be expected to complete a written test.

Please note that this role is a voluntary position and as such we are unable to provide any remuneration of any kind. Successful completion of the volunteer role does not infer in any way any chance of future employment.

This role is being advertised on an on-going basis. Contra Nocendi International shall review applications as they are received and reserves the right to fill the role at any time.

 

Contra Nocendi Urges Calm During the Upcoming Elections in Kenya

As our Kenyan friends head to the polls in the upcoming elections of August 8, Contra Nocendi extends our best wishes to them for a safe, peaceful and credible electoral process. While history has shown some concerns about the conduct of elections in Kenya, we remain hopeful that Kenya will grab the opportunity to set a positive example for its regional neighbors and conduct a transparent and free election, devoid of violence and controversy.

We do wish to express our deepest condolences to the friends and family of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ICT Manager Christopher Msando for his untimely death. We were heartbroken to hear of Christopher’s brutal killing. We reiterate the African Commission’s call for the government of Kenya “to ensure that prompt, independent and thorough investigations take place into the killing of Mr. Msando in accordance with paragraph 7 of the General Comment No. 3 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: The Right to Life.” Mr. Msando had a key role to play in the elections, and we hope his death will not derail the hope of a peaceful elections.

Overall, elections are processes all democratic societies should take pride in. The people of Kenya should therefore feel emboldened to peacefully express themselves at the ballot box come Tuesday the 8th, and support the efforts of all Kenyans to do likewise. The election represents an event that should bring great pride to Kenya and its people. Therefore, we urge all Kenyans to be vigilant and strive to ensure that its credibility is assured. Contra Nocendi will join other human rights NGOs to closely monitor the elections and will make sure all voices are represented in the coverage.

Cameroon Advocacy Associate

Contra Nocendi International is seeking a volunteer Cameroon Advocacy Associate to support our team on a part-time basis. As a Cameroon Advocacy Associate, you will support the program team in their work towards advocating for a better protection of detainees in Africa, and supporting all areas of our policy and advocacy work. The role is a great fit for a graduate student, though we welcome applications from all qualified candidates.

Contra Nocendi International is an international human rights NGO based in Paris, France with an independent section based in Buea, Cameroon. Our current projects include expanding a monitoring consortium for treatment in detention in Burundi and setting up a law clinic in the city of Buea in Cameroon. Both projects are needed to protect the human rights of vulnerable groups who are at risk to violence, discrimination and not being able to access legal services.

This role will support our advocacy and research work focused on Cameroon. The role will interact with representatives of partners operating in Cameroon and internationally as well as other interlocutors. This position will also work closely with the staff of our independent Cameroon section. The role will also provide a thematic focus on the freedom of political participation. The role holder will be expected to keep up to date on the developments in Burundi as well as on the issue of treatment in detention.

 

Tasks:

Research

  1. Provide research support on your thematic area of priority and your country of focus (legal, policy, background etc.)
  2. Contribute to the production of reports and other materials as and when required
  3. Collaborate with you direct supervisor and the Cameroon section as well as external partners to produce research in styles and formats suitable for a wide variety of audiences. You should be able to think creatively and produce engaging work in a range of different formats, including reports, articles, and social media posts
  4. Support the team with literature reviews and other materials related to country of focus as necessary
  5. Collect and analyze data
  6. Assist other project research as needed

 

 

Advocacy

  1. Keep abreast of developments across your country of assignment and your thematic focus in which and update accordingly
  2. Work to support the advocacy efforts of in country partners and work to maintain key relationships in country and internationally
  1. Assist in the drafting, editing and translation of releases for the organisation's website and newsletter.
  2. Assist direct supervisor and communication department in designing, planning and implementing advocacy strategy and campaigns.
  3. Assist advocacy research as needed

 

Be flexible to respond to evolving priorities and support other projects as they arise.

Requirements:

  1. Bachelor's degree in a social science or humanities field. A Degree related to human rights, African studies or international relations would be helpful. We are willing to accept applicants from other fields so long as the applicant can illustrate a basic understanding of human rights and/or a very strong interest in the field of human rights. Prior human rights experience, especially focused on Africa, will be helpful.
  2. Must be fluent in English and French or fluent in either English or French with a good understanding of the other.
  3. Must have good political awareness and a high degree of professional maturity
  4. Ability to interpret complex information and communicate key findings effectively
  5. Excellent writing and editing skills in English or French is required. Writing and editing skills in both is a plus.
  6. Must have dependable internet access and the ability to work in a virtually connected and multi-cultural setting.
  7. Available at least 8 hours a week for at least 6 months and able to be proactive in communicating any change in your availability as soon as possible.

Desirable Criteria:

  1. Having a preference for applicants currently living in Cameroon or nearby and/or
  2. Applicants who have direct experience and understanding of human rights issues within Cameroon and across West or Central Africa
  3. Applicants who have existing connections, networks and partnerships with local Cameroonian NGOs

 

 

Application instructions:

To apply for this opportunity please send a covering letter explaining how you meet all the requirements for this position (one page max), a writing sample (five pages max) and a CV (2 pages max) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with "Cameroon Advocacy Associate" in the subject of the email. Applications can be made in French or English. Please also acknowledge either in your covering letter or your email that you are aware this is a volunteer role and that this position will be held remotely. Given the large number of applications, we regret that we may be only able to respond to short-listed candidates. Your language skills in both languages are likely to be tested during the interview process should you be invited for an interview, so please plan accordingly.

Please note that this role is a voluntary position and as such we are unable to provide any remuneration of any kind. Successful completion of the volunteer role does not infer in any way any chance of future employment.

This role is being advertised on an on-going basis. Contra Nocendi International shall review applications as they are received and reserves the right to fill the role at any time.

 

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