Comparative law and justice/Cameroon

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Basic Information[edit | edit source]

With an area slightly larger than California currently at 475,440 km2 when combining water and land, Cameroon (Cameroun in French) is located in Central Africa. Bordering the Bight of Biafra, Chad, Gabon, the Central Africa Republic, and the Republic of Congo.[1] The land is often referred to as the hinge of Africa, that is largely in part due to several thermal springs found in the area which suggest the continuance of volcanic activity in the region. Cameroon is home to Mount Cameroon; an active volcano which is also the largest Mountain in Sub-Saharan Central Africa.[2] Cameroon's climate is diverse and varies with terrain, one can find ideal tropical conditions about the coast as well as hot and densely vegetated areas with minimum amounts of yearly rain fall in the Northern areas of Cameroon.

In 2003 The population of Cameroon was estimated by the United Nations at 16,018,000, which placed it as number 59 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In that year approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 43% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 99 males for every 100 females in the country in 2003. According to the UN the annual population growth rate for 2000–2005 was 1.83%, with a projected population for the year 2015 at 18,860,000.[3] Though Cameroon has well documented natural hazards, most have been identified in the form of volcanic eruption and periodic gas release into the air which have caused the death of approximately 1700 people. On the other hand, Cameroon has proven very resourceful, specially when compared to sister African nations. The country has rich natural resources which include but are not limited to petroleum, bauxite, iron, timber as well as hydropower.[4]

Like many other African nations Cameroon has been no stranger to the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS epidemic. The United Nations estimated that 11.8% of adults between the ages of 15–49 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001.[5] Formerly known as the French Cameroun and the British Cameroons, the two lastly merged in 1961 to form the present country.[6]

Currently there are 286 individual languages listed for Cameroon. Of those, 278 are living languages, 3 are second languages without mother-tongue speakers, and 5 have no known speakers.[7] Though the vast number of languages and dialects is nothing less than impressive for an area of such size, the official languages of the Republic of Cameroon are English and French.

Religion: Categorized by 3 dominant groups; Indigenous Beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%.[8]

Life expectancy: Total Population: 54.39 years male: 53.52 years, female: 55.28 years (2011 est.)[9]

Ethnic Groups: Cameroon Highlanders 31%, Equatorial Bantu 19%, Kirdi 11%, Fulani 10%, Northwestern Bantu 8%, Eastern Nigritic 7%, other African 13%, non-African less than 1%.[10]"

Literacy: Definition: age 15 and over can read and write. Total Population: 67.9% Male: 77% Female: 59.8% (2001 est.)[11]

Brief History[edit | edit source]

During the late 1500's the Portuguese arrived on Cameroon's coast, malaria prevented significant European settlement and conquest of the interior until the late 1870s, when large supplies of the malaria suppressant, quinine, became available. The early European presence in Cameroon was primarily devoted to coastal trade and the acquisition of slaves. The slave trade was largely suppressed by the mid-19th century. Christian missions established a presence in the late 19th century and continue to play a role in Cameroonian life. Beginning in 1884, all of present-day Cameroon and parts of several of its neighbors became the German colony of Kamerun, with a capital first at Buea and later at Yaounde. After World War I, this colony was partitioned between Britain and France under a June 28, 1919 League of Nations mandate. In 1955, the outlawed Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), based largely among the Bamileke and Bassa ethnic groups, began an armed struggle for independence in French Cameroon. This rebellion continued, with diminishing intensity, even after independence. Estimates of death from this conflict vary from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. French Cameroon achieved independence in 1960 as the Republic of Cameroon. The following year the largely Muslim northern two-thirds of British Cameroon voted to join Nigeria; the largely Christian southern third voted to join with the Republic of Cameroon to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The formerly French and British regions each maintained substantial autonomy.[12]

Economic Development, Health, and Education[edit | edit source]

Cameroon has the best commodity economy in sub-Sahara Africa, mainly due to its oil resources and favorable agriculture conditions. Unfortunately it currently faces many of the same problems which plague other underdeveloped nations, such as stagnant per capita income, a relatively inequitable distribution of income, a top-heavy civil service, endemic corruption, and a generally unfavorable climate for business enterprise.[13] Cameroon has indeed made valiant efforts to improve its efficiency in the fields of agriculture, trade, as well as the rehabilitation of Domestic Banks. Cameroon is currently involved in reform programs with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in an attempt to stabilize the current financial situation of the country.[14]

Cameroon economy factors[edit | edit source]

GDP (purchasing power parity): 44.65 billion

GDP - per capita (PPP): $2,300

GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 20%, industry: 30.9%, services: 49.1%

Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.3% highest 10%: 35.4%

Unemployment rate: 30%

Agriculture - products: coffee, cocoa, cotton, rubber, bananas, oilseed, grains, root starches; livestock; timber

Industries: petroleum production and refining, aluminum production, food processing, light consumer goods, textiles, lumber, ship repair

Industrial production growth rate: 4%.

All the above are product of (2010 est).[15]

Governance[edit | edit source]

Constitution de 1972

Mainly fabricated modeling colonization, the Republic of Cameroon is governed by a democratic multi-party, much like the French. The leader of the (CDPM) Cameroon's Democratic Movement is President Paul Biya who is only the second and current ruler of Cameroon. Image:Biya behind podium.jpgthe Legislative (National Assembly), Executive and Judicial branch as well as the Prime Ministry, and the senate all report and conduct their activities from the Yaounde which is recognized as the political capital of Cameroon. The CPDM is the strongest political party of the land, it controls majority of the parliaments and ministerial positions.[16]

The Head of State is Directly elected in general elections. (absolute majority with 2nd round if necessary)

The Head of Government is Appointed.

Electoral System (Chamber 1) Parallel (Segmented) (PR Lists and Majoritarian constituencies)

The President is elected by popular vote to serve a 7-year term. There are 180 members in the National Assembly, they are elected through direct popular vote to serve a 7-year term. Only the president can lengthen or shorten the term of the legislature.[17] Of the 180 members, 25 are women.[18]

Elections[edit | edit source]

The requirements for voting are as follows:

Voters must be a minimum of 20 years of age, have Cameroonian citizenship and be able to read and write English or French. Qualified Electors must meet the same criteria with the exception of age which currently stipulates 23 years. Both groups; voters and eligible Electors are subject to ineligibility if it is determined that allegiance to a foreign state is determined. [19]

Judicial Review[edit | edit source]

Constitutional review in Cameroon is categorized a process known as FRANCOPHONE AFRICA which is mainly influenced by the French model of 1958 (Conseil Constitutionnel - Constitutional Council), such review operates under the jurisdiction of special constitutional chambers of the Supreme Court. the implementation of Constitutional review was enacted in September 1, 1961 it established the Federal Court (Article 33) which was "empowered only to decide on jurisdictional disputes between State bodies, but not to decide cases concerning the constitutional review of statutes".[20]


"The legal system of Cameroon is based on the French civil law system, with English common law influence; however, the legal system includes both national law and customary law, and many cases can be tried using either".[21] This makes Cameroon one of the few examples of such a dual legal system in the world.

Newly introduced laws may can be found in Government Gazzette they are published in both English and French, both judges and ministry have legal access to the law Gazzette. though the practice helps maintain an organized record of laws introduced it plays a minimal role in the everyday lives of common Cameroonians the majority of the population abide by and live based on deeply rooted custom, tribal laws and society norms.[22]

"The Constitution provides for a fair public hearing in which the defendant is presumed innocent, there is no jury system. Because appointed attorneys received little compensation, the quality of legal representation for indigent persons often is poor. The Bar Association and some voluntary organizations, such as the Cameroonian Association of Female Jurists, offer free assistance in some cases. Trials normally were public, except in cases with political overtones judged disruptive of social peace".[23]

"Customary law is based upon the traditions of the ethnic group predominant in the region and is adjudicated by traditional authorities of that group. Accordingly, particular points of customary law differ depending upon the region and the ethnic group where a case is being tried. In some areas, traditional courts reportedly have tried persons accused of some offenses, such as practicing witchcraft, by subjecting them to an ordeal, such as drinking poison. Customary courts may exercise jurisdiction only with the consent of both parties to a case; either party has the right to have any case heard by a national rather than a customary court, and customary law is supposed to be valid only when it is not "repugnant to natural justice, equity, and good conscience." However, many citizens in rural areas remain unaware of their rights under civil law and have been taught since birth that customary laws form the rules by which they must abide. Consequently, traditional courts remain important in rural areas and serve as an alternative for settling disputes. Their authority varies by region and ethnic group, but they often are the arbiters of property and domestic disputes and may serve a probate function as well. Most traditional courts permit appeal of their decisions to traditional authorities of higher rank".[24]

Courts and Criminal Law[edit | edit source]

The court system includes the Supreme Court, a Court of Appeals in each of the 10 provinces, and courts of first instance in each of the country's 58 divisions. Military tribunals may exercise jurisdiction over civilians not only when the President declares martial law, but also in cases involving civil unrest or organized armed violence.[25]

Punishment[edit | edit source]

The death penalty is observed for crimes such as: treason, first degree murder, conspiracy and accomplice to murder, violence or assaults against government employees, and in cases of aggravated theft.[26]

Persons 18 year old or younger are not subject to the death penalty, although prison sentences can range from 2 to 10 years depending on the gravity of the crime.[27]

Traffic in toxic or dangerous wastes was made a capital offence by Act No. 89/027 of December 29, 1989.[28]

Pregnant women cannot be executed until after childbirth (Criminal Code, art. 2.3) .[29]

All death sentences are subject to mercy petition to the president, who exercises discretionary power based on merit. No capital punisment is ever carried out without the president's review and rejection of the petition for clemency.[30]

Legal Personnel[edit | edit source]

The Ministry of Justice directs, coordinates and supervises Government policy with regard to the administration of justice as well as oversees and supervises its key actors. The latter are made up of persons who dispense or demand justice, such as judges of the bench and prosecuting judges and the auxiliaries of justice who ensure the smooth operation of the administration of justice by either assisting the judge, for instance Court Registrars and judicial police officers. The judges who preside over Traditional Law Courts are usually appointed by the Minister of Justice from notables and other persons knowledgeable in the customs and traditions of the area to be served. Other judges are appointed from persons with at least a master's degree in law who have undergone a two- year training at the National School of Administration and Magistracy (ENAM) in Yaoundé. Entry into the school is by competitive examination, and on graduation, the intending judge may be appointed either to the bench or to the prosecution department. As a career profession, a judge's progress depends on seniority and the ability to impress senior judges, although increasingly, political loyalty and reliability is beginning to count.[31] "An intending advocate must be a Cameroonian with a law degree who has obtained a certificate of proficiency to practice. This certificate is issued only after two years of pupilage followed by passing a qualifying examination. All advocates are members of the Cameroon Bar Association".[32]

Law Enforcement[edit | edit source]

Information regarding the recruiting and the process of training potential law enforcement personnel in Cameroon is very vague and misleading. although base on prior literature of countries with similar judicial and governmental structures such practices would likely be categorized as centralized type structures which abide to a single set of laws throughout an entire country. On the same token there is the fact that Cameroon also operates under customary law which begs the question of whether this multi system government actually fall under any of the recognized families of law, which are well described in the fifth edition publication by Philip L. Reichel "Comparative Ciminal Justice Systems."

Crime Rates and Public Opinion[edit | edit source]

Crime is a particular ascending problem in Cameroon, crimes against personal property are common and often involve severe violece. Car jackings, burglaries, assaults, robberies and armed banditry are all specially growing problems throughtout all regions in Cameroon. Public transportation is also a real threat, drivers often play roles in robbing, raping and assaulting customers. Though Cameroon still operates as a third world state, criminals have been able to incorporate cyber crime into society. Cameroon.[33] The crimes includes but are not limited to "adoptions, insurance claims, dating, real estate, the provision of domestic services (such as nannies and household help), agricultural products, antiques, and exotic and domesticated animals".[34]

Trafficking in persons has been categorized as a major occurrence, "Cameroon serves as source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation".[35] Often the victims of traffickers are children, they are moved both in and out of the county and forced to into clandestine industries which include sex, vending, planting and intense laboring.[36] "Cameroon is a transit country for children trafficked between Gabon and Nigeria, and from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia; it is a source country for women transported by sex-trafficking rings to Europe"[37]

"Trends in the reported rate of crime in Cameroon since 1995 have been upward in all areas of crime. Murder increased from 1995 to 1998 from 0.23 to 0.38 per 100,000 population; sex offenses from 0.23 to 1.37; rape from 0.17 to 0.45; serious assault from 0.05 to 1.17; theft (all kinds) from 4.69 to 31.73; aggravated theft from 1.89 to 6.79; auto theft from 0.22 to 5.05; other thefts from 2.58 to 19.89; and total offenses from 13.45 to 78.17. The robbery rate of 0.39 and the breaking and entering rate of 1.50 were reported for 1995 but not 1998. While the rise in reported crime between 1995 and 1998 was, on average, five-fold, much of this huge increase may be the result of better recording and reporting practices".[38]

Drug use and trafficking are also a common type of crime in Cameroon, both males and females engage in the use of Cannabis, Emphatamines, pharmaceuticals and traditional hallucinants. indigent children also engage in drug offenses, the drug of choice for this group is solvents- they are readily available and cheap.[39]

Rights[edit | edit source]

Family Law[edit | edit source]

While the minimum legal age for a woman to marry is 15, many families facilitated the marriage of young girls by the age of 12. Early marriage was prevalent in the northern regions of Adamaoua, North, and particularly the remote Far North Region, where many girls as young as nine faced severe health risks from pregnancies. There were no statistics on the prevalence of child marriage.[40]

Cameroon is a Country which is still very much influenced by Customary law also known as native law. Customary law is often unwriten and it covers areas including all aspects of marriage, farming,forestry, hunting, inheritance and probate issues. this customs are rooted deep in believe and culture of the land and often work adjacent to written or conventional legislature.[41]

Social Inequality[edit | edit source]

In relation to marriage if a husband does not approve his wife's employment the law allows for him to oppose and force termination of the same, likewise if he wants to end his wife's commercial activities he may do so by notifying the commerce authority and based on the argument for familial interest. Cameroon laws also do not specifically outlaw domestic violence, eventhoug assault is still prohibited and punishable by imprisonment. The law also does not recognize rape to occur between married couples.[42]

Social inequality Among the Fulani, Grassfielders, Bamiléké, and Bamoun the traditional social organization included hierarchical relations between members of groups with different status (royalty, nobility, commoners, and slaves). Other ethnic groups have a more egalitarian social organization in which age and gender are the major factors in social stratification. New forms of social inequality based on access to political power and level of formal education coexist with indigenous forms of stratification. Although a cosmopolitan lifestyle has developed among the wealthy and the intelligentsia, markers of cultural distinctiveness and obligation to kin and ethnic compatriots remain. Regional differences in wealth also exist: the far northern and eastern areas have less access to wealth and infrastructure.[43]

Read more: Culture of Cameroon - traditional, history, people, clothing, traditions, women, beliefs, food, customs "Customary law is far more discriminatory against women, since in many regions a woman traditionally was regarded as the property of her husband".[44]

Human Rights[edit | edit source]

Time and again the government of the Republic of Cameroon has been accused as poor human rights advocates; governmental security forces have been linked with committing numerous unlawful killings, engaging in torture, beatings, and particularly the brutal treatment of detainees and prisoners.[45] Though much controversy on such disparities of government have been largely publicized Cameroon does have in its legislature a written set of fundamental rights which were stablished with the purpose to protect and aid the people of this vast land.


Section 1: Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

b. Disappearance The constitution and law prohibit such practices;

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishmen The constitution and law prohibit such practices.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention.

Arrest and Detention The law requires police to obtain an arrest warrant except when a person is caught in the act of committing a crime.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary.

Trial Procedures The law provides for a fair public hearing in which the defendant is presumed innocent.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The constitution and law prohibit such actions.

Section 2: Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Assembly The law provides for freedom of assembly however, the government restricted this right in practice.

Freedom of Association The law provides for freedom of association, but the government limited this right in practice.

c. Freedom of Religion The law provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice; however, there were a few exceptions. Religious groups must be approved and registered with the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization to function legally.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

Protection of Refugees The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and the government has established a system of providing protection to refugees.

Section 3: Respect for Political Rights. The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government, The law provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefullY.

Government Corruption and Transparency The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption.

Section 4: Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights.

Section 5: Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons. The law does not explicitly forbid discrimination based on race, language, or social status, but does prohibit discrimination based on gender and mandates that "everyone has equal rights and obligations."

Women The law prohibits rape.

Children The law provides for a child's right to education.

Trafficking in Persons The law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons.

Persons with Disabilities The law provides certain rights to persons with disabilities, including access to public buildings, medical treatment, and education, and the government was obliged to provide part of the educational expense of persons with disabilities, to employ them where possible, and to provide them with public assistance when necessary. Access to public secondary education is free for persons with disabilities and children born of poor parents with disabilities.

Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination Homosexual activity is illegal, with a possible prison sentence of six months to five years and a possible fine ranging from approximately $40 to $400 (20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs).

Section 6: Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association The law allows workers to form and join trade unions.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The constitution and law provide for collective bargaining between workers and management as well as between labor federations and business associations in each sector of the economy.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The constitution and law prohibit forced or compulsory labor, including by children.

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment The law generally protects children from exploitation in the workplace and specifies penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment for infringement.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.[46]

Though legislation clearly exists, it appears to serve in a minimum capacity the people of Cameroon. Reports of abuse and inequality are vast and usually involve law officials, politicians and governmental staff. among the most affected are women, children the encarcerated, homosexuals and most of those belonging to the lower class.[47]

Poverty of urban refugees force them to accommodate themselves in the shanty areas of Yaoundé and Douala, where they live in very precarious situations and are exposed to numerous health hazards. They leave everything behind and do not have essential domestic items at their disposal and their vulnerability situation in Cameroon does not enable them to procure such items.[48]

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