The following is the join statement from both national, regional and international Civil Society Human Rights groups urging the Cameroon Government authorities to respect academic freedom. Read the join statement below
DECISION N° 2020/0326/UB/TIC/AcA/AA to terminate the contract of Mr.
Felix NkonghoAgbor Balla as Instructor of the University of Buea”,
Lawyer at the Bar of Cameroon, Human Rights Defender, Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa(CDHD)
MUZZLING OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER
National, Regional and International Civil Society Human Rights Organizations and Human Rights Defenders
On 21 April 2020, in the communiqué made public on the report of the joint commission of inquiry set up by President Paul Biya following the tragic events of the night of 13-14 February 2020 in the locality of Ngarbuh in the North-West, the President of the Republic declared: ”I reaffirm the readiness of the Government of Cameroon to continue to cooperate with bilateral and multilateral partners as well as non-governmental organizations, to advance the cause of the protection and promotion of human rights in Cameroon”.
Non-governmental organizations had welcomed this leadership by the President of the Republic, which we believed would put a definitive end to reprisals and threats of all kinds against human rights defenders in Cameroon. Oh, no, we did not.
Indeed, on 22 April 2020, in a correspondence No. MC20-00071/MINESUP/cAb, the Minister of Higher Education, Prof. MENESUP/CAb, said that the President of the Republic was going to put a definitive end to all kinds of reprisals and threats against human rights defenders in Cameroon. Jacques Fame Ndongo, addressed a summons to the Vice-Rector of the University of Buea in the following terms: “I have asked you to definitively put an end (all cases ceased) to the actions of Mr. Felix Agbor Balla Nkongho, likely to seriously undermine the ethics of university deontology and to report to me on your diligence, which has not been done to date (…)”.
The letter alludes to a question asked during the first semester 2019/2020 examination to students of the Faculty of Law and Political Science (DepartmentofLaw) of the University of Buea: Q1 “The Anglophone crisis since 2016 was caused by the lawyers and the teachers strike”. Assess the validity of this statement”.
Following this summons of the Minister of Higher Education, on April 29, 2020, violating the elementary rights of an employee which are the request for written or verbal explanation, prof. Atangcho Nji Akonembo DCAM FLPS, summoned Mr. Félix Agbor Nkongho Balla for “disciplinary hearing” for May 6, 2020, in a race against time, without anyone knowing who the members of the disciplinary board were, in full spread of the coronavirus pandemic while among the measures taken by the Government to fight against COVID-19 is the closure of universities. This suggests that the aim was not to listen to Maître Félix Agbor Nkongho Balla, but to sanction him in view of his work as a human rights defender in general and in particular for his commitment to the peaceful resolution of the socio-political crisis in the North-West and South-West regions.
Decision N° 00326/UB/DYC/TIC/AcA/AA of 6 May 2020 in its Article 1: “The contract of Mr. Felix NkonghoAgbor Balla, recruited as Instructor in the Department of Law troughDecision N°2015/0514/L/B/AcA/TTSD/TSS of 02 June 2015 is hereby terminated with immediate effect” is taken the same day of its convocation, in the absence of the respondent and is signed by Prof. NolAtembog, Deputy Vice-Chancellor/TIC.
National, regional and international Civil Society Organizations
1) Take note of this purely political decision which is arbitrary since during the same semester, a teacher from the University of Yaounde 2 asked exactly the same question during the Master’s level exams at this University. This confirms that the decision taken, moreover, on the “instruction” of MINESUP was a researcher-led one, and aimed at the person concerned for his activities around the “Anglophone crisis”;
2) Note to condemn it and denounce the intrumentalization of institutions such as universities where teachers and students should exchange freely on subjects related to the nation in complete independence;
3) Consider that this decision is one of the many reprisals and threats that our colleague Agbor Balla has suffered since 1996 and which are linked to his work of defence, promotion and protection of human rights, particularly in the North-West and South-West regions;
4) Are concerned about the increase in the shadowing and surveillance of human rights defenders by members of the government who use the intelligence services for this purpose.
5) Remind the Cameroonian authorities that respect for academic freedom is part of the protection of human rights. In view of this incident, the Oscs draw the attention of international partners in university cooperation in Cameroon, particularly the International Organisation of the Francophonie and the Commonwealth, to the lack of respect for academic freedom in Cameroonian universities. This is not in line with the values advocated by these organizations which nevertheless maintain various partnerships with State Universities in Cameroon.
National, regional and international Civil Society Organizations
- Give their full support and solidarity to their colleague Félix Agbor Nkongho Balla, Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa which he directs, and to his colleagues;
- Give their support and solidarity to all and all other defenders working for the protection and promotion of human rights and the protection of human rights defenders;
- Urge the President of the Republic His Excellency Paul Biya to call on members of the
Government to comply with his statement of 21 April 2020: ”I reaffirm the readiness of the Government of Cameroon to continue to cooperate with bilateral and multilateral partners as well as with non-governmental organizations, to advance the cause of the protection and promotion of human rights in Cameroon”.
National, regional and international Civil Society Organizations recommend to the United Nations, the African Union and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to do everything possible to ensure that:
1) The Government of Cameroon in general and the Minister of Higher Education in particular reinstate Maître Félix Agbor Nkonghoh to his position as “Instructor in the Department of Law of the University of Buea”;
2) The Cameroonian authorities comply with the 1998 United Nations Declaration on the
Protection of Human Rights Defenders, the 2003 Kigali Declaration and the 2006 Grand Bay
Plan of Action of the African Union as well as all resolutions and declarations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) relating to the promotion of the work of human rights defenders and their protection.
Also, CSOs draw the attention of the Cameroonian government that in case our colleague is not restored in his rights and honor, the State of Cameroon runs the risk of being dragged before regional (African) or international human rights courts, an action in which the signatories will be in solidarity with the person concerned. This could only make Cameroon’s liability before its authorities (Human Rights Council, UN Human Rights Committee, ACHPR) even heavier, as a country often condemned in specific cases as having violated the rights of its citizens.
Finally, Civil Society Organizations in Africa reiterate their commitment to collaborate with African governments in general and that of Cameroon in particular for the promotion and protection of human rights in all circumstances and in strict respect of neutrality, impartiality and independence.
1) Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture (ACAT-RCA) ;
2) Action des jeunes pour le Bien Etre Social (AJBS- RDC) ;
3) Action pour les Droits et l’Education à la Paix (ADEP-RDC) ;
5) African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDRHRS-Gambie);
6) Affirmative Action (Yaoundé-Cameroun) ;
7) Alliance Internationale pour la Défense des Droits et des Libertés (AIDL-France)
8) Arche d’Alliance (RDC) ;
9) Association Congolaise pour l’Accès à la Justice (ACAJ-RDC) ;
10) Association De Défense De L’environnement Et De Préservation De L’esprit De Village (ADEPEV-RDC) ;
11) Association de Promotion et d’Appui aux Initiatives Locales de Développement(RDC) ;
12) Association des Jeunes Solidaires de Garoua (ADJSG-Cameroun) ;
13) Association des Mamans Chrétiennes pour l’Assistance aux Vulnérables – (AMCAV –RDC) ; 14) Association des Femmes Juristes (RCA)
15) Association pour les Droits de l’Homme et l’Univers Carcéral (ADHUC-Congo Brazzaville) ;
16) Association Des Jeunes Solidaires De Garoua (AJSGA-Cameroun) ;
17) BrainForest (Gabon) ;
18) Cameroonian Aids Foundation (CAMFAIDS-Cameroun);
19) Centre Résolution Conflits (CRC-RDC) ;
20) Centre de Réflexion et de Lutte pour les Droits Humains et contre le SIDA (CERLUDHUS-Cameroun) ;
21) Centre pour l’Information Environnementale et le Développement Durable (CIEDD-RCA) ;
22) Centre for Law and Public Policy (CLPP) (Cameroon)
23) Centrale Syndicale du Seceteur Public (CSSP- Cameroun)
24) Cercle des Droits de l’Homme et de Développement (CDHD – République du Congo) ;
25) Cercle Uni des Droits de l’Homme et Culture de Paix (CUDHOC-Congo Brazzaville) ; 26) CIDH-Afrique
27) Civicus (World Alliance for Citizens Participation Afrique du Sud);
28) Collectif des jeunes du Mayo Rey pour le développement (Cameroun) ;
29) Coalition TOURNONS LA PAGE – Cameroun
30) Collectif filimbi (RDC);
31) Collectif des Femmes pour la protectionde l’environnement et de l’enfant (COFEDRE-Cameroun)
32) Conseil des Jeunes Unis pour la Démocratie et le Progrès (Cameroun) ;
33) Convergencia Para la Democracia Social de GuineaEcuatorial (Guinée Equatoriale) ;
34) Droit de l’Homme Sans Frontières (Tchad) ;
35) Dynamique Citoyenne (Cameroun) ;
36) Formation et le Développement (OFFED-RDC) ;
37) Foyer de Développement pour l’Autopromotion des Pygmées et Indigènes Défavorisés (FDAPID-Hope for Indigenous Peoples-RDC) ;
38) Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network en sigle (HRDSNET-Ouganda);
39) Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA- Afrique du Sud);
40) Initiative Congolaise pour la Justice et la Paix (ICJP-RDC) ;
41) Initiatives For Tolerance in Africans Mind and Mouths (ITAMM-Cameroun) ;
42) International Crisis Group (ICG
43) International Association of Peaple’s Lawyers (IAPL)
44) Justice and Peace Commission in Cameroon( Bamenda)
45) Ligue Des Droits Et Libertés (LDL-Cameroun);
46) Mandela Center (Cameroun) ;
47) Nouveaux Droits de l’Homme (NDH-Cameroun)
48) Organisation pour le Développement et les Droits de l’Homme au Congo-ODDHC (Brazzaville) ;
49) Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l’Homme (Brazzaville) ;
50) Os-Humanitaire (Maroua-Cameroun) ;
51) Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRDN-Kampala);
52) Plate forme « Mon Union Africaine Cameroun » (Cameroun) ;
53) Playdoo- Côte d’Ivoire (Côte d’Ivoire) ;
54) Public Interest Law Center/Centre Juridique d’Intérêt (PILC -Tchad) ;
55) REDHAC-OUGANDA (Communautés des Défenseurs de l’Afrique Centrale refugiés en OUGANDA) ;
56) Réseau d’Information et d’Appui aux ONGs en République Démocratique du Congo (RIAO-RDC) ;
57) Réseau de Défense des Droits de l’Homme du Gabon (REDDHGA-Gabon) ;
58) Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale- REDHAC (Afrique Centrale) ;
59) Réseau d’information et d’appui aux ONG (RIAO-RDC) ;
60) Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (ROADDH-Togo) ; 61) ROLBG- (Gabon)
62) RADHO (Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (Sénégal)
63) Solidarité pour la Promotion des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (PRODHOP-Cameroun) ;
64) Un Monde Avenir (Cameroun) ;
65) Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)