Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
Cameroon is a republic dominated by a strong presidency. Despite the country's multiparty political system, the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement has remained in power since it was created in 1985. The July 2007 legislative and municipal elections were conducted with irregularities. International and domestic observers noted significant deficiencies in the electoral process, including substantial barriers to registration and insufficient safeguards against fraudulent voting. The government's human rights record remained poor, and it continued to commit human rights abuses, particularly following widespread February 2008 riots to protest increased food and fuel costs. Security forces committed unlawful killings, some stemming from excessive beatings, and engaged in torture, beatings, and other abuses, particularly of detainees and prisoners. Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening. Authorities arrested and detained English-speaking citizens advocating secession, local human rights monitors and activists, persons not carrying government-issued identity cards, and other citizens. There were reports of prolonged and sometimes incommunicado pretrial detention. The government restricted citizens' freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and movement. Additional concerns in the realm of political and human rights included but were not limited to: official corruption and impunity, discrimination against women and ethnic minorities, trafficking in persons, and forced child labor.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. Government's policy priorities are promoting democratic principles and practices, strengthening democratic institutions, and increasing respect for human rights. The United States also targets a broad-based approach covering media and civil society to develop those institutions' capacity to support the democratic process in the country. This includes maintaining the fight against corruption as a high priority. The United States targets several key sectors to help promote better human rights practices, ranging from high level government officials to school age children. In addition, the United States maintains as a priority the fight against trafficking in persons.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
In 2008 the United States continued to focus its activities towards strengthening democratic institutions and respect for democratic practices, including human rights and press freedom. In December 2008 the Cameroon president created Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), although most of the 14 members were senior officials belonging to the ruling party. The United States publicly criticized the partisan composition of ELECAM, noting its low credibility among the public, and urging the government to ensure that the ELECAM functions as an independent election monitoring commission. The U.S. Government strengthened democratic institutions and respect for human rights by engaging members of civil society and the media, officials from all levels of government, and local and international NGOs. In an effort to encourage dialogue about a proposed constitutional change, the U.S. Government organized a high-level roundtable discussion, with participants from civil society and government to discuss democracy, the constitution, and presidential term limits. U.S. Government officials spoke publicly about the benefits of leadership change and presidential term limits. The United States also continues to combat corruption in the country. During 2008 the U.S. Government supported the anticorruption efforts of NGOs. U.S. officials encouraged whistleblowers and greater information sharing with civil society and the media. The United States organized a visit of U.S. officials and hosted a workshop with local officials focused on combating financial crime. The U.S. Government also organized separate anticorruption training programs for the military and for youth leaders.
The U.S. Embassy continues to support media freedom through local capacity building and by publicly expressing concerns about reports of restrictions on press freedom and the closure of media outlets. In 2008, for example, the U.S. Government publicly pressed for the reopening of two radio stations, Equinoxe and Magic FM, which the government temporarily closed following civil unrest in February 2008 because of disagreements with official views.
The U.S. Government continues to press high-level government officials, including the president, about the imperative to respect human rights and punish human rights offenders. To prevent human rights abuses and augment the rule of law in the country, the U.S. Government remains committed to law enforcement and security training for police and gendarmes. The U.S. Government assisted in training secondary school teachers on ways to incorporate human rights into their curriculum. The U.S. Government also organized a human rights roundtable for governmental and nongovernmental actors, which used the 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices as a basis for discussion.
Throughout 2008 the U.S. Government hosted elections events to educate citizens about U.S. democratic traditions and administration transitions. In June and September 2008 the U.S. Government supported training for magistrates and law enforcement officers to combat trafficking in persons. The U.S. Government also organized a one-week program with American judicial experts on rule of law and judicial independence. The U.S Government actively maintains contacts with labor unions in order to observe and influence the labor situation.