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The most powerful tool against repression: educating people about their rights

Former Amnesty prisoner of conscience Fred Bauma about human rights and democracy

I could not have dreamt of anything more exciting than meeting former Amnesty prisoner of conscience Fred Bauma. Together with thousands of activists, I had been campaigning for him and his colleague Yves Makwambala for the past few years. So, I was floating on air when I heard about Fred and Yves’ release on bail in August 2016. I felt extremely honoured to be able to organise an event where Fred could meet the Amnesty UK activists who had been standing in solidarity with him.

Struggle for change in the Congo On 11 March, just a few days before the anniversary of his detention in 2015, Amnesty UK hosted a speaker event with Fred Bauma. During the evening, the young Congolese activist talked about his experiences and the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Fred explained to us that his activism is rooted in supporting refugees of a camp near his family’s house. Later, du…
Recent posts

Is sharing a joke enough reason to jail someone?

Fomusoh Ivo Feh, a 29-year old Cameroonian student was about to start university when he was arrested by six plain-clothes men in the South-West region of Cameroon on 13 December 2014.

His arrest followed a sarcastic SMS message that he sent to a friend, Azah Levis Gob who also shared it with his friend, Afuh Nivelle Nfor, a secondary-school student.

The SMS was sent as a joke about how difficult it is getting into university or finding a good job without being highly qualified in Cameroon – suggesting it was easier to get into Boko Haram. The message read: ‘Boko Haram recruits young people from 14 years-old and above. Conditions for recruitment: 4 subjects at GCE, plus religion.’

After a teacher saw the message on Afuh Nivelle Nfor’s phone and showed it to the police, Ivo and his friends were arrested in late 2014. Subsequently, all three were charged with several offences, including attempting to organise a rebellion.

A military court in Yaoundé sentenced Ivo and his two friends, Afuh …

When peacekeepers should be held accountable

Abuses by UN peacekeepers have been committed over the past two decades in various parts of the world. Blue Helmets in Haiti, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Bosnia, Cambodia, East Timor and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), just to mention a few missions, have abused their power  and aggravated the suffering of war-thorn local communities. The embarrassment caused by the misconduct of UN forces in devastated communities around the world has become an increasingly high profile, political problem. Commitments by various high-profile UN officials, including the incumbent and the previous Secretary Generals have been made to uproot the horrific human rights violations and the impunity that surrounds them.

More than a decade ago, the previous Secretary General Kofi Annan pledged to eliminate the scourge of sexual abuse from the UN and introduce a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual violence in conflict. As part of the broad package to reform the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations t…

Hidden from critical view: the disappeared of Cameroon

As the number of military personnel deployed to fight Boko Haram in the Far North Region of Cameroon has increased, the number of people detained without trial on suspicion of supporting the armed group has gone up, as well.
Families and communities torn apart
Since 2014, Cameroon’s security forces have arrested hundreds of people without charge during security operations.
One man from the village of Double told us how security forces raided the village in search of suspected Boko Haram fighters:
“Early in the morning, we heard gunshots and thought it was Boko Haram. We were scared and fled to the bush; then people called us to say it wasn’t Boko Haram, but the security forces, so we came back thinking we were safe. However, to our great surprise, those forces made us suffer even more than Boko Haram.”
During this operation carried out in Double and in the neighbouring community, Magdeme, nine people were killed and more than 200 boys and men arbitrarily arrested. At least 130 of them have…

How should Cameroon fight Boko Haram?

The Cameroonian security forces don't take into account how many lives they sacrifice when it comes to eradicating the Islamist group, Boko Haram.

Amnesty International revealed in its new report that the military offensive against Boko Haram has resulted in widespread human rights violations against civilians in the Far North region of the country.
During search-and-cordon operations, security forces often arrest people on the basis of very little information or assumptions and sometimes they detain whole groups. In February 2015 for example, in Kossa, 32 men were arrested based on accusations that the village was providing food to Boko Haram. Most were later released, but one man died in custody.

After being arrested, people are far too often held incommunicado at illegal detention sites in military bases, before being transferred to the official prisons. And, as Amnesty International learnt, in secret detention, torture is not a rare method to encourage people to confess.

An old ma…

The ideology of Boko Haram and the Islamic State

Boko Haram had announced the group's pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State on 7 March 2015, therewith aligning itself with the IS in the global Jihadist movement. The IS welcomed the news and promptly accepted a pledge of allegiance to the group, according to an audiotape purportedly from its spokesman.
"We announce to you to the good news of the expansion of the caliphate to West Africa because the caliph... has accepted the allegiance of our brothers [..]”  – IS spokesman Mohammed al-Adnani said in the message. However, this video appearing on IS-affiliated websites could not be authenticated.
Although the nature of exact links between the two armed groups are still unclear, it can be confirmed that their ideologies and operations show similarities, despite some remaining differences.

The ideology of the two armed groups
The ideology of both groups is based on a premodern theological tradition that wants the establishment of a sharia state. Both groups oppose moderate Musli…

Are you sure that your laptop is “child-labour-free”?

You can’t entirely be. If you search on the internet, you will probably find that the lithium-ion battery, the thing that powers your laptop, tablet or smartphone and enables you to surf for hours, contains cobalt. If you search a little longer, you’ll learn that 50% of this mineral comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – mined in the south of the country, often by children and for very little money.

Kids work in mines under dangerous conditions Children, as young as seven are involved in this dirty industry. According to a UNICEF report from 2014, approximately 40,000 boys and girls work in the mines across the southern part of the DRC, many of them involved in cobalt mining. The majority of the kids work above ground, collecting minerals from the mountains of tailings (or residue) outside both active and inactive industrial mines. They can also work in lakes and streams close to the mines, washing and sorting the stones. Some boys go underground, digging deep to acces…