Committee considered the initial report of Cameroon (E/1990/5/Add.16)
at its 41st, 42nd and 43rd meetings on 23 and 24 November 1999
and, at its 54th meeting, held on 2 December 1999, adopted the
following concluding observations.
Committee welcomes the initial report submitted by Cameroon, despite
the considerable delay, and appreciates the candid written replies
to the Committee's list of issues (E/C.12/Q/CAMER/1). The Committee
regrets, however, that the delegation, despite all its efforts
to answer the Committee's questions, could not do so in a fully
satisfactory manner. It is a matter of regret that a delegation
of experts from the capital was unable to attend the meetings,
as this would have made for a more detailed and constructive dialogue.
Committee notes that a lack of concrete and specific information,
both in the written report and in the replies provided by the
Government of the State party, and the absence of a core document
prevented the Committee from making an effective evaluation of
the actual situation concerning the enjoyment by the people of
Cameroon of the human rights provided for in the Covenant.
Committee notes the delegation's undertaking to provide statistical
data and more specific information on various economic, social
and cultural indicators in its second periodic report.
B. Positive aspects
Committee views as a positive development the establishment of
the Ministry of Women's Affairs in 1997, with a special mandate
to promote equality of women and eliminate all forms of discrimination
against women in all spheres of Cameroonian society.
Committee notes with satisfaction the increase in the growth rate
of the State party's gross domestic product in 1998 to 5 per cent
and the decrease in the rate of inflation to 1.6 per cent in the
year ending June 1998 from 9.6 per cent a year earlier. These
positive developments contribute to an environment conducive to
more effective implementation of the rights under the Covenant.
Committee welcomes the recent 30 per cent increase in the salaries
of government employees and the rehabilitation of Cameroon's social
insurance fund, the Caisse nationale de prévoyance social,
to ensure the payment of appropriate funds to pensioners.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of
8. The Committee notes that the repayment of external debt by
Cameroon, which absorbs approximately two thirds of the country's
export earnings, negatively affects the ability of the Government
to allocate sufficient resources to the social sector.
Committee notes the prevalence of certain traditions, customs
and cultural practices in Cameroon which continue to impede the
full enjoyment by women of their rights under the Covenant.
Committee notes that the Government's economic reform programme
for 1998/99, which implemented the structural adjustment programme
in Cameroon approved by the International Monetary Fund, the World
Bank and the Caisse française de développement, while increasing
the real GDP growth rate has impacted negatively on the enjoyment
of economic, social and cultural rights by increasing poverty
and unemployment, worsening income distribution and causing the
collapse of social services.
D. Principal subjects of concern
Committee is concerned about the exact legal status of the Covenant
in the Cameroonian legal system. The Committee regrets that the
delegation has not been able to clarify the position of the Covenant
in Cameroonian law, nor provide any specific references to cases
in which the Covenant has been invoked in national courts of law.
Committee is concerned about the lack of transparency and degree
of independence of the National Committee on Human Rights and
Freedoms, the findings of which are not published or made public.
Committee is deeply concerned that the Government of Cameroon
has not yet embarked on the necessary law reform to repeal laws
which maintain the unequal legal status of women, particularly
in aspects of the Civil Code and the Commercial Code relating
to, inter alia, the right to own property and the laws
regarding credit and bankruptcy, which restrict women's access
to the means of production. They are in flagrant violation of
the non-discrimination and equal treatment provisions of the Covenant
and are inconsistent with the recently amended Constitution of
Cameroon which upholds the equal rights of all citizens of Cameroon.
Committee deplores the lack of progress made by the Government
in combating the continuing discriminatory practices against women
and girls which impede the enjoyment of their rights under the
Covenant. Such practices include polygamy, the forced early marriage
of girls and discriminatory laws which prevent women from inheriting
Committee deplores the inadequacy of measures taken by the Government
to combat, especially by means of educational programmes, the
enduring practice of female genital mutilation, which is generally
practised on young women and girls in the far north and south-west
provinces of Cameroon.
Committee deplores the lack of measures taken to eliminate domestic
violence against women, which is still regarded as culturally
acceptable by certain sectors of society.
Committee deplores the lack of government action to protect the
rights of workers on rural plantations by safeguarding for them
just conditions of work. The Committee was deeply concerned about
the replies from the delegation that such workers were free to
negotiate the conditions of their employment, as the Government
is obliged under the Covenant to ensure that all workers enjoy
favourable conditions of employment, including fair wages, safe
conditions of work and a reasonable limitation on working hours.
Committee is concerned that the Government has not yet introduced
legislation to prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace which,
according to information received by the Committee, is a widespread
practice in Cameroon.
Committee regrets that the minimum wage set by the Government
is not adequate to enable workers to live above the poverty line,
let alone to provide a decent standard of living for themselves
and their families.
Committee regrets the lack of specific information in the written
replies from the State party, and from the delegation itself,
concerning the reasons for the refusal to recognize the National
Union of Teachers of Higher Education since 1991.
Committee is deeply concerned about the increasing incidence of
poverty and unemployment in Cameroon, especially among the most
vulnerable groups, such as minority groups and the elderly, and
among the rural population. The Committee is especially alarmed
by figures regarding poverty in Cameroon, which reveal that 55
per cent of the population were living below the poverty line
in 1998 and that 40 per cent of the rural population live in poverty
compared with 15 per cent of the urban population. In this regard,
the Committee is concerned about the inadequacy of social security
with regard to child maintenance for single parents and low-income
Committee regrets the lack of access to potable water for large
sectors of society, especially in rural areas where only 27 per
cent of the population have access to safe water (within reasonable
reach), while 47 per cent of the urban population have such access.
Committee is concerned about the protection of the rights of the
Baka Pygmies, in particular their right to an adequate standard
of living including the right to food, which have been adversely
affected by the depletion of the natural resources of the rainforest
upon which they depend for subsistence, and by the compulsory
acquisition by the Government of their land.
Committee is concerned about the reportedly high incidence of
forced evictions in the rural areas of Cameroon, which have not
been addressed in the written replies by the State party.
Committee is concerned about the inadequacy of family planning
policies and programmes in Cameroon, which have failed to reduce
infant and maternal mortality. The Committee is also concerned
about the high level of clandestine abortion in Cameroon, which
is in part responsible for the high maternal mortality rate.
Committee notes with regret the statement by the State party in
its written replies that medical facilities for all sections of
the population remain inadequate and unequally distributed. The
Committee also regrets that the replies provided by the State
party have not clarified the situation with regard to the provision
of health services in Cameroon.
Committee notes with deep concern that there is no legislation
in Cameroon which provides for free primary education. The Committee
regrets the requirement of a parental contribution in the form
of compulsory fees levied by primary schools which, in view of
high levels of poverty, greatly restrict access to primary education,
particularly for girls.
Committee is deeply concerned about the inadequate salaries earned
by teachers and the lack of school buildings and other infrastructure
and of services, particularly in rural areas. The Committee also
deplores the imbalance in the distribution of education resources
between Cameroon's 10 provinces.
Committee is concerned about the high level of illiteracy still
existing in Cameroon. It also notes with deep concern the cultural
preference given to the education of male children. This is reflected
in the higher illiteracy rate of women, which is 49.9 per cent
compared with 30 per cent for men.
Committee regrets that the delegation was unable to provide specific
information concerning the different segments of the population
which are enrolled in higher education.
31. The Committee urges the State party to take all appropriate
measures, including the enactment of legislation, to ensure that
all the people of Cameroon enjoy the economic, social and cultural
rights set forth in the Covenant.
Committee calls upon the State party to take more active and positive
steps to address the inequality of and discriminations against
women in Cameroon, in law and fact. In particular, the Committee
urges the State party to repeal all provisions of the Civil and
Commercial Codes which discriminate against women.
Committee urges the Government to prohibit customary practices
which violate the rights of women and to take active measures
to combat such practices and beliefs by all means, including educational
programmes. Government action should focus, in particular, on
the elimination of the practices of polygamy, forced marriages
and female genital mutilation, and the bias in favour of the education
of boys. The State party is requested to report on the progress
achieved in this regard in its second periodic report.
Committee calls upon the State party to introduce specific legislation
and policies to prohibit domestic violence and sexual harassment
in the workplace, with a view to strengthening the protection
Committee urges the State party to take effective measures to
protect the right of workers on rural plantations, to ensure that
they enjoy just and favourable conditions of work.
Committee urges the State party to adopt appropriate remedial
action, including a National Strategy against Poverty, to deal
with the acute problem of poverty in Cameroon. The Committee suggests
in this regard that the State party consult with the specialized
agencies and competent United Nations bodies prior to the formulation
of such a strategy.
Committee urges the State party to review its legislation and
policy regarding child maintenance, with a view to ensuring the
provision of adequate social security for single parents and low-income
Committee recommends that the State party review its macroeconomic
reform programmes with respect to their impact on the standard
of living of vulnerable groups, particularly in the rural areas,
and to make efforts to adjust these reforms in a way that better
responds to the current needs of such groups. The Committee recommends
in this regard that in negotiations with international financial
institutions, the State party take into account its international
legal obligations to protect, promote and fulfil economic, social
and cultural rights.
Committee urges the State party to take effective measures to
protect the right of the Baka Pygmies to an adequate standard
of living, in particular their right to food, when negotiating
contracts for projects which impact negatively on their lives.
Committee calls upon the State party to make safe drinking water
accessible to the entire population.
Committee urges the State party to implement laws and policies
to combat the problem of forced evictions, in accordance with
General Comments Nos. 4 and 7 of the Committee.
its second periodic report, the Committee would appreciate more
concrete information concerning medical services and the problems
facing vulnerable groups with regard to access to medical services,
especially in rural areas. The Committee would also like more
information on the effectiveness of the national pharmaceutical
policy in providing high-quality generic medications to all sectors
Committee recommends that the Government take effective measures
to end all forms of compulsory parental contribution for primary
education. In this regard, the Committee urges the State party
to allocate increased resources to education, in particular for
infrastructure and human resources, especially in rural areas.
In this connection, the Committee draws the attention of the State
party to its General Comment No. 11.
its second periodic report, the State party is requested to provide
specific and detailed information on the enjoyment by women of
the rights provided for in the Covenant.
Committee urges the State party to review its policies on health
in order to address, in particular, maternal mortality, adolescent
pregnancies and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In this respect, the Committee
also urges the Government to review its family planning policies
with a view to increasing access to information concerning contraceptives
through educational programmes.
Committee also recommends that the Government of Cameroon avail
itself of technical assistance from the Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights and from the relevant United
Nations specialized agencies in the preparation of its second
Committee urges the State party to take necessary measures to
ensure that the provisions of the Covenant are widely disseminated,
through human rights education in all curricula, and among all
sectors of society, particularly among the legal profession, members
of the judiciary and administrative authorities.
Committee requests the State party to take steps to disseminate
widely these concluding observations and submit its second periodic
report by 30 June 2001, so that the Committee may be kept informed
about the progress made in implementing the rights set forth in
the Covenant and the recommendations of the Committee in this