Cablegate: Cameroon: Information On Child Labor and Forced Labor
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SUBJECT: CAMEROON: INFORMATION ON CHILD LABOR AND FORCED LABOR
REF: STATE 131994; 08 YAOUNDE 609; 09 YAOUNDE 49
1. Summary: Child Labor in Cameroon is found primarily in the
production of agricultural goods, including palm oil, rubber,
coffee, banana, cocoa and tea in four regions of Cameroon.
Statistics on child labor (as with most other issues) are limited
or non-existent. The most reliable sources of information are the
International Labor Organization (ILO), Catholic Relief Services
(CRS) and its partner NGOs and trade unions. On February 3, 2010,
the government released the results of its long-awaited 2007 study
on child labor. Cameroon also has a record of child trafficking,
which is prohibited under Cameroonian law. Trafficking occurs to,
from, and within the country, with the majority occurring within
the country's borders. End summary.
2. The responses below are keyed to questions in reftel A for
taskings 1 and 2. As requested, this message repeats information
in different sub-headings.
3. There is very limited information about the use of child labor
in producing specific goods. Post has no new information to add to
our 2008 and 2009 reporting (ref B and C respectively). We confirm
the persistence of child labor in the cocoa, tea, rubber, banana
and palm oil sectors. According to trade unions, this was mostly
perceptible in large plantations in the Littoral and Southwest
Regions. In 2009 the ILO expressed concern that the GRC's lack of
significant efforts to keep children away from plantations could
result in a massive return of children to forced/hazardous labor.
2A). PREVALENCE AND SECTORAL DISTRIBUTION OF EXPLOITIVE CHILD LABOR
4. On February 3, the Government published a long-awaited study
with data collected by the National Institute of Statistics on
exploitive child labor. This filled the ten year gap during which
the government rejected as inaccurate the results of a 2000 study
conducted by an ILO-sponsored local consultant. According to the
Government's 2007 study which was conducted in all ten regions of
Cameroon, 2.4 million children ranging in age from 5-17 years work
in Cameroon. Among these, 40.6 percent are girls and 41.4 percent
are boys. An estimated 262,000 among those children are exposed to
hazardous labor. They were used primarily for domestic service,
street vending, and child prostitution and were internally
trafficked from the Adamaoua, North, Far North, and Northwest
regions to Douala and Yaounde to work as domestic servants, street
vendors, or prostitutes.
2B). LAWS AND REGULATIONS
5. The country's legal and regulatory framework should be adequate
for addressing exploitive child labor, with strong penalties
envisioned for violations. The law provides that any person who
engages in crimes associated with trafficking in persons shall be
punished by prison terms between six months and 20 years. The law
against child trafficking and child slavery carries prison terms
between 15 and 20 years. It also provides that corporate bodies
may be declared criminally liable and punished with fines between
100,000 francs CFA ($200) and 10,000,000 francs CFA ($20,000),
where the offences were committed by managers, in the discharge of
6. The Penal Code prohibits a person from imposing work
obligations on another person for which that person has not freely
applied. Violations are punishable by imprisonment of 5 to 10
years and/or a fine. The Penal Code prohibits slavery and engaging
in the trafficking of human beings and punishes these acts with
prison terms of 10 to 20 years. The Code also prohibits making or
sharing in the profits from another person's prostitution. The
penalty includes fines and prison sentences of up to 5 years, which
double if the crime involves a person less than 21 years of age.
However, the legal prohibitions do not include family chores,
which, in many instances are beyond a child's capacity. The
penalties are adequate to punish and deter violations in theory;
however, it is difficult to assess their effectiveness in practice
because there are no statistics on labor investigations or
prosecutions. There were no new laws passed on child labor in
7. While the 2005 law against child trafficking is generally
considered to be very good, its implementation has been almost
inexistent. Various actors, including magistrates, law enforcement
officers and parents, lack awareness of the problem and there is
little cooperation between the various agencies involved.
According to officials from the Ministry of Justice, judges do not
enforce the child trafficking legislation because they are
unfamiliar with it. The government has no established system to
provide magistrates with the new laws. Occasionally, the ministry
organizes seminars for representatives from the ten courts of
appeals, with the intent that participants train their colleagues
once they return to their regions. Instead, participants often
keep the information to themselves and do not share it with their
colleagues. The same lack of awareness is seen among the victims
and their families. Few know about the law and few file complaints
against traffickers. Families often don't know they are entering
into trafficking arrangements.
8. The Government's National Commission on Human Rights and
Freedoms (NCHRF) and local and international NGOs are currently
running awareness-building programs which should help address the
issue in the future. For instance, in July, Catholic Relief
Services (CRS) started implementing a U.S. State Department-funded
anti-child trafficking program which provides for the training of
trainers of law enforcement officers, judges, social workers,
shelter staff, and community leaders at the local level. The
significant increase in the number of trainers may boost the level
of awareness, as an increasing number of colleagues, communities
and parents are informed of the issue. CRS had previously worked
with the Northwest Region branch of the Justice and Peace Committee
of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon to survey the extent of
trafficking in the region and build awareness among law enforcement
officers and magistrates.
2C). INSTITUTIONS AND MECHANISMS FOR ENFORCEMENT - Hazardous Child
Labor and Forced Child Labor
9. The government continues to fight hazardous child labor through
the use of an interagency committee, the Consultative Committee to
Implement the IPEC/WACAP Project, established to improve
coordination and communication between the various agencies.
However, the effectiveness of that mechanism is limited because the
interagency committee has almost never met. During a meeting in
the past year, officials from the Ministry of Justice complained
about the poor level of inter-agency cooperation.
10. Government agencies working within this group include: the
Ministries of Labor and Social Insurance (MTSS, French acronym);
Social Affairs (MINAS, French acronym); Justice (MINJUSTICE);
External Relations (MINREX, French acronym); Women and Family
Promotion (MINPROF, French acronym); Territorial Administration and
Decentralization (MINATD, French acronym); and Tourism (MINTOUR,
French acronym). Also included in the inter-agency group is the
Secretariat of State for Defense, in charge of National Gendarmerie
(SED, French acronym); General Delegation for National Security
(DGSN, French acronym), which includes border police; Bureau
Central National-Interpol (BCN-Interpol); and the Customs Services
for both seaports and airports. The Ministry of Labor is primarily
responsible for fighting hazardous child labor.
11. Complaints about hazardous child labor may be initiated by the
victim, through a third party (parents, associations, etc.), or by
officials from the Ministry of Labor. Incidences of a child
exposed to hazardous child labor may be reported to a competent
authority, such as the local representative of the ministries of
labor or social affairs, or a law enforcement office including the
police and gendarmerie. The report can be done by the child (which
rarely happens because children do not always realize that they are
exposed to hazardous labor) or, more often, by a third party.
12. Once the situation is reported or the complaint filed, an
investigation is conducted by the labor or social affairs offices,
which can call in the police or gendarmerie if needed. For minor
offenses, the matter is usually settled at the level of the social
affairs or labor offices. For more serious offences, the file is
forwarded to the prosecutor's office for judicial investigation,
which eventually takes the case to trial and sentencing.
13. During routine or targeted inspections, Labor Inspectors write
reports on labor violations and forward their reports to the
regional officer. Upon completion of the investigation, the
solution to the issue is determined at the administrative level, or
forwarded to the prosecutor's office for judicial action.
15. There are no statistics available on the number of complaints
received by the various agencies. Officials told post that there
were complaints during the reporting period, but that it takes a
while before statistics are gathered.
16. The various anti-child labor agencies use their general
budgets to address child labor issues since there is no separate
line item specifically reserved for combating child labor. Such
funds are inadequate, seriously limiting the ability to implement
anti-child labor policies and programs. During site visits, it is
common to hear investigators complain that they have not been able
to implement field work for several weeks simply because they lack
a vehicle or fuel to travel. The government, nonetheless, made
some budgetary efforts to assist partner NGOs. In 2008, for
instance, the government provided those organizations 40 million
francs CFA ($80,000) to carry out anti-trafficking activities.
17. There are 58 general labor inspectors responsible for
investigating child labor cases in Cameroon. While they had office
facilities, transportation and the availability of fuel to allow
them to conduct field investigations remained a critical issue.
Labor inspections do not seem to be a budget priority. One labor
inspector told post that, while they are aware of child labor
cases, they simply do not have the means to intervene.
18. According to officials from the Ministry of Labor, several
inspections involving child labor took place during the year.
However, there are no overall statistics available on the number of
children impacted nor on the number of prosecutions because the
government does not collect and maintain the information
systematically. Depending on the type of solution chosen to address
a case, the average length of time it took to resolve child labor
cases varied from a few days to over one year.
Penalties, mostly fines, were applied in cases in which violations
were found. Fines ranged from 50,000 francs CFA ($100) to 200,000
francs CFA ($400).
19. Because the Cameroonian government has a poor record of
collecting and keeping statistics in all domains, it is hard to
determine whether the lack of statistics reflects a lack of
commitment to combat exploitive child labor. However, the release
of the national report on child labor provides some data and
indicates that the government is attempting to track the issue.
Catholic Relief Services, in collaboration with national NGOs,
developed data collection tools that will be implemented by
officials of the various agencies involved in anti-trafficking
actions in the Center, Southwest and Northwest regions.
20. The government has not directly offered training in combating
child labor and trafficking, but has instead relied on the
assistance of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms
and national and international NGOs to train law enforcement
officers and magistrates. In April, the Northwest Region branch of
the Committee Justice and Peace (sic) of the Episcopal Conference
of Cameroon finalized a several-month-long anti-trafficking
program, which included the training of law enforcement officers
and magistrates. In July, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) launched
a U.S. State Department-funded anti-trafficking program, which
trained 33 law enforcement officers and magistrates by the end of
21. The trainings have had a positive impact, especially at the
local level. For instance in April, during the closing session of
an anti-trafficking seminar organized by the Committee Justice and
Peace of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon in Bamenda, Northwest
Region, the Chief of Staff of the gendarmerie legion explained how
he and his collaborators used their knowledge of the law to track
down and address trafficking cases. This was echoed by a
magistrate, who encouraged interagency collaboration to better
disseminate and implement the 2005 law against child trafficking.
This may explain why more child trafficking cases were reported
during the year.
2D). INSTITUTIONAL MECHANISMS FOR EFFECTIVE ENFORCEMENT- Child
Trafficking, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC), Use
of Children in Illicit Activities
22. The inter-agency Consultative Committee is the primary
coordinating mechanism to bring together the various governmental
actors to address the issue of child trafficking, commercial sexual
exploitation, and the use of the children in illicit activities.
The inter-agency group includes: the Ministries of Labor and Social
Insurance (MTSS, French acronym); Social Affairs (MINAS, French
acronym); Justice (MINJUSTICE); External Relations (MINREX, French
acronym); Women and Family Promotion (MINPROF, French acronym);
Territorial Administration and Decentralization (MINATD, French
acronym); and Tourism (MINTOUR, French acronym). Also included
among the inter-agency group is the Secretariat of State for
Defense, in charge of National Gendarmerie (SED, French acronym);
General Delegation for National Security (DGSN, French acronym),
which includes border police; Bureau Central National-Interpol
(BCN-Interpol) office in the country; and the Customs Services for
both seaports and airports. The Ministry of Labor is primarily
responsible for fighting child trafficking.
23. Police officers from the National Police and gendarmes from
the National Gendarmerie address the worst forms of child labor
issues nationwide, although there is no case data available.
Interpol's National Branch Office and border police, which has
dozens of officers, also play a key role in addressing the worst
forms of child labor. A special "vice squad" that the General
Delegate for National Security (DGSN) created in 2005 to track down
and fight trafficking in children also uses dozens of police
24. The government also cooperates with NGOs Such as the Cameroon
Coalition of NGOs for Children's Rights (COCADE) which is a
coalition of 65 NGOs that cooperate with the Government.
25. The various anti-child trafficking agencies use their general
budgets to address child labor issues since there is no separate
line item in their budget reserved for anti-child labor action.
These funds are insufficient. During Embassy site visits,
investigators frequently complained that they had not been able to
implement field work for several weeks, simply because they did not
have a vehicle or fuel to travel.
26. The government, however, made some efforts to financially
assist partner NGOs. In 2008, for instance, the government
provided 40 million francs CFA ($80,000) to NGOs for
anti-trafficking activities. In addition, the police, the national
gendarmerie and the Ministry of Social Affairs have hotlines on
both landlines and cell phone networks that are made available to
the public for the denunciation of crimes or to request rapid
27. At year's end, 26 child labor cases, mostly in the Northwest
Region, were identified and addressed. Investigations on 18 other
cases are currently ongoing. Twenty two children were rescued as a
result. Eight arrests were made in the Northwest Region, and the
cases are still pending with judicial investigations still ongoing.
In comparison, in 2008, according to the government's human rights
report, seven arrests were made. All cases from 2009 and 2008 were
still pending in courts. The average length of time to resolve
these cases varies from several days (where no judicial action is
implemented) to one year or more, for cases requiring court action.
28. While the government did not offer training directly, it used
the assistance of the National Commission on Human Rights and
Freedoms and national and international NGOs to train law
enforcement officers and magistrates. In April, the Northwest
Region branch of the Committee for Justice and Peace of the
Episcopal Conference of Cameroon finalized a several-month
anti-trafficking program, which included the training of law
enforcement officers and magistrates. In July, Catholic Relief
Services (CRS) launched an anti-trafficking program, which included
the training of law enforcement officers and magistrates. Thirty
three officials were trained at the end of the year.
29. The training is having some impact, particularly at the local
level. In addition to the examples provided in section 2c, during
a recent trip to the Northwest, post talked to one senior
government official and one magistrate who were looking for nannies
to take care of their newborns. The officials said they were
carefully scrutinizing the ages of the candidates recommended to
avoid inadvertently supporting child trafficking. They
acknowledged that in the past they probably were involved in what
had always been seen as "normal business" in the region, without
knowing that it actually was child trafficking. This may explain
why more child trafficking cases were reported during the year.
30. There were no statistics available on the number of
investigations conducted to track the commercial sexual
exploitation of children, the number of children rescued or, the
number of arrests made.
31. The average length of time it takes to resolve cases of child
trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and the
use of children in illicit activities may vary from several days
(where no judicial action is implemented) to one year or more, for
cases requiring court action.
2E) GOVERNMENT POLICIES ON CHILD LABOR
32. The Government continues to work on a national plan of action,
entitled the "National Strategic Plan against Child Trafficking."
The recent release of the National Report on Child Labor in
Cameroon may spur the inter-agency working group to finalize and
implement the plan in a timely manner.
33. During the year, the GRC through the Ministries of Economy and
Planning, Basic Education, Women Empowerment and Family, Public
Health, and UNICEF finalized the "National Policy Framework
Document for the Full Development of the Young Child." This Policy
Framework is designed to provide a holistic solution to the plight
of children in the country. The government also implemented the
annual action plan of the first phase of a Special Protection Plan
that it elaborated in cooperation with UNICEF. The program runs
34. The government continued to build awareness among local
government and security officials in the areas where trafficking
was an issue. Anti-trafficking information or education campaigns
and anti-trafficking spots were broadcast on government radio and
television. Frontier police at airports, borders, and ports
monitored immigration and emigration patterns for evidence of child
35. The government incorporates the issue of exploitive child
labor directly into some of its programs, including activities
focused on poverty reduction, education, and social policies. The
"National Policy Framework Document for the Full Development of the
Young Child" and the "Special Protection Plan" that the government
elaborated in cooperation with UNICEF are among those programs.
Education, however, remains the key instrument of the government's
anti-child labor approach. In 2008, and in the framework of the
"Explorons le Droit Humanitaire" (EDH) program, the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Ministry of Secondary
Education organized a training seminar for 60 pedagogy inspectors
from the ten regions of Cameroon. Those inspectors became trainers
who taught teachers how to teach humanitarian law in schools.
36. Education programs are key to Cameroon's efforts against child
labor. In 2006, the government released information on education
funding levels. They indicated that the government disbursed about
7 billion CFA francs ($14 million) to construct 422 classrooms and
10 nursery schools, rehabilitate 53 primary and secondary schools
and nine nursery schools, and provide some schools with electricity
and water. Also, the government disbursed about 47 billion CFA
francs ($95 million) as a result of the HIPC (High Indebted Poor
Countries) program, to pay the salaries of 4,836 teachers, furnish
textbooks to schools in priority zones, distribute scholarships in
the form of school materials to deserving pupils, provide essential
medicines to primary schools, construct 2,830 classrooms, provide
84,900 benches, and construct 403 latrines and 52 water points
between 2001 and 2006. The government continued to include such
efforts in its 2010 budget.
37. In December, the National Assembly approved the 2010 budget.
The budget of the Ministry of Secondary Education increased from
204,507 million francs CFA ($409 million) to 208,624 million francs
CFA ($417 million), making it the leading budget item. The budget
of the Ministry of Basic Education increased from 153,102 million
francs CFA ($306 million) to 167,728 million francs CFA ($335
million). This increase signals the government's plans to hire more
teachers, build additional classrooms, nurseries and water
facilities, and sponsor and run more vocational schools for older
children that can serve as an alternative to work. In those
schools, which are named SARs (Section Artisanale Rurale), students
learn carpentry, masonry, electricity, etc.
38. The Government does not have a separate line item in its
budget to specifically fund anti-child labor efforts, except for
those designed in cooperation with agencies of the UN system or
International NGOs. The lack of funding seriously limits
officials' ability to implement the policies assigned to them.
39. The government also continued to work with local and
international NGOs to provide temporary shelter and assistance to
victims of trafficking. In July, Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
launched a project to fight child trafficking in the Northwest
Region. CRS had previously worked with the Northwest Region branch
of the Justice and Peace Committee of the Episcopal Conference of
Cameroon to survey the extent of trafficking in the region. CRS
also worked to combat corruption in local schools that led to child
prostitution. UNICEF was also actively engaged in combating girls'
prostitution throughout the year.
40. The government continued to fight trafficking through the use
of an interagency committee and a program to find and return
trafficked children. In addition, the government cooperated with
the governments of Chad, Gabon, Nigeria, Togo, and Benin to fight
trafficking through the exchange of information and preparation of
common legislation on trafficking. The GRC and the Government of
Chad held two security meetings during the year. The Interpol
office in the country also played a significant role in the
government's anti-trafficking actions. Perhaps because of better
international cooperation, post learned of only one trafficking
case at one of Cameroon's borders.
41. The government did not sign any bilateral, regional or
international agreement to combat trafficking during the reporting
2F) SOCIAL PROGRAMS TO ELIMINATE OR PREVENT CHILD LABOR
42. The government continued to work with local and international
NGOs to provide temporary shelter and assistance to victims of
trafficking. In July, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) launched a
project to fight child trafficking in the Northwest Region. CRS had
previously worked with the Northwest Region branch of the Justice
and Peace Committee of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon to
survey the extent of trafficking in the region. CRS also worked to
combat corruption in local schools that led to child prostitution.
In addition, UNICEF worked on combating girls' prostitution
throughout the year.
2G) CONTINUAL PROGRESS
43. While the Government of Cameroon's other competing priorities
and limited resources have resulted in a delegation of its
leadership role to NGOs, the release of the National Report on
Child Labor was a concrete step in the right direction. On
February 3, during the release ceremony, participants prepared a
list of 12 recommendations, which included a sustained system for
data collection, sustained education development programs, better
recuperation and protection of children, and increased specific
enquiries. Post will continue to follow up on the implementation
of these recommendations and provide assistance where possible.