Irate visually impaired persons staged a series of peaceful protests in Yaounde, Cameroon, on Monday, 27th June 2022 in a bid to draw government’s attention on their deplorable living conditions.
The group comprising of 27 visually impaired persons known in French as: “Collectif des aveugles et malvoyants indignés du Cameroun (CAMIC)”, launched a series of peaceful protests in the capital after their failed move to meet Prime Minister, Head of Government, Joseph Dion Ngute, on Monday, June 27, 2022.
They were dispersed in front of the Prime Minister’s services by police men of the number 1 central station and later on locked in a corridor.
Patrick Bevolo, spokesperson and one of the victims told us: “We found ourselves at the Hilton hotel roundabout around 6am. We were equipped with placards for our sit-in. The police arrived in a pick-up vehicle and started assaulting us. They took us with force to the number 1 central police station. Hours later we were called into the manager’s office. So far, we had a series of meetings with officials of the Ministry of social affairs about our demands. The only thing that we obtained from the ministry of social affairs was on age waiver. We understood that we had to go to the prime minister’s office in abid to express our dissatisfaction. We are marginalized! We wished through our peace protest to pass on a strong message not only to the national community but also to the international community…”
The protesters who till Thursday 30th of June stormed the streets were assaulted by forces of order and threatened to be locked up.
In an interview granted to us, one of the protesters said: “We were packed in a mini bus like prisoners and thrown outskirts of Yaounde. Some of us are currently speaking from the locality of Soa where we were abandoned. The crime committed is just to ask for a fair dialogue with the Prime Minister. We want to work; we need employments…”
Despite the meeting held on the spot between the police, the Representative of the Mfoundi Senior Divisional officer and officials of the ministry of social affairs, nothing good filtered out. The group of frustrated persons living with visual impairment said the problem is no more at the level of the minister of social affairs who did her best so far, but it is an issue which can only be solved by the Prime Minister who is the head of government.
The group underscored the fact that, thousands of young visually impaired persons who are certificate holders remain unemployed despite several laws, international conventions and other legal instruments protecting them.
The legal provisions that protect them include Law No 2010/002 of April 13, 2010 on the protection and promotion of persons with disabilities adopted in 2018.
Moreover, as indicated by some of those interviewed at the central post office in Yaounde, they are not happy because due to neglect, several of them got involved in unhealthy practices to survive and others like girls have been sexually abused.
“We want to see our living conditions ameliorated in spite the fact that our rights are violated. Are you happy to see in the streets of Yaounde, Douala and elsewhere, human beings like you begging as paupers, beating drums and singing in order to have a token to eat or survive, whereas the law is supposed to protect them. Our grievances are attached on the law of April 13, 2010 enacted in 2018 by our government.” Said Aymard Lindjeck, member of the movement dubbed CAMIC.
He added: “Another demand we are putting at the forefront as we protest for our rights is simply to reduce taxes of self-entrepreneurial people living with disabilities. Many people living with disabilities, PLWD suffer from an increase in taxes imposed on their petty businesses where as even when grants contest are opened to small and medium enterprises in Cameroon, they are exempted. Furthermore, we call for the integration of PLWD in renown higher institutes of learning thus in 2021 we had three visually impaired persons whose entrance were blocked in the national competitive entrance into the public service.”
By dispersing the group of angry visually impaired persons with brutality, forces of order in Cameroon have violated article 21 of the International Human Rights framework on the right of peace assembly, stating that: “the right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others…”
Cameroon as a State party to the 1981 African Charter on Human and People’s Rights provides in Article 11 that: “Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided for by law in particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, health, ethics and rights and freedoms of others.”
Yet, as outlined in the International convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities, in its 10th Article, state parties reaffirm that: “Every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.”
At the ministry of social affairs, the director of the department of social protection of persons with disabilities and elderly persons, Mrs. Ambe Angelica said they have organized series of meetings with various groups of persons living with disabilities. She said in the last meeting held in April 2022, the Minister and the various groups came into a compromise concerning the introduction of recruitment files in different ministerial departments.
The Director of social protection of persons with disabilities and elderly persons equally pointed out that, the files as promised were deposited on the 19th of May and apart the fact that the Minister herself follows the situation, she instructed some of her collaborators to make a keen monitoring on this case.
Officials of the ministry of social affairs however, made mention of the different actions government has undertaken for PLWD amongst who are the blind and visually impaired persons. They cited the recruitment of one hundred and ten (110) teachers with disabilities holders of CAPIEMP or teacher’s grade one certificate for the years 2010 and 2011 within the framework of the general education teachers’ contract in the ministry of basic education ; the granting of vocational training and learning scholarships to vulnerable persons with disabilities by the ministry of employment and vocational training under the training year 2011/2012 and the putting on contract of about 452 persons with disabilities within the framework of the special recruitment of 25,000 graduates into the public service, launched in March 2011 by the President of the Republic just to name these few.
The group of protesters who still plan to stage at the prime minister’s office in the days ahead are committed to follow their actions until fruitful results.
In the meantime, the association Wellbeing Africa through its President and spokesperson, Barrister Christophe Tchudjo issued a release in which she thanked the government for numerous efforts undertaken so far in order to ratify different international conventions and other legal instruments to favour PLWD. WellBeing Africa equally calls on government to give an open ear to this group of persons who have been maltreated and bullied publicly.
Elise Kenimbeni, JADE