Jungle justice events are still happening in Cameroon. Only few days ago, in Kumba, the city where our NGO is located, a man was killed during a robbery by the thief. That morning GCI’s staff was heading to Bombe Bakundu community, for our weekly visit. In the van, all the passengers were shouting that the thief should have been killed as he killed the other man. If this mentality is so rooted in the cities, what can happen in rural villages, where nobody has never even heard about human rights and there isn’t any sort of public authority but the Traditional Council? A step out of this mentality is the goal that our NGO tries to achieve discussing and training the Traditional Council. Only when the Traditional Council will solve disputes in an impartial and effective way, it will become a serious and attractive alternative to jungle justice.
The Community Arbitration and Mediation (CAM) project has been advancing. The workshop series is arrived to an end. From the topic of participation, GCI’s staff moved to discuss in more detail the importance women’s empowerment, considering that Cameroonian women are often marginalized and devoted only to their domestic chores. In the Traditional Council only 4 members out of 25 are women and only 2 participate actively to Traditional Council’s sessions. The understanding that from a major involvement of women, a benefit will derive for the whole community, is the first step for encouraging a durable change. If men are aware of these advantages, they will be more willing to be supportive of their wives and daughters. And change is enduring only if it’s done by the all community. The next topic treated was “human rights”. Only being aware of what human rights are, is possible not to trample on someone else’s right and moving to a peaceful development of the society. This awareness is fundamental especially for persons that hold public offices, who are the principal actors for the protection and implementation of human rights. Finally, we moved to the last subject: mediation. Mediation is the principal task of the Traditional Council. Therefore, GCI’s staff wanted to emphasize the importance of a good mediation and its positive consequences on the development of the community, dedicating two sessions to this topic. Starting with a theoretical overview on the basic rules, GCI’s staff explained in depth the essential mediation technique and how these rules could impact on the work of the Traditional Council as well as on the relationships within the members of the community. But for these concepts not to remain abstract rules, theory must be complemented with practice. Therefore, GCI’s staff dedicated an entire session to mock cases, where the Traditional Council had to solve some cases, like debts and boundary ones, guided by GCI’s staff, putting into practice what they had learnt.
We concluded the workshop phase, but, even if the most intense part of our curriculum series is ended, the relationship between GCI and Bombe Bakundu Traditional Council will continue, for carrying the evaluation phase out. The first step of this new stage consisted in a test covering the topics treated during the workshops taken by all the participants. Then, GCI’s staff keeps maintaining a relationship with the Traditional Council, assisting to its session for monitoring the impact of the workshops during its daily activities. GCI’s staff assisted to one of the session and hearing terms like brainstorming and the relevance of the interest over the position could be already a first indicator that something has been changing in the Traditional Council of Bombe Bakundu.
We value very much the participation of our donors, therefore, we welcome any suggestion on possible topics for the workshops, on the strategies for the evaluation as well as any other possible concern.
INCREASING ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN RURAL CAMEROON
APRIL – JUNE 2013
Cameroon suffers from a court system that is overwhelmed with cases. Many do not involve criminal conduct but are rather disputes between friends, neighbors, or family. The parties involved not only lose precious time, but also money due to the cost of the trial itself. Mob justice has been rampant in the community as majority of the community people have taken the laws into their hands to use mob justice as a means to solve problems. The solution of this problem seemed to be the equipping of these centers in rural areas, staffed with people who are trained in mediation. As most areas have traditional councils that are hearing disputes and adjudicate on them, the best course of action suggested itself; to train the councils in mediation and strengthening a system that was already in place. GCI therefore tailored a workshop that both elucidates the issue of corruption and explains the technical and practical appliance of mediation procedures to provide justice to the local rural communities.
Global Conscience Initiative (GCI) came out with a definite timeline for 2013 that x-rays the execution of the access to justice project in one of the communities Bombe Bakundu in the South West Region, Cameroon. The April month continued with the need assessment survey that began in the previous months as phase two of the project. Here the project team watched the council and asked the community members to find out if there are any special areas that need to be focused on. The team spread over several visits to observe and interview some of the traditional councilors, the chief and a wide cross section of the community in order to gauge the areas of concern that need to be focused on, or issues raised by the community. This took three months. After the survey, the team was able to discover some specific areas of needs after analyzing the data collected. We had the month of May 2013, to prepare for the series of workshops which eventually started on the 29th of May 2013 with the first workshop. So far, the team has carried out four workshops on
The workshops have been very interesting as the number of participants have been increasing each day of the workshops held every Wednesday which constitute the community councilors and prominent leaders of social groups in the community. The number of participants in the workshops has been 25 in number which has the traditional councilors with the highest number. Many of the participants have appreciated the content of the workshops in that; it has increased their awareness and responsibilities as leaders in their community. They could measure the importance of the work they are doing or suppose to do especially in settling disputes where there can increase trust and provide quality leadership services to the entire community. With the numerous questions coming from the participants whose majority is not literate; they saw the workshops as medium to acquaint themselves with related information in the area of their activities. They are enthusiastic about the forthcoming workshops and the team is doing all to encourage them to attend all the remaining workshops with promises of award of prices at the end of the workshops. Though one of the major challenges have been the late start of the workshop due to the fact that most of the participants do not respect the starting time of the meetings and also postponement of scheduled meetings due to death or special events in the community.
We highly appreciate the contributions of our donors to this project in that their contributions have been very helpful to the progress of this project so far and will definitely increase access to justice in Bombe Bakundu community. We shall seize this opportunity to ask our donors also to make suggestions on what do they think of the choice of the topics of our workshops.
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South West Region,