The Centre for Arbitration and Mediation (CAMs)
The Centre for Arbitration and Mediation (CAMs) project ended very successfully in the year 2014. It achieved its goal in the Community of Bombe Bakundu village in the Mbonge Sub division, South West Region, Cameroon which was the targeted community for that year. After the evaluation, the councilors manifested a mastery of the knowledge on Mediation skills that they have acquired from the workshops carried out by the CAMs team. Despite some challenges in really implementing all that they have learned, they were visibly changes in the dispute settlement session. Orderly speaking, respect of ground rules, fines which were not hash, no drinking of palm wine before or during session, Fair trial etc. were all evidence that they was a change I the council to attract the trust of the community members to bring their cases to them. The number of cases that they received in the months preceding the workshops increased.
After visiting some communities for sensitization in a move to select the new community for the CAMs project 2014, GCI CAMs team visit to some communities attracted many community interests in the project and appealed to the CAMs team to visit them and teach them these skills of Mediation and about good governance. The team visited Ekombe I&II, Kosala II&III who did some changes and replaced some old councillors, Mbalangi whose council members are new, Barombi Kang, Teke and Etam traditional councils, Ediki, and Kake traditional councils who are operating as the Centers for Arbitration and Mediation. The need was glaring for them to receive the knowledge of the CAMs curriculum. The staff also witnessed the way some of the cases where resolved and could take note of the areas that they portrayed their weaknesses and could quickly assessed their needs as concerns improving on their skills of managing disputes. Coupled with other factors to select a new community, the CAMs team resorted to do survey in more than one community. This is because, they realized that these communities have changed most of their old members and definitely have a new council that needs to be schooled on the Mediation skills and techniques.
As survey for the need assessment began in January 2014, the team could diagnose so many problems hindering the smooth functioning of the council. The skills were inadequate, poor relationship with the community members in terms of trust and heavy fines and many other problems hindering the implementing of the justice and respect for human rights in the community. The team is assessing the survey now and following the developments of the dispute resolutions in the communities that have received these workshop teachings to build up a code that will help and guide the traditional councilors do their work of dispute settlement better. This will be written as compared to traditional oral laws and procedures that are practiced.
We shall immensely thank our donors for the wonderful contributions they are doing to improve on this work, Human rights and humanity as a whole. That, their contributions in 2013 led to the success of this project and we are calling on you not to relent on your efforts as we look forward to a more challenging 2014. We are grateful for your support.
Evaluation phase at Bombe Bakundu and new community for the new year
The Community Arbitration and Mediation project arrived to its test bench. The evaluation phase started with testing directly the knowledge acquired by the councilors during the workshop series. The test was comprehensive of all the topic treated, with a special focus on the rules and strategies for achieving a win-win mediation. The results were a very good starting point for our evaluation considering that, in average,the score was13 out of 15 correct answers. Once the test was successfully passed, it is time for celebrating all the steps ahead that have been done. Therefore, GCI’s staff went to Bombe Bakundu Community for the graduation ceremony, handing out diplomas for the successful participation to the human rights course. This ceremony gave us the chance to remind that all the topic treated during the workshops are interconnected and essential for a peaceful development of the society and strengthen the idea that there is still a lot of work ahead. The participation of all the members of the community, irrespective of their gender, is one of the fundamental steps for building up a society where human rights are respected. But participation is possible only if the persons in charge of public offices are good leaders, able to manage the res publica transparently and to encourage the participation of their citizens without discriminating among tribes. Also at this level, a good governance is better achieved if there is a check and balance of the powers and this is possible only if councilors can be held accountable of their decisions and actions. And finally, we need good leaders that work in the present, keeping an eye on the future. Adopting the win-win mediation strategies leads to building up lasting and friendly relationships. But there still a long way to go and the Councilors play a pivotal role for bringing a change in their community, that constantly looks up to them. The Traditional Council won’t be let alone in these upcoming challenges: GCI will keep working with the Traditional Council. In fact, the evaluation phase is still ongoing and it entails periodic visits for assisting to the Council’s sessions, observing how new principles and techniques are put into practice and supporting with refresher workshops.
With the approach of the new year, it is time to get started and look for a new community suitable to work with. GCI’ staff in the last weeks visited several communities situated in the Meme Division, in the surrounding of Kumba. The criterion adopted for this choice can be schematized in two general requirements. Firstly, the enthusiasm demonstrated by the Traditional Council to collaborate with GCI, because a change is possible only if all the parties are ready to put effort in it. Secondly, what impact can the workshop series have in the improvement of the Traditional Council’s work. So, GCI, during its visits, observed the Traditional Council at work and subsequently it presented its curriculum following the format of the workshop, in order to explain our work method.The next week the decision about the new community will be taken, so, at the beginning of January, after a formal introduction of GCI, the needs assessment for pointing out the major problematic will initiate.
GCI’s staff wants always to remind all its donors that any suggestion you have for our work is very important and we will be glad to answer to any further doubts you have on our work. We are very thankful for your support!
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,