Implementing the basic international law principles relating to indigenous peoples’ rights: a case study of Cameroon
Indigenous peoples constitute at least 5000 distinct peoples with a population of more than 370 million, living in 70 different countries. These peoples are typically subjected to a number of human rights violations (being excluded from decision-making processes and forced to assimilate into dominant groups, among others). The plight of these peoples has recently received worldwide attention. In 1989, the international community adopted the Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (Convention 169) to protect the rights of these peoples. In 2007 the UN adopted a Declaration on Indigenous peoples’ Rights. Attention is now focused on implementing indigenous peoples’ rights at the domestic level. Cameroon is not yet a party to Convention No.169 and so cannot be bound under the Convention to protect the rights of its indigenous peoples. Cameroon often denies any duty in this regard. However, Cameroon is party to core human rights instruments like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and Freedom. Cameroon also voted in favour of the adoption of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights. These international human rights instruments, with the exclusion of the Declaration, are not specifically dedicated to indigenous peoples’ rights. Given this situation, two questions arise: is Cameroon bound by any international legal obligation to protect the rights of its indigenous peoples; and if so, is Cameroon implementing the basic international law principles relating to indigenous peoples’ rights. Using an in-depth study and analysis of various international human rights treaties to which Cameroon is a party, this research will explore the grounds on which Cameroon, though not a party to Convention 169, can be held bound to protect the rights of its indigenous peoples (chapter 2). This research present the situation of the indigenous peoples in Cameroon and provide a brief overview of the legislative and policy measures taken by the government which in some way provide entry points for the protection of the rights of the indigenous people in Cameroon (chapter 3). A critical analysis of these measures highlights some areas of success but also work that remains to be done to ensure that the rights of Cameroon’s indigenous peoples are fully protected (chapter 4). The study concludes with a number of recommendations for further study and legal reform (chapter 5).