President of CGT-Liberté Cameroon faces trial

ICFTU, 17 October [sic] 2003, 20:55

To all Members of the Human and Trade Union Rights Committee
To all Global Union Federations
To all interested organisations
In the reply, please quote: HTUR 9/2003
From: Guy Ryder, General Secretary
Number of pages: 2
Date: 27 October 2003

Dear Colleagues:

President of CGT-Liberté faces trial

As you will recall we wrote to you on 25 April this year, (HTUR 9/2003) asking you to send letters to the President of the Republic of Cameroon, Paul Biya, to protest at the arrest of Benoît Essiga, the President of the ICFTU's affiliate CGT-liberté, formerly the CSTC, and 14 of his colleagues on the evening of 23 April, as well as the earlier arrest of his wife. These arrests were made following a dispute between the Camrail railway company and the Mfoundi-based Rail Transport Union, of which Brother Essiga is also president.

Charges against 13 of those arrested have been dropped, but Brother Essiga still faces trial. The ICFTU has been informed that his trial date has been fixed for 31 October. We have urged President Biya to intervene to ensure that the blatantly false accusations against him are dropped. We hope that if as many ICFTU affiliates as possible send similar messages before the trial date, this will help persuade the government to review its own position on this case. We are concerned for Brother Essiga's welfare and of course at the constant attempts to undermine the trade union at Camrail. A model letter is attached.

Messages should be sent as soon as possible to the following address: His Excellency, Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon, Yaoundé, Cameroon; Fax number: ++ 237-2220870.

Please send a copy of your letter to e-mail: or fax: +322 224 02 97and a further copy to the Cameroon embassy in your respective countries.

Yours sincerely,

General Secretary.


Dear President Biya,

Mr. Benoît Essiga

The [name of your organisation] has learnt that Mr. Benoît Essiga, President of the Rail Transport Union and of the national trade union centre CGT-Liberté is due to go on trial on October 31.

We understand that charges of sabotage were brought against Mr. Essiga, and 13 of his colleagues, following a dispute between the Rail Transport Union and Camrail. They were apparently based on the fact that parts of the railway line were found to be damaged, even though there was no proof linking Mr. Essiga and his colleagues to the supposed sabotage. They were simply “presumed” guilty. We are informed that a court in Ngounou later ruled that the charges against 13 of the arrested trade unionists be dropped.

Mr. Essiga however still faces charges, despite the flimsy grounds upon which these were brought. His wife, Mrs. Thérèse Mengue, a former Camrail employee, also faced trumped up charges on a completely different matter.

It is clear to us that the constant harassment that Mr. Essiga and his wife have faced, taken together with previous incidents, are all part of an attempt to destabilise the Rail Transport Union and the national trade union centre CGT-Liberté. We would therefore urge you to intervene with the competent authorities to ensure that the unfounded accusations against Mr. Essiga and Mrs. Mengue be dropped immediately, before Mr. Essiga has to face trial on October 31.

We would remind you that the imprisonment and physical and psychological harassment of trade unionists merely because of their trade union activities constitutes a flagrant violation of international trade union rights legislation and, more specifically, a breach of ILO Convention 87 and 98, ratified by your country.

We look forward to a positive and speedy response.