From Fri Feb 14 10:00:35 2003
Subject: ICFTU online: oICFTU denounces harassment and detention of trade unionists in Cameroon
Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2003 15:30:32 +0100
From: ICFTU Press <>
To: ICFTU Online <>

ICFTU denounces harassment and detention of trade unionists in Cameroon

ICFTU online..., 020/130203, 14 February 2003

Brussels, 14 February 2003 (ICFTU Online): The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions today expressed alarm at the unprecedented wave of repression against Cameroon trade unionists in recent days, which culminated yesterday, 12 February, in the arrest for the second time of Benoît Essiga, President of the ICFTU-affiliated Confederation syndicale des travailleurs du Cameroun (CSTC).

After a preliminary interrogation at the Bourse du Travail itself (the union headquarters) on 29 January, followed by some brutal intimidation and threats at a military camp within the Presidential compound, Mr. Essiga was released. Some days later no fewer than 13 railway union members were arrested without a warrant. Since 6 February these activists from the Railwayworkers Union in the Département of Mfoundi have been imprisoned in the External Research Directorate building at Kondengui, having been escorted there from their homes by armed police.

It was while attempting to pass on medicine to the wife of one of the 13 prisoners, who is seriously ill, that Benoît Essiga (President of both the CSTC and the Mfoundi-based rail union) was arrested yesterday, Wednesday 12th. He was transported to the Brigade Mixte Mobile in Kondengui (Yaoundé), where he remains incarcerated. When his colleagues arrived there, they were not allowed to meet with him but were asked to bring the medicines Mr. Essiga needed, since he is seriously ill.

In two successive letters to the Mr. Paul Biya, President of Cameroun, the ICFTU forcefully condemned these repeated violations of trade union rights, calling on him to release the detained trade unionists forthwith, end the harassment against them and ensure their personal safety.

In its first letter, the ICFTU also protested against a provincial governor who had banned a trade union meeting planned for 24 January 2003, even though the local authorities had already authorised it.

According to the ICFTU sources in Cameroun, these multiple arrests had been ordered by the governor of the Central Province, Mr. Edjake Mbonde Thomas, in agreement with the Director of the Camrail railway company, Mr. Claes.

According to information received by the ICFTU, the authorities claimed that the reason behind these arrests was the large number of derailments that had taken place on the railway lines in the province. It would appear, however, that the number of derailments on those lines is no greater than that recorded in previous months, despite warnings from the union about the disastrous state of the infrastructure, according to the ICFTU.

The ICFTU wrote again to President Biya, stating that it could not tolerate such harassment against trade unionists who were merely trying to improve the economic and social conditions of workers who had elected them, in line with ILO Conventions 87 and 98, which Cameroun has ratified.

As we informed President Biya, we shall be monitoring the situation closely. Swift action and concrete results are expected from the Cameroon government, concluded Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the ICFTU.

The ICFTU has also asked the Director of the ILO, Juan Somavia, to intervene personally to obtain the release of the detained trade unionists.

The ICFTU represents 158 million workers in 231 affiliated organisations in 150 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions:

For more information, please contact the ICFTU Press Department on +32 2 224 0232 or +32 475 67 08 33