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Another Phase Of Slavery In Cameroon
Category :- Feature Author :- BOMKI MODESTE KILA 
Posted on July 23, 2019, 2:33 pm

Children experience slavery in Cameroon especially during the summer holidays because they have avaricious guardians who force them to do all sorts of businesses.  
The rate at which children from the age of four to twelve are used as money-making machines in Douala and Yaoundé, in particular, is a call for concern. In the streets of Yaoundé, you will find babies who can barely count money or pronounce their names selling puff-puff, oranges, groundnuts etc. very early in the morning. Mother Jones says “They began work at 5:30 am and quit at 7:00 pm. Children six years old going home to lie on a straw pallet until time to resume work the next morning! I have seen the hair torn out of their heads by the machinery, their scalps torn off and yet not a single tear is shed, while the poodle dogs were loved and caressed and carried to the seashore.”

Moreover, the crisis in the country has aggravated slavery as the vulnerable populations are children. Parents in the war zone export their children to relatives and nonrelatives living in war free regions for survival and education. These guardians turn these children to slaves as they are forced to do house chores, sale items to bring revenue. When there is a bad market or a shortage, they are flogged, starved for not bringing money and at times asked to sleep on the veranda. A young girl told us she had been brought from the village in Bamenda to live with an uncle in Yaoundé “every morning, I go and sell pancakes in a big bucket around town, if I don’t sell everything, my mother will beat me well and I won’t eat before sleeping”. A ten-year-old boy also reported a similar issue “if I don’t sell biscuits and bonbon for 2000 every day, my mother will beat me with a cloth hanger, and I will sleep on the veranda”.

In marketplaces like Acacia, Marché Central, Mokollo, the age of boys pushing trucks and wheelbarrows is pathetic. There are children as young as five years old. They scramble on whom will take the customers bags to and from the backboard to a point where they could be knocked by a car or suffer injury. In a conversation with little Jerry, we discovered that he had involved himself in truck pushing in order to earn money for feeding and up keeping. Despite the bruises on his skin incurred during a struggle to offload a car under the rain, the seven years boy was still available to do his job “ I have to push truck so that I can use the money to buy food and eat he said.

Some kids out there hustle to assist their parents in paying bills or fees. The big question is “at what age should a child hustle? Between the parent and the child, who is to provide basic needs?” Cameroon adopted a law authorizing the president of the Republic to ratify International labor Organization, ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for admission to Employment on 14th April 1998. In line with the legislation, 14 years was considered the minimum age for admission to employment or work. Speaking to a little girl of seven years hawking roasted plantains and plums, we realized that she was doing so to assist her mother. “my mother sells roasted plantains, corn and plums, so I take some and walk round to sell that I can give the money to my mother”

Most children who hawk are exposed to rape, kidnap, and accidents because they are still too young to be out there on their own and they cannot protect themselves. Reports of kidnaps and murder are common in social media due to these. “Why had his mother gone to the trouble of bringing him into the world if the most exciting moments in his life were having been made lame by a bayonet?” Félix Palma

Another effect of this is it exposes children to the life of the street as they mix or make friends with street children and they eventually turn to liars, drug traffickers, thieves and prostitutes due to the hardship they endure.

“Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here. A lot of work still remains, but I will see the end of child labor in my lifetime” Kailash Satyarthi

Tagged Keywords:  Child slavery
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