Open Letter to the German Ambassador, Yaoundé—Cameroon
Germany, the state whose diplomatic interest you represent in Cameroon, is one of the most liberal countries in the world with civilized democracy and the respect for human rights. Your exposure, Mr. Ambassador, from such a democratic society leaves one with the believe that, to a greater extent, there’s absolute respect for human rights in your Yaoundé embassy, which, according to the law on extraterritoriality, is a German territory in the Republic of Cameroon. Unfortunately, Your Excellency, this is not the case as the procedure to obtain a student visa, for example, in your embassy isn’t only jumbled with incongruity, but also strongly discriminates against Anglophone visa applicants.
Your Excellency, the official website of the German embassy in Cameroon (http://www.jaunde.diplo.de) which, as of now, stands as the only gateway to Germany for studies, is constructed in three different languages; to wit: German, French, and English. I have noticed with utmost disgust, Your Excellency, that the English section of the website translated from either German or French is not only biased with incomplete information for visa applicant but carries a lot of poor and misleading translations. This website, in “Appointment-System of the German Foreign Office - Jaunde” (https://service2.diplo.de/rktermin/extern/choose_realmList.do?locationCode=jaun&realmId=271) provides a 3-step procedure for visa application, one of which must be selected by applicant depending on the visa category. Sadly, Your Excellency, these 3 steps are unexplained. Instead, one finds the word “continue” against each of 3 different dashes, leaving the visa applicants to their fate. My concern here, Your Excellency, is that where do applicants “continue” to when there’s basically no information to guide their sense of direction?. On the other hand, the website (page) in French (https://service2.diplo.de/rktermin/extern/choose_realmList.do?locationCode=jaun&request_locale=fr), explains the 3 steps in details and then prompts the applicant to “continuer” (continue) to the next step.
Again, Your Excellency, I see Anglophone marginalization on the embassy’s website where the visa applicant is prompted to chose between “visa étudient” and “étudiants BAC 12.00+ ou C+/ boursiers / doctorants”. As in most cases, the English website has woefully failed to provide translation for this, and both options “technically” side-line holders of Bachelor and Master’s degrees. The first option, visa étudient, is logically reserved for applicants with poor examination grades. Meanwhile, the second option is also logically reserved for student applicants with good examination grades. Your Excellency, the second option above doesn’t seem to accommodate students with Bachelor or Master’s degree. Does it mean they fall under the first option? Or, does it mean a BAC student with 12+, for example, is more qualified for the second option than a Bachelor or Master’s degree holder with 12+? I am appalled by this logic, and would frankly say, without fear of contradiction, that the student visa procedure at your embassy isn’t only made up of bureaucratic red tape, but grossly violates human rights. As a victim, Your Excellency, I have documentary evidence to support these facts. Also, I am witness to many, most of whom are Anglophones, who are today victims of these boring procedural irregularities. Sadly, the embassy provides sanctions for any applicant who submits an incomplete file.
Be reminded, Your Excellency, that linguistic marginalization is one of the cardinal reasons why there’s “genocide” in Anglophone Cameroon today. Your embassy, through its official website grossly violates human rights, especially the right to information. It also violates Article 1(3) of the Constitution of Cameroon, which puts both English and French languages on the same magnitude. Article 1(3) provides that “the official languages of the Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French, both languages having the same status”. Your Excellency, despite the immunities and extraterritoriality rules which, like any other embassy, your embassy enjoys, it has the legal obligation under international human rights laws to respect—equally—the rights of all the people it serves. Besides, both Germany and Cameroon are signatories to human rights instruments which protect the right of equality— the right to information—freedom from discrimination, to say a few. It is because of this recognition, of course, that the embassy’s website conspicuously writes, that, “German human rights policy has one concrete goal: to protect people against violations of their rights and fundamental freedoms”. Also, there’re tips there about human rights in Cameroon.
Troubled by the above, and believing that the Ambassador is most likely unaware of these human rights violations, I am by this letter conveying this information to the Ambassador. By so doing, I urge the German embassy to respect the rights of fellow Cameroonians seeking their services, especially the Anglophones whose rights are being violated. Equally, I urge the government of Cameroon, through the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, to protect the rights of her citizens by ensuring that the embassy respects rights that are enshrined in the Constitution and other international human rights instruments.
- Cameroon National Commissions for Human Rights and Freedoms
By Jean Atabong Fomeni, Esq.
Barrister of the Supreme Court of Cameroon
MA Human Rights – Friedrich Alexander University, Germany