Accessing information in Cameroon is difficult: books are expensive; newspapers are predominantly privatised and therefore operate on a ‘who-can-pay’ basis; articles are not widely published; some people are computer illiterate; and, internet access is either intermittent or nonexistent. Despite the lack of access to information, the legal system in Cameroon is very much alive; people can be pulled into legal proceedings, or pursue their own at any time. This leaves people endeavouring to discover their legal rights in a vulnerable position, left to the whims of lawyers and exorbitant fees. People’s vulnerable positions are then only exacerbated by the widespread corruption which can operate at various levels of the legal process.
The expense of legal proceedings from start to finish is high, and therefore financially vulnerable people (those most in need of the law’s protection) are either unable to access the law to seek redress for wrongs done to them, or are unable to afford the law’s protection when it is used against them. For this reason, ALL for Cameroon is dedicated to providing free information, advice, and legal representation to those who are unable to otherwise afford it. ALL for Cameroon handles a diverse range of cases, many of which involve abuses of power by the strong against the weak.
Although the organisation was officially named ‘ALL for Cameroon’ in 2010, its story began back in 1970 with the arrest and detention of legendary human rights activist Albert Mukong. Mukong was one of the few brave enough to speak out against the single party regime of the former President Ahidjo. For this he paid the price, spending six years in some of Cameroon’s toughest prisons.
Mukong became the director of the Human Rights Defence Group, where he trained and inspired the budding human rights activist Mbinkar Caroline. For many years, Caroline worked tirelessly to defend the rights of those who previously went unheard, up until Mukong’s death in 2004.
Determined to take Mukong’s work to the next level, Caroline overcame physical and practical hurdles in order to qualify as a lawyer and provide free legal representation for poor and marginalised people throughout Cameroon. In 2007 Caroline and a group of local social activists set up a human rights resource centre, and in 2009 Caroline and a British legal academic, Roxana Willis, worked together to set up ALL for Cameroon, offering access to justice for all.