By Kesah Princely, in Buea
Persons with Disabilities, PWDs in Cameroon have resolved to go ahead with a protest announced for April, despite promises from the government to look into their worries.
Grouped under the Cameroon Movement of Angry Blind and Visually Impaired, Persons with Visual Impairment, PVIs, frustrated at the slow pace of their inclusion into the public service, first aired out their minds to the government in an open letter addressed to the country’s Prime Minister, in December 2021.
Other movements of persons with diverse disabilities would later join the campaign to call for an end to discrimination against PWDs in the socio-economic and professional domains.
Earlier on Friday, April 1, 2022, PWD leaders announced a sit-in in Yaoundé, prompting the country’s Minister of Social Affairs to convene an emergency meeting with the disgruntled leaders.
The meeting wish took place in Yaoundé, Friday, April 8, gave the Minister and her collaborators the opportunity to either stop the protest or worsen the situation, a leader told TWIF NEWS shortly after the over 5-hour meeting at the conference room of the ministry.
Although the exact date for the April protest had not been made known probably due to fear of reprisal, an insider told TWIF NEWS that, the demonstrations had been scheduled to kick-start in front of the Prime Minister’s office in Yaoundé, Monday, April 11, but later suspended when Minister Nguene Pauline Irène of Social Affairs opted to meet with leaders 72-hours to the manifestation.
On March 18, 2022, the Minister of Social Affairs mandated officials of her ministry to hold consultative talks with leaders of associations of persons with disabilities in Cameroon at the request of the Prime Minister, Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute.
The March convention which ended in a deadlock, according to some PWD leaders, was a response to the open letter which had been written to the Prime Minister in December 2021.
Not convinced with the outcome of the session, Cameroonians with disabilities under the Movement of Angry Blind and visually impaired on April 1, made known their intentions to take to the streets of Yaoundé this month to express their discontent against discrimination and marginalization from the government.
TWIF NEWS, however, understands that the outcome of last week’s meeting with the Minister herself was crucial to Persons With Disabilities who harbour the feeling of being cheated in their own country for many years now.
Whether to go ahead with the protest or not, therefore, largely depended on the resolutions of the meeting with the Minister of Social Affairs whose struggle to put an end to the protest has not yielded any fruits.
“I am not sure that my people are going to accept to call-off the protest because there is no warranty that meaningful action will be taken immediately to grant the demands of the suffering PWDs,” a leader told the Minister, insinuating that the protest is inevitable.
Why Are PWDs Determined To Protest Despite Meeting With The Minister?
Contrary to popular opinion that the protest has been called-off after meeting with the Minister of Social Affairs, preparations have rather reached zenith across different towns and cities in Cameroon.
This is because fallouts from the meeting with the Minister are far from satisfying thousands of PWDs, most of whom continue to live below the poverty line.
While the PWD leaders pressed for special recruitment to be launched for Persons With Disabilities, the Minister on her part requested for 3 more months to work out solutions to the grievances raised by the leaders.
She added that PWDs will henceforth be considered in all competitive entrance examinations and direct recruitments into the Public Service anytime the state is employing.
Shortly after Friday’s meeting, however, the general outcry among persons with disabilities from East to West, North and south of the country has been that the protest must go ahead as planned.
After contacting over fifteen leaders of Persons With Disabilities across Cameroon, TWIF NEWS can reliably report that the protest would take place before the end of April.
The leaders however did not say when exactly the April demonstrations will take place, but insisted that the people’s will must definitely prevail, and on time.
The idea of speaking up against government’s discrimination and marginalization of Persons With Disabilities remained only within associations of PWDs until December 2021 when Cameroon ratified the 2006 UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
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