No rights abuses in Cameroon, says president By AFP | Thursday, January 31  2013 at  08:46

Cameroon's long-serving President Paul Biya. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Cameroonian President Paul Biya said Wednesday after a meeting in Paris with his French counterpart Francois Hollande that human rights violations were not a problem in his country.

"We don't have a human rights problem....Cameroonians are among the freest Africans," he said, rejecting accusations of widespread rights violations by several local and international watchdogs.

Amnesty International earlier this month painted a bleak picture of Cameroon, alleging a string of extrajudicial killings and accusing Biya's regime of muzzling opponents and journalists.

Mr Biya, 79, who has led the west African nation since 1982 and removed the cap on presidential mandates from the constitution, has also come under criticism over the plight of homosexuals.

A jailed gay Cameroonian asked for France's assistance in a letter published by gay rights organisation All Out to coincide with the leaders's visit.

"Mr Hollande, here in Cameroon I'm considered a criminal because I'm gay. I need your help to convince Mr Biya to reverse my three-year jail sentence," Roger Jean-Claude Mbede said.

Homosexuality is punishable by up to five years under Cameroonian law and Mbede was sentenced to three on "suspicion of homosexuality".

Speaking after his meeting at the Elysee Palace, President Biya said "mindsets can evolve in one way or another... but for now it's a crime."

Demands

Earlier, a Cameroon diaspora lobby group wrote to the French President François Hollande asking him to urge his long-serving Cameroonian counterpart Paul Biya to relinquish power.

Collectif des Organisations Démocratiques et Patriotiques de la Diaspora Camerounaise (CODE) put its demand in an open letter addressed to the French leader on Tuesday.

CODE was planning to stage a protest outside the gates of the Elysee Palace in Paris later today when the two leaders were scheduled to meet.

In their letter dated January 29, the group accused Mr Biya's government of bad governance, a flawed electoral system that locks out the opposition and rampant corruption.

According to the lobby, a majority of Cameroonians including members of the ruling party want Biya, who turns 80 on February 13 and has been in power since 1982, out of power.