Case Study: Human Rights Training in Cameroon

From 2010-2014, Kosmos Energy operated in in Cameroon, where public security forces were charged with the responsibility of ensuring the security of extractive operations. Kosmos Energy’s oil project was the first onshore oil project in Cameroon. The human rights challenges commonly present at onshore extractive operations were therefore also new to most of the actors involved. Firstly, Kosmos Energy could not rely on public security forces to be either trained in or familiar with the human rights standards central to the company’s commitment to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Secondly, the military and company presence created an unfamiliar, unprecedented and possibly insecure situation for the nearby local communities.

To avoid any local conflict or human rights violations, Kosmos Energy needed to reach all the different stakeholders and thus enable them to act in concert to ensure their compliance with applicable human rights standards. The challenge the company faced was to identify a shared discourse which was consistent with universal human rights standards while resonating with the reality of the local context.

In order to identify and design a suitable human rights training, Kosmos partnered with the Fund for Peace, a U.S.-based organisation that promotes sustainable security. The aim of this partnership was to assist and build the training capacity of the special unit of Cameroon’s military in charge of extractive operations security, known as the Battalion d’Intervention Rapide (BIR).

At the beginning of this joint process, the Fund for Peace interviewed members of the Battalion d’Intervention Rapide from different ranks, as well as representatives of local communities affected by the extractive operations. A meeting was convened with the village chief, the leadership council and prominent members of the community. The Fund for Peace briefed the community members on the intent of the programme and sought feedback on concerns related to the deployment. This feedback was factored into the design of the programme. Based on this scoping study, a training programme was developed around five key elements.

Firstly, the training focused on practical situations the soldiers of the Battalion d’Intervention Rapide have commonly encountered in the past. The programme was based on everyday situations such as local protests and roadblocks rather than general principles of human rights.  

Secondly, the joint process identified common values such as honour, respect and ensuring human security, which were used in the training to ‘translate’ the aim of human rights standards into the local discourse.  

Thirdly, the training material was adapted to the local context. For instance, the programme approached concepts such as ‘human security’ from the perspective of the family, since the initial scoping study identified the deep importance of family to Cameroonians.  

Fourthly, the joint process provided a platform for Battalion d’Intervention Rapide participants to present and discuss their own operational experience. Soldiers and commanders could review their peers’ challenges and share personal good practices.  

Lastly, the joint process found a suitable medium through which all affected actors could best be reached. The medium was designed to augment and support the actual training course and provide a take-away resource for participants. It was decided that the best approach would be a series of comic books, which proved easy to disseminate. The comic series, entitled ‘Captain Cameroun’, reflected local and challenging situations highlighting both inappropriate and appropriate security responses focusing on the previously identified shared values: family, honour, respect and ensuring human security.  

Source: Human Rights Training for Security Forces in the Extractive Industry (Fund for Peace 2013); Cameroon: Human Rights Training Case Study (Fund for Peace and Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance 2015)