THE CANKERWORM IN THE NORTH WEST REGION The slave trade has not been completely banned from our communities. It has just taken other forms: child trafficking, forced prostitutions, forced marriages and children exchange for goods, services or death to a particular family. According to the Bureau International de Travail, BIT, there are about 12.5millions people who are victims of slave trade in the world with 40 to 50% being minors. Most of these minors are taken to the cities with the pretext to help them continue education, or learn a profession, usually by family members, village members, community members or close friends. Usually the ages of these minors ranges from 12 to 17 and their services especially in domestic works last for 4 to 7 years. With girls the end result is usually pregnancy where they are sent back to their villages to suffer with the babies on their own, and more poverty and misery to their lives. The North West region of Cameroon is known as a community where girls and children can be fetched for prostitution, domestic work, force labour, nannies and the list may continue following Cameroon Tribune of 19 July 2010 p. 8-9. In most of the big cities of Cameroon domestic work is a normal phenomenon in every house hold. In Yaounde, Douala, Bafoussam, Bamenda and almost every town bringing in a girl child from the North West region is the greatest wish of every family. The Bamenda children as they are so called are believed to be hard working, obedient, offer cheap services and patience as explain the Governor of the North West Region, Abakar Ahamat (CT 2010). This cankerworm is caused mainly by the endemic poverty, lack of information and inadequate sensitization of the population, especially the parents on the stages their children pass through when in the cities. Youths in most of the communities of the North West Region are facing particular development challenges: weak institutional capacity, poor governance, political instability, and often lack of jobs. In these communities, building an effective development skills and helping youths stay back in their communities is both urgent and difficult. Everything is pressing and resources and skills are often scarce According to Chongsi Joseph Ayeah, Director of the Centre for Human Right and Peace Advocacy (CHRAPA), children as young as six years are being transported from hinterlands (high rated areas including Mbessa in Boyo Div., Nkambe in Donga Mantum Div., Bafut in Mezam Div.) to Bamenda and other towns of Cameroon. According to the Governor of the North West Region it is difficult to carry out investigations because of the parents’ complaisance, where those taking these children are usually family members, village members or family friends that will always give some presents to the parents to show they kindness. The Governor further said he has been informed of few cases; a woman taking Bororo girls to Douala for prostitution, where she reaps the dividends; the case of Delphine from Mbessa trafficking children of age between 6 and 15 to work in farms in Bantum, Nde Div. in the West Region. Among the Nso community in Yaounde some individuals were identified in 2009 as the supposed child traffickers. Do to no concrete information or the lack of social institutions to follow up we do not know if they are still active in their child trafficking business. The local authorities are not lying on their laurels. A penalty of 20years imprisonment for those guilty of child trafficking has been prescribed by the government in its 2005 anti-child trafficking law. The penal code in sections 292-293 punishes forced labour and slavery. But in Cameroon nobody has ever been convicted for these acts. Child trafficking maybe a complication to handle, because for instance in Yaounde, raising the issue among any community will be a nightmare as those at the head of every associations will be having these children working in their houses. Hence they will not take the issue seriously and this accounts for the high rate of child trafficking and forced labour. But we should keep in mind that a child has the right to life, education and to be protected. We may understand that the issue of child trafficking is like an elephant going through the needle, since the top ranking people in our communities are those employing these children or assisting in their being trafficked from the villages irrespective of their ages. We do not main that some of these guardians do not take good care of these children. There are cases of children who have been educated by their guardians and are having good jobs. There is the new and organized form of girl and child trafficking in the North West Region, according to the interim Regional Delegate of social Affairs, Nkwate Rebecca (CT 19 July 2010 p.9) which is through orphanages, NGOs and some social welfare institutions. (None of such cases has been identified in Bui Div.). The children are taken with the agreement of rehabilitation but are given out for huge sums of money for domestic works, farm work, prostitution and the rest. She further emphasize that the North West society is built on trust and people believe in one another and give their children out on this trust basis coupled with the issue of poverty. Also with the lack of industries most of the people send their children to work out of the region. She further raises the problem of ignorance on the part of the parents, calling on the parents to dialogue with their children and reshapes their dreams. As to what they are doing to help curb this phenomenon, she point out that they have embarked on sensitization at all levels to let the population be aware of the damages of sending their children especially the girls to unknown hands. Everybody should think and feel for every child we are keeping in our house as domestic helper, employed to work in our farms, a prostitute we meet everywhere. We may also take into consideration the point raised by the interim regional delegate of social welfare concerning orphanages and NGOs selling girls and children out in the pretext of rehabilitation. Our appeal will be going firstly to the parents not to give out their children to unknown hands or relatives who come to them only because they know they have children who will help them in the cities giving them false promises about the future of their children. Secondly on those people employing, keeping these children especially those that are below the working age to know that they are human beings like us and need protection, education and a right to life. And thirdly to transport agencies and the forces of law to take necessary measures in tracking down these child traffickers. We should think and feel for every child we meet anywhere.