As Cameroonian youths celebrate Youth Day on 11 February 2012, it is of utmost importance to highlight that one of their own, Vanessa Tchatchou - a teen mom whose baby was reportedly stolen after birth in a hospital in the nation's capital - is yet to know the whereabouts of her baby and continues to struggle for justice. The authorities must fully investigate the disappearance and bring anyone responsible to book.
According to news reports, 17-year-old Vanessa Tchatchou successfully gave birth to a baby girl on 20 August 2011 at the Gynaeco-Obsteric and Paediatric Hospital in Ngoussou, Yaounde. The baby disappeared from an incubator in the hospital after birth and her whereabouts remain unknown almost 6 months after she disappeared. [Source].
Vanessa Tchatchou launched a sit-in in the hospital since the disappearance and is demanding answers.
"L'affaire Vanessa" - as the case is widely referred to in Cameroonian circles - has grabbed headlines in Cameroon and sparked public outrage and protests in the nation's capital - with many people calling for an investigation into the matter and the return of the baby.
Political opposition leaders have condemned the "indifference" of the authorities to the plight of the teen mom.
From a human rights standard point, "l'affaire Vanessa" is covered by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to which Cameroon is a party. The rights of both victims in the case - Vanessa and her missing baby - are laid down in the convention.
Article 9 of the CRC, for instance, requires States Parties to ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will.
Article 16(1 ) states that no child shall be subjected to unlawful interference with her family.
Article 16(2) stipulates the child's right to protection of law against such interference.
Although there is no evidence to suggest that the state is directly responsible for the disappearance of the newborn, the state has a legal obligation to protect the victims and uphold their rights.
Any action taken by the state in this case should be in the "best interest" of Vanessa and the missing baby. It is absolutely in the best interest of the missing child to be reunited with her mother.
The authorities must undertake a full and impartial investigation into the disappearance and bring those responsible to justice. The state must ensure that Vanessa has full access to judicial, health and social welfare services during this trying period.
The right to free expression and association of protesters standing in solidarity with Vanessa Tchatchou must also be guaranteed. It is worth mentioning that a number of supporters were reportedly arrested on 9 February 2012. [Source].
In his message to the youths on 11 February 2009, President Paul Biya of Cameroon said that 11 February "has been chosen by government for reflection and sustained efforts to nurture responsibly, and meet the needs of the country's youths." [Source]. Cameroonian youths need justice and protection of the law.
*Photo: Yahoo Groups.