Violation of employee rights in Cameroon
Lead NCPFrance
Supporting NCP(s)United Kingdom, United States
DescriptionSpecific instance notified by an individual, M. Teumagnie, regarding the French Development Agency's financing activities of an electricity provider in Cameroon.
Theme(s)General policies, Human rights
Date9 Sep 2014
Host country(ies)Cameroon
Industry sectorFinancial and insurance activities

Read the final statement issued by the French NCP concluding the specific instance - 25 March 2015 français

In September 2014 the French NCP received a request for review from a Cameroonian individual alleging that the French Development Agency (AFD) had breached the general provisions of the Guidelines through its financing investments in the company AES Sonel (now named ENEO), in Cameroon.

More specifically he:

  • alleged that his fundamental rights had been violated during a labour dispute with AES SONEL between 2001-2002, and 2005; and 
  • denounced the poor the human resources management of AES Sonel notably between 2001-2005, and the poor governance and corruption within this company;
  • Questioned the relevance of AES Sonel's due diligence with regard to its business relationships.

The request concerned an individual labour dispute, a general criticism of AES Sonel’s governance and the lack of due diligence of its business partners (the mother company and financial institutions).

The issues raised in the specific instance had also been the subject of a number of judicial proceedings in Cameroon notably the decision of the Supreme Court in December 2012 condemning AES Sonel for its decision in 2002 regarding the individual. Other judicial processes were still ongoing at the time of the individual's request to the French NCP. Moreover, the individual had submitted related cases to several international non-judicial grievance mechanisms, questioning AES SONEL’s business relationships who financed the company's investment plan in 2005/2006, these being: the UK NCP, who transmitted the specific instance to the US NCP*; the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman of the World Bank Group; the EIB; the French Agency for Development; and finally the French NCP.

The French NCP acknowledged receipt request in October 2014 however it found that the admissibility was tenuous for several reasons:

  1. The request was focused on a labour dispute between the individual and his Cameroonian employer, a dispute which does not fall directly under the mandate of French NCP nor of the AFD;
  2. The allegations of violations of human rights and bad governance on the part of AES Sonel were not sufficiently detailed;
  3. There was no material concerning the relations between the AFD Group and AES Sonel.

During the initial assessment process, the French NCP consulted with the US and UK NCPs, took note of the World Bank’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman’s decisions and analysed the judicial proceedings conducted in Cameroon. The NCP wished to meet with the AFD Group to discuss its due diligence toward AES Sonel to finalise its initial assessment and informed the individual of this. The meeting with AFD took place in January 2015 and the NCP subsequently finalised its initial assessment, concluding that the specific instance did not merit further consideration.

The NCP noted that none of the aspects of the case were admissible. Firstly, the labour dispute between the plaintiff and AES Sonel should be dealt with by local judicial authorities. This dispute goes beyond the scope of the French NCP (AES Sonel’s mother company was American and AFD was not in a business relation with AES Sonel at that time). Secondly, the plaintiff did not provide substantial evidence to support the accusations regarding AES Sonel's governance and human resources management.

However, the NCP decided to examined the AFD Group due diligence around two issues. Firstly, AFD Group’s due diligence toward AES Sonel in order to identify social risks and promote good governance. Secondly, AFD’s due diligence measures to ensure that its partner (AES Sonel – ENEO) respected judicial decision in order to obtain a sustainable treatment of this peculiar labour dispute. 

The NCP noted AFD had assumed its responsibilities and performed the appropriate due diligence vis-à-vis ENEO as recommended by the OECD Guidelines and thanks the Agency for its transparency and cooperation. The NCP encouraged AFD to make sure that this labour dispute would be settled in accordance with national judicial decisions. It also recommended that the AFD Group and its partners launch a social and governance audit of ENEO based upon OECD principals for responsible business conduct. With these recommendations, the NCP concluded the specific instance as it was not useful to offer its good offices to the parties.

In March 2015 the NCP concluded the specific instance and issued its final statement after consultation with the parties and the UK and US NCPs.

* In August 2011, the individual first submitted his case to the UK NCP as AES Siroco, the mother company of AES SONEL was based in the UK. The UK NCP decided to transfer the case to the US NCP as AES Siroco was a subsidiary of AES, a multinational company based in the US. The US NCP undertook an initial assessment in September 2012 and concluded that the request lacked sufficient substantiation of racially discriminatory practices. The individual contested the transfer of his request by the UK NCP to the US NCP and submitted his request again to the UK NCP who rejected it, as it considered the request to be identical to the original submission in 2011.