Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights honors Cameroonian activists Ngo Mbe and Nkongho at 39th annual Human Rights Awards

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 7, 2022 – Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights today honored two Cameroonian human rights defenders – Maximilienne C. Ngo Mbe and Felix Agbor Nkongho (Balla) – and presented them with its 39th annual Human Rights Award at a ceremony in the U.S. Senate’s Kennedy Caucus Room in Washington, D.C.

“We honor two visionary leaders – Maximilienne and Felix – courageous activists who embody the civil society efforts from the Anglophone and Francophone regions of Cameroon,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “At grave personal risk, these two lawyers took up the cause of justice: organizing, advocating, and creating a more fair and peaceful future for the next generation of their countrymen and women.”

Kennedy described the ongoing crisis in Cameroon as “one of the most dire, yet under-reported, crises in the world,” noting that the humanitarian fallout and internal armed conflict in the country have “displaced more than 1 million people from their homes and thrown 2.2 million Cameroonians into desperate need for humanitarian assistance.”

Keynote speaker Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware – co-founder of the Senate Human Rights Caucus and chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics – hailed the two laureates for their courage, persistence, and effort.

“Human rights endure because of the sacrifices of unspeakably brave individuals, like yourselves, who work tirelessly at great personal risk and costs to advance them,” he said.

Coons, a leading voice in condemning violence and human rights abuses in Cameroon, saluted Ngo Mbe and Nkongho’s collaborative approach toward advancing human rights in the Central African country.

“The ways in which you have collaborated across Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon is the spirit that we here in Congress should be called to emulate,” he said.

Ngo Mbe, a human rights activist for more than 30 years, is executive director of the Central African Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC). Since 2010, she has led REDHAC in its efforts to promote civic space and protect fundamental freedoms throughout Central Africa.

Nkongho is the director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA). A leading advocate for the human rights of Cameroonians in the conflict-stricken Anglophone region, his work focuses on the promotion of democracy, good governance, access to justice, and rule of law.

Ngo Mbe, who has faced constant threats and reprisals over her work, dedicated the award to victims of human rights violations and abuses in Cameroon and Central Africa.

“It is in their courage, their strength of character, and their self-sacrifice that we draw the necessary energy to continue the fight, whatever the cost,” she said.

Nkongho described the award as “an eloquent testimony” of Robert F. Kennedy’s “ripple of hope.” He thanked Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights for “honoring the work we have been doing.”

Also among the highlights of the award ceremony – the first in-person event since before the pandemic – was the laureates’ visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, June 6, where they honored Robert F. Kennedy’s memory by laying wreaths at his burial site.

Since 1984, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award has recognized and honored those whose work embodies Robert F. Kennedy’s belief that the power of individual and collective moral courage can overcome injustice. Both laureates join a prestigious group of more than 55 human rights defenders and organizations honored throughout the award’s 38-year history.

Watch the full event below: