Monday, January 27, 2014

Cameroon President Alerted about Land Surrender in Fako & Its Reckless and Illegal Sale.

In a memo to the Senior Divisional Officer for Fako Division,titled “LAND SURRENDER BY CDC TO THE INDIGENES OF FAKO: THE OBLIGATION AND CHALLENGES OF PRESERVING FAKO ANCESTRAL LANDS FOR FAKO INDIGENES AND POSTERITY” and copied among other authorities, the President of the Republic of Cameroon Paul Biya,  the petitioner  who is  a Fako elite and International Legal Consultant,Mbella Ikome Ngongi, talks about  minority and land rights and makes proposals for the immediate redress of the dismal situation.

Below is a copy of  memo,which The RECORDER procured :

To:      Mr. Zang III,
The Senior Divisional Officer for Fako
            Limbe, Fako Division
South West Region

From: Mbella Ikomi Ngongi, Esq.
            P.O. Box 27, Buea, Fako Division
South West Region, Cameroon

Date  :   Thursday, June 6, 2013

Subject:   Land Surrender by CDC to the indigenes of Fako: The Obligation and Challenges of Preserving Fako Ancestral Lands for Fako Indigenes and Posterity
This morning, we heard over the news on CRTV Radio, Buea, your announcement inviting many chiefs of Fako Division to a meeting at the Limbe Council Hall at 10 AM tomorrow, Friday June 07, 2013, to discuss issues relating to lands surrender in Fako Division, by the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), your administrative jurisdiction.  Having heard some of your recent public pronouncements and admonitions regarding the reckless and illegal sale of Fako lands by some Fako chiefs, we think this meeting is very appropriate and timely; maybe long overdue, but welcome and much appreciated.
                                       The Problem and Context
   Today the peoples of Fako are faced with the challenges of the overwhelming influx of economic migrants, who pose a considerable threat to their very survival as minorities in their own ancestral lands.  Coupled with this is the reckless and illegal sale by FAKO chiefs of indigenous lands surrendered by CDC.  The obvious absence of any strategy by the people of Fako who are faced with this very serious and increasingly intractable problem, is evidenced by the way they are increasingly marginalized in the management of the affairs of the Division - politically, economically, socially, and, to a certain extent, even culturally. 
   The Government of Cameroon has an obligation to protect the indigenes of FAKO who are the innocent victims of this reckless and illegal disposition of their ancestral lands by some irresponsible chiefs.  This task, at the Divisional level, lies on your shoulders as the Senior Divisional Officer of Fako.  Your recent public statements decrying the practices of the illegal sale of Fako land by some Fako chiefs bolsters our efforts to redress this problem with the urgency it demands. Your concerns are legitimate and we applaud you for the efforts you manifest in this regard to the benefit of the many hapless indigenes of Fako Division. 
   International Law, to which Cameroon law is subject, addresses the critical issue of protecting national and ethnic minorities all over the world. 
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, adopted by the General Assembly Resolution 47/135 of 18 December 1992, takes cognizance of this responsibility that States have towards their minority populations and exhorts Governments to take all appropriate measures, under the law, to guarantee their protection.  The situation in Fako today, where the reckless and illegal disposal of indigenous lands by some Fako chiefs, with the complicity of some government officials, occurs on a daily basis, calls for URGENT and DECISIVE actions, on the part of Government, the Judiciary and Civil Society – actions that would put an immediate stop to this continuing and insensitive abuse and criminality.
The loss of Fako ancestral lands through this reckless and illegal sales and acquisition, or even theft, by some chiefs and government officials, seriously threatens and undermines the identity and very existence of the people of Fako.

Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration  states, inter alia:
1. States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.
2. States shall adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to achieve those ends.
Article 2 states, inter alia:
2. Persons belonging to minorities have the right to participate effectively in cultural, religious, social, economic and public life.
With the clear intention of ensuring that no recriminations are wrought on minorities who seek to assert their rights to protection under the law, the Declaration further states:
Articles 3:
No disadvantage shall result for any person belonging to a minority as the consequence of the exercise or non-exercise of the rights set forth in the present Declaration.
Article 4:
        1.      States shall take measures, where required, to ensure that persons belonging to minorities may exercise fully and effectively all their human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination and in full equality before the law.
The principles and rights set forth in this United Nations Declaration on the Protection of Minorities are the offshoot, in spirit and letter, of those embodied in The United Nations Charter (1945), The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976), all of which the State of Cameroon is signatory to.  By virtue of these international instruments to which Cameroon is signatory to, the Government of Cameroon has an obligation - a duty - to ensure that the peoples of Fako are not robbed of their cultural, social and economic heritages, which underlie their fundamental human rights and freedoms.
    When a people are deprived of their very fundamental source of livelihood, nay, existence, - their land - they cannot, under any circumstance, effectively participate in the economic, social, cultural, religious or public life in their country. The indigenous peoples of Fako face the real and present danger of suffering this fate if the current surrender of ancestral lands by the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) continues in the haphazard, uncontrolled, maybe opaque, manner, style, and speed in which it has been done in the past and until today. 
    In furtherance of our fervent desire to ensure the protection, enhancement and sustainability of the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the peoples of Fako, we are, hereby, proposing a change in the current and past practices of land surrender by Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) to Fako indigenes.
     This memorandum is the first of a series we will submit for your appraisal and action. We, as a Think Tank Group, propose strategies and practical steps for the people of Fako, and even other parts of the country, faced with similar challenges of economic migration, especially in cases where the indigenes, or their chiefs, have cultivated the negative practice of recklessly and illegally selling their ancestral lands to the detriment of their own indigenes and posterity. This practice is unsustainable and untenable because it deprives the people of Fako from their most important capital for development – land-  which, in turn, is already, now, producing a vicious cycle of poverty, disenchantment, despondency and dependency in many of our village and urban communities, with the most vulnerable being our youths, the future of this Division, this country.  It negates the legitimate aspirations of any peoples to preserve their culture and promote their legitimate economic and cultural aspirations for posterity.
                              CDC Land Surrender in Fako and the Dangers it Poses:
   The Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, has for several years now embarked, together with the assistance of the Senior Divisional Officer and the Fako Division Department of Lands, on a program of surrendering Fako lands occupied by the CDC in the form of plantations, to many villages, which have applied to them for the surrender of parcels of land for their apparent use.  Many of the villagers in these villages to which lands have been surrendered by CDC do not own one square meter of land in the “surrendered” lay-outs.  An exhaustive list of such land surrender is in the offices of the Senior Divisional Officer and should be published.
   During our visits to some of these villages, and in discussions with some of their Chiefs and notables, the following troubling facts have emerged:
1.      For several years now, CDC has been ceding considerable amounts of land (average of over 70 hectares each) to village populations that vary from 10 to 5,000 people.
2.     Most of these villages, which we have visited and with whose Chiefs and occupants we have talked, do NOT have the 1.5 million francs CFA (or more) that CDC is asking as the fee for the cession of the lands.  In addition to the 1.5 million francs cession fee, an additional 1.5 million francs, or more, are needed to pay for the purchase and implantation survey pillars, labor etc. Therefore, a minimum of about 3 (three) million francs is needed, on average, for each village to accede to the surrendered lands.
3.     CDC is putting considerable pressure on the villages to come up with the money immediately, or else they would lose the opportunity to obtain the said lands.  They (CDC) have made this land cession time-sensitive. This poses a serious problem since most of these villages are not ready, financially, psychologically, managerially, or otherwise to receive and wisely and effectively use and manage these lands.
4.      Because of this pressure and because most of these Chiefs/villages do NOT have the requisite sum of money to pay to CDC, several of them have resorted to the dangerous option of  illegally “selling” parcels of “promised” lands, in ADVANCE, to those who would give them the money, in order for them to pay CDC.  This is the case with many chiefs and villages in Fako Division. 

5. There is great danger in this practice.  Most of the lands ceded by CDC have invariably ended up in the hands of non villagers, and not to the rightful and legal owners - the indigenes for whom the land surrender was meant and from whom the invading and occupying Germans illegally took away the lands.  This has completely negated the raison d’etre for the land surrender by CDC to the ethnic and indigenous, minority peoples of Fako.
6.    In our many focus group meetings held with some village members, notables and chiefs, there seemed to be a general agreement on the proposal we made to them for the need to have a credible and realistic management plan for the lands that are being surrendered by CDC.  However, knowing the level of material and spiritual poverty of some of these people, there is a slim chance that they will wait for the process-driven management plan to be set up before they completely divest themselves of the land by way of cheap, ridiculous, sales to whoever brings ready cash to them.  Time has proven us right. Most of the lands ceded by CDC are NOT in the possession and control of the intended recipients. Rather, they are in the contentious “ownership” of non- intended third parties.
    In the light of the foregoing, we respectfully submit to you, for your urgent action, the following proposal as a means of addressing this problem from a short, medium and long-term perspective:
   i.       Immediately order a freeze on all CDC lands surrender to any Fako villages UNTIL a clear and unambiguous understanding is reached by ALL Fako Elites and Villages/Chiefs on the generally accepted principles by which these lands will be held in trust by the chiefs or elected or selected committees, to be properly managed, when surrendered, in the interest of the village communities.  These principles will be in keeping with a desire to protect these ancestral lands - not to sell them - and to ensure that they will be passed on to posterity.
ii.        Set up a Fako Strategic Land Management Committee (FSLMC) to work directly with CDC, the SDO, the Lands Dept and all Fako villages to establish viable development management plans for the lands earmarked for surrender and also to establish a viable plan for any future land surrender by CDC in order to ensure proper protection for the minority indigenes of the respective villages and for posterity.  This Committee should comprise independent and professional persons from various walks of life, from Civil Society and elites of Fako, with no political or Civil Service connections and/or aspirations.

iii.    Sign commitment/engagement agreements with each village/chief embodying the principles of no-sale and proper, sustainable, management of these lands. Any violation of the terms of this agreement shall result in the immediate revocation and annulations of the lands surrendered and a return of the said land to CDC for safe-keeping and use.

iv.         Lands shall NOT be ceded by CDC to any village that does not submit a 25 to 50 - year development management plan, accompanied by a visaed agreement by The Senior Divisional Officer along with credible Stakeholders from Civil Society of Fako Division origin (preferably members of FSLMC) in ii above, or any other designated entity, certifying the embodiment of the principles set forth.

i.       Immediately set up a Fako Land Trust Fund with at least 1 (one) billion francs CFA of Cameroon Government money, designated for the development projects of Fako Division.  Set up a management process for this trust fund, whose membership/contributions should be extended to all Fako elites and indigenes.

ii.      Use the funds from this trust fund to support villages with the acquisition of the ceded lands and support the creation and implementation of viable, short, medium and long-term, development and management programs for all Fako villages, with special emphasis on youth training and employment in rural communities to prevent or stem rural exodus.
  We remain at your disposal to help in clarifying the proposals made here and in actualizing strategies to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the many, innocent, peace-loving but deprived indigenes of Fako.  We seek to work with you in the furtherance of your objectives that has led you to calling and holding this meeting with the chiefs of Fako, in Limbe tomorrow, June 07, 2013.

Respectfully yours.
Mbella Ikomi Ngongi, Esq.

·         -Mr. Ngoni Njie
The General Manager
Cameroon Development Corporation
Bota, Limbe
South West Region, Cameroon
·        - H.E. The President of the Republic of Cameroon
Yaounde, Cameroon
·     -    H.E. The Prime Minister, Head of Government
Yaounde, Cameroon
·     -    H.E. The President of the National Assembly
Yaounde, Cameroon
·       -  The Minister of Territorial Administration
Yaounde, Cameroon
·       -  The Minister of State Property and Land tenure
Yaounde, Cameroon
·        - The President of the South West Region
Administrative Court
Buea, Fako Division
South West Region
·         -The President
 Fako Elite Development Organization (FEDO)
Fako, South West Region

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