By Christopher Ambe
For the first time in recent memory, several influential Fako indigenous groups have come together to condemn the abusive grabbing of Fako indigenous lands by traditional and administrative authorities, leaving the villagers with little or nothing.
Although the Cameroon Government has set a commission of inquiry and the National Anti-corruption Commission (NACC) is currently probing into the land scandal, Fako elites want but a judicial inquiry, so that the prosecution of the culprits could be faster.
Following is an August 14, 2014 communique that emerged after the Fako elites met in an extra-ordinary session in Buea, Southwest Region of Cameroon:
FORUM COMMUNIQUÉ ON THE FAKO LAND CRISIS
We, the members of the Bakweri Indigenous Cultural Association (BICA), the Fako Elements Cultural Association (FECA), the Fako Elite Development Organization (FEDO), the Fako Resource Management and Environment Rehabilitation Network, the Molongo mo Wakpe and the Bakweri Lands Claim Committee (BLCC) representing the diverse socioeconomic aspirations of the men, women and youths of Fako origin met in an extraordinary Fako Forum to address the current Fako land crisis related to the notorious dispossession of Fako people's land, under the guise of a "land surrender" from lands occupied for the past 67 years by the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC).
We reaffirm our legitimate role to promote broad based development in Fako using the land resource as a fundamental input in the developmental process, and note that nothing is more fundamental to any people's existence, development, survival and prosperity than the ownership and control of their own territory, their own ancestral lands. Despite this aspiration, we recognize the enormous challenge to our survival - the control and ownership of our own ancestral lands - a challenge that has lasted 130 years since the inopportune arrival of the colonialist Germans (and later the British) on our native territory and perpetuated thence by successive Government administrators, land surveyors and land registrars in Fako, in utter disregard of our indigenous land rights.
We recognize that the dispossession of Fako ancestral lands, perpetuated by Administrative authorities, is not limited only to the lands occupied by CDC. This nefarious practice also manifests itself in the Land Grabbing practices of churches, the illegal creation of "New Layouts", the carving out of private plots for private use in Government Residential Areas (GRA's) and the continuing abuse of some government officials' privileges and powers through which fraudulent land certificates are issued without the knowledge of, consultation with, and in total exclusion of the land owners themselves - Fako Indigenes.
We also recognize that some chiefs in Fako, either through pressure, manipulation, connivance or intentionally play a major role as auxiliaries in the illegal sales, dispossession and deprivation of Fako indigenes to their ancestral lands. We, at the Fako Forum, call upon all the Chiefs of Fako to take their responsibilities to protect Fako ancestral lands seriously and for the leadership of the Fako Chiefs Conference to re-examine the ongoing fraudulent processes of the creation and "fabrication" of chiefs and chiefdoms in Fako for the apparent purpose of giving illegal access and opportunity to sell Fako ancestral lands.
We acknowledge the Ministerial Commission of Inquiry into the Fako Land Crisis, and express our disappointment with the work of the Commission whose results have not even been made public three months after their work.
We are aware of the visit of the team from the National Commission in the Fight against Corruption (CONAC) to Fako to investigate corruption in Fako land issues. We expect that CONAC will do a thorough job with an edifying report.
Mindful of these historical abuses, we therefore recommend as follows, to the key stakeholders on land governance:
- Fako Chiefs Conference must liaise with Fako elites to combat the continuing illegal alienation of Fako ancestral lands, mindful of heroic sacrifices of our ancestors in safeguarding this land from marauding colonialists, lands whose proceeds thereof belong not only to the living but to the yet unborn as well.
- Administrative authorities including the Governor, Senior Divisional Officer, Divisional Officers, Lands and Surveys Officers, Land Registrars and others who play key roles in the process of land management and land surrender in Fako to desist or ensure that their collaborators desist, from the illegal practices of fraudulent alienation of Fako ancestral lands, including lands currently occupied by CDC and all other lands in the GRA's, Clerk's Quarters, Federal Quarters and other village communities in Fako.
- The Ministry of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure to pay critical attention to the issuing of land certificates in Fako and that the Ministry should re-examine ALL land certificates issued in Fako over the past 50 years and more, and take immediate corrective and punitive measures, where fraud is detected and ascertained, to restore the status quo ante of the dispossessed indigenes.
- We request the government of the Republic of Cameroon to setup an Independent Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe into this matter and find lasting solution.
- The President of the Republic should use his good offices to look into the possibilities of redressing the present chaotic management of Fako lands.
Finally, we acknowledge the important role played by the National Commission of Human Rights, through its Secretariat in the South West Region, in raising the awareness of local communities regarding their inalienable rights to hold, control and protect their ancestral lands from illegal and abusive sales by some chiefs and administrative authorities. We pledge to stand by the Secretariat and collaborate in fighting against the continuing illegality surrounding transactions over Fako lands.
1)Mola Ikomi Mbua Koto,
President, The Bakweri Indigenous Cultural Association (BICA).
2)Victor Elame Ikome,
President, The Fako Elite Development Organization (FEDO),
3)Benard Fende Eko ,
Adviser, The Fako Elements Cultural Association (FECA),
4) Prince Ndemba Endeley,
Coordinator, The Fako Resource Management and Environment
5)Sango Ndive Njoh Paul
General Coordinator, Molongo mo Wakpe
6) Barrister Ikomi Ngongi
Deputy Secretary General, The Bakweri Lands Claim Committee (BLCC)