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Braving The Odds To Kitta-Balue 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

The transition from a blue romantic sky to a rumbling downpour that afternoon at Ekondo Titi, Ndian Division, was a mere flash of lightning. This reporter and his colleague of BBC Afrique, Francois Essomba, began contemplating the journey to Kitta-Balue the next morning.

Mud filled impassable roads in Ndian Division

On October 28, we hit the road to Kitta-Balue, a locality situated some 15 kilometers away from Ekondo Titi. With a two-man team from the Centre for Environment and Development, CED, we all mounted motorbikes popularly known as "bendskin".

It was a rough ride; following the heavy rains. The narrow meander of a road simply disappeared under the heavy assault of floods. The stretch inside the equatorial forest had potholes that had yawned to craters. The risk for bendskin riders and their customers was enormous. More often, the bendskins roared but their tyres could not turn in the deep mud.

At one time, the "bendskin" was riding us instead of us riding it. This reporter and the bendskin rider lay desperately under the "iron house" after we were jettisoned in an onslaught with the muddy road. Everybody that did the journey to and fro looked like one who was laying bricks.
The road to Kitta-Balue in Ekondo-Titi is an accurate rendition of the agonizing plight of people here.

"We still carry cocoa in our heads to Ekondo-Titi during the rainy season. We deserve a good road," one elite of the area, John Mokala Mosongo told The Post. Kitta-Balue is the headquarters of Ekitta-Kitta zone of six villages that include: Kitta, Ngolo-Metoko, Malonde-Balue, Munyange-Balue, Masorae-Balue and Bekatoko-Balue.

When The Post arrived in Kitta, the Chief of the village, Lucas Mukete, was not on the seat. But his lieutenants narrated the story of their woes. The community of some 1500 people still relies on herbs and crude traditional methods to handle their health problems. Pregnant women still remain at the mercy of traditional birth attendants if they don’t have the opportunity to Ekondo Titi during labour. "Kitta-Balue deserves better treatment because we produce so much cocoa, coffee and other cash crops," said one Emmanuel Molingo. "We need a good road, a hospital, electricity and pipe-borne water" he added.

The people of Kitta-Balue like their counterparts elsewhere in Ndian Division say it is inconceivable that they live in penury in a land of plenty. Right at the centre of Kitta-Balue village stand three oil wells. The people said the ELF SEREPCA Company discovered petroleum oil in the area in 1984 and planted pillars to mark the spots. Thus Kitta plays host to four oil wells.
One of the elders, Mosongo Mokala, told The Post that even though oil exploitation has not yet begun in the area, some politicians in Fako Division were multiplying intrigues to cheat Kitta people of oil that providence endowed them with.

 "It was when we went to Ekondo Titi for public hearings on the environmental and social impact assessment on oil exploration and exploration in their village that we learnt of the trick. Someone had made a false claim that the oil fields in Kitta-Balue equally belong to Bojongo in Fako Division. How is it possible," he exclaimed.

A similar complaint came from Chief James Ngoh of Dikome-Balondo Village in Bamusso Sub Division. He complained that an oil well that was identified in his village is being attributed to the neighboring Bongo Village. The Kitta-Balue people said the ELF SEREPCA has been doing feasibility studies but they are yet to understand what the company is doing to mitigate the impact of oil exploration and exploitation in the area.

According to some elders in the village, the company has promised to relocate the entire village when it begins exploiting the four-petroleum oil wells in Kitta-Balue. Given the inaccessible nature of the area, Kitta people live a simple communal life; praying God to do justice let government stop shirking it responsibility over them. It is still largely the traditional council that settles disputes in the village. Thus, the villagers can only take a culprit to the police at Ekondo Titi if he or she refuses to bow to the ruling of the traditional council.

Going by one John Mokala, the traditional council handles criminal offences like adultery, theft and misdemeanors like debt-owing. "Anybody caught guilty of theft is compelled to pay FCFA 14.000. If he does not pay, we rub him with charcoal and force him to dance round the whole village. If he is unrepentant we send him to the police at Ekondo Titi," he said. The villager said any man found guilty of adultery is forced to pay FCFA 50.000. But other people argued that people guilty of adultery are forced to pay various amounts depending on the bride price that was paid on the women.

Poverty and unemployment call the shots in the village. People here cultivate crops but lack farm-to-market roads to transport them for sale. The people easily receive radio Malabo in Equatorial Guinea. CRTV signals are difficult to come. Lack of roads is a recurrent grievance everywhere we went in Ndian Division. Many wondered why Ndian Division does not have a tarred road given that it is where petroleum oil has been exploited for close to four decades.

Others hold that it is even more compelling for government to be fair to the Ndian people since it is fighting to be recognised as a credible member of the Extractive industries, Transparency Initiative, EITI. According to them, "Government should henceforth publish what it receives from oil companies in terms of royalties and what it pays to people of Ndian".

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