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Compromise Struck in Dangote Vs Sawa Chiefs Quarrel 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr

CameroonPostline.com — A frantic land dispute that engulfed and encumbered the planned implantation of cement factory in Douala by a Nigerian investor, Aliko Dangote, appears to have been finally resolved.

Meeting at an extraordinary general assembly at the weekend, ethnic Sawa chiefs who have stalwartly combatted the venture seemed to be backtracking.  In what observers deemed a considerably moderated tone, the tribal leaders nodded acknowledgement of fresh concessions made by the government and the Dangote group.

The July 8 conclave was chaired by HM Din Dika Akwa III, serving president of the Ngondo;   an annual traditional and cultural festival of the coastal Sawa people staged on the contentious site earmarked to accommodate the Dangote cement plant.  According to HM Akwa III, the volte face is hinged on several peacemaking compromises instructed by President Paul Biya, and aimed at appeasing the Sawa people.

Provisionally, Ngondo 2012 will be celebrated on the site, the Base Elf on the banks of the River Wouri.  But it will be the last time, he said.  As from 2013, the event will be relocated definitively to a new 10,000 square-meter site on the west end of the river.  According to HM Akwa III, “the Head of State personally allocated the new venue to serve as sacred shrine of the Ngondo.”  

According to separate sources however, the Sawa chiefs’ u-turn from their previously unwavering stance followed a commitment by the Nigerian investor to bankroll future editions of the annual festival, finance the planned construction of a Ngondo secretariat in gestation since several years as well as provide funds for the development of the new site [which will not only serve as a sacred shrine for the feast, but also as a leisure park for city dwellers].

Dangote officials contacted for verification refused to immediately comment on the development. 

As recent as July 3, the chieftains in a release described Aliko Dangote as an anathema to the coastal Sawa people.  According to them Dangote’s dogged resolve to implant the factory on their shrine, signified utter blasphemy. They expressed regret that “a worthy son of Africa… originating in a country with strong respect for ancestral traditions can so staunchly disregard local customs to insist on installing his company on a traditional shrine…” and went ahead to warn that Dangote should be ready to bear any unpleasant outcomes as a result of his hardheartedness.

The reaction followed long months of fruitless backstage consultations and a recent green-light from the government for the stalled construction of the factory to be resumed.  On June 29, PM Philemon Yang told MPs at the National Assembly that President Paul Biya had personally instructed that all hurdles be cleared for the project to proceed after the chiefs successfully lobbied for a suspension of the factory implantation in February.  The works began in September last year.

The government, which actually invited Dangote to set up shop in the country, has touted the 57.5 billion FCFA [about US$ 115 million] investment as a huge remedy, coming to correct the country’s recurrent cement shortages.  The hitherto monopoly producer, CIMENCAM a joint venture between France’s Lafarge and the government claims a current output of 1.6 million tons from two factories in Douala and Figuil in the north. 

The output remains far below demand estimated at 4 million tons and projected to grow at an 8 percent annual rate as the government embarks on a massive infrastructure spending spree.  Dangote has announced a one-million-ton yearly production capacity alongside the creation of hundreds of jobs.  The factory installation will bring the number of cement manufacturers in Cameroon to three.  In May, President Paul Biya visaed a project by Moroccan Adohha Group to build a 500,000-ton capacity cement plant in Douala.

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