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Land Conflicts In Fako, A Time Bomb 

By Godiva Ndang & Francis Ngoh Bau*

Conflicts on land ownership and possession are on the increase in Buea. These crises are usually instigated by disagreements on family succession, greed and double dealing. Land disputes have often resulted in feuds, bloodshed and prolonged court cases.

According to statistic provided by the Chief Registrar at the Buea Appeal Court, Elizabeth Enaka, the court entertained over 100 land related cases between 2009 and 2010. According to her they are complex, arising from simple quarrels to prolonged disputes.

The Chief of Bureau for Town Planning at the Buea Council, Elinge Lyonga, when contacted on the issue, said he entertains cases on land disputes almost daily. The most, to him, are on double-dealing and trespass on land. A land owner in Mokunda Village, Stephen Luma Njoke, told The Post that he has encountered a series of clashes on land trespass with his neighbour.

According to him, his neighbour, with whom his family has shared strong friendly ties for over a generation, want to encroach in his land. He further revealed that the land on which his neighbour is settling was given for free by his (Luma’s) late father. After so many years of contention, his rival withdrew but the family has ended up taking the case to court. Luma told The Post that even though he is yet to acquire a land certificate, he believes the law will take its course.

Land disputes are known to have split villagers as most chiefs have been accused of selling community lands to strangers. However, when contacted, the Chief of Bomaka Village, Jonathan Masua Kombe, told The Post his village has not been witnessing any land-related disputes.

He claims that after their land was surrendered to them 26 years ago by the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, they have been living without major disputes.
On his part, the Chairman of the Bomaka Traditional Council, Eko Ewanda, said that cases of double dealing and land conflicts are not very common in Bomaka.

“We solve minor conflicts and channel more complicated ones to the Divisional Officer,” he said. On his part, Chief David Molinge of Muea admits that there are few land conflicts in his jurisdiction. Hear him: “Possible problems may arise from land trespassing, lack of information and greed. Brothers sell land without the knowledge of others in the family.”

He, however, revealed that the main land disputes in Fako are between the communities and the government. “After CDC ceded parcels of land to local communities in compensation for lands seized by the Germans for plantations, government gave this land to villages whose lands had never been seized putting a deadly timed bomb which will explode in future,” Chief Molinge said.
“The government and the Bakweri people have been on daggers drawn on a land crisis which was taken to the African Court for Human Rights and Justice. It was resolved that the case could only be solved in Cameroon. The problem is yet to be resolved,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, talking on land problems in an interview granted The Post recently,
Barrister Charles Achaleke Taku, Lead Counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and Special Court for Sierra Leone, said the land tenure policy in Cameroon is communist-based; virtually nationalising all land.

He explained that after the adoption, native rights to lands in Southern Cameroons were suppressed, giving preference to multi-nationals and French business interests in large plantations in the Mungo and other parts of the country.

“The question of land tenure is a time bomb that is likely to explode soon given that most multi-national corporations have disrespected the validity of land certificates due the fact that the legal framework to litigate land issues is non-existent. These problems hardly affect land owners who possess legal land certificates,” Taku said.

On what it takes to legally own a piece of land, a land owner at Sandpit, Buea, Abraham Ubenjum, said. “After buying the land, I registered it and drew a site plan which I took together with my National ID and an application form to the Land and Surveys office.

The application was later taken to the Land Consultative Board and after a few months a land certificate was produced. Some representatives were sent to plant pillars, with the chief and my neighbours as my witnesses. Since then, I have never experienced any land conflict,” he explained.

Ubenjum’s steps to own a land certificate are closely in conformity with what The Post got from the Chief of Service for Administration and Finance at the Regional Delegation of State Property and Land Tenure, Lucy Mokoko Limunga. Mrs. Mokoko explained that there exist three types of lands in Cameroon: State public lands (public roads), State private lands (government owned) and National lands (usually native owned). Only the last two can be sold to the public.

In the face of the many land crises, Mrs. Mokoko urged land and prospective land owners to acquire land certificates which will enable them justify their claims in court as well benefit government compensations in the case of damages during development projects like road constructions.

She also adds that all individuals in possession of land, regardless of where situated, should always seek counsel from the land tenure office or council for the security of their land.
It is worthy to note that illegal land occupation as stipulated by Law No; 80-22 of July 14th 1980, is punishable under Section 239 of the Penal Code.

*(UB Journalism Students On Internship)

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