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Minister, Southwest Governor Sued Over Chieftaincy Conflict 

By Isidore Abah

A man claiming rights to the chieftaincy stool of Muangai village in Buea Sub-division, Southwest Region, has sued the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, Rene Emmanuel Sadi, the Southwest Governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai and one Augustine Kombe Elongo.

Rev. Edward Lyonga Elongo II sued the trio at the Buea Administrative Court through his counsel Barrister Anthony Tchana of the Shalom Legal Consultant.

Barrister Tchana filed the suit No. SWAC/PSE/001/2016 on January 12, 2016 after Governor Okalia Bilai through a radio announcement over CRTV Buea, passed a Regional Order, quashing an earlier decision of the Senior Divisional Officer, SDO, for Fako that had suspended Augustine Kombe Elongo as Chief of Muangai village.

Okalia’s Regional Order rehabilitated Kombe Elongo as the Chief of Muangai.
Earlier, the Governor had written to the Fako SDO on the subject; “Rising tension, threats to public peace in Muangai.”

The letter dated July 11, 2012 reads, “I wish to refer you to the decade old Muangai chieftaincy conflict in Buea Sub-Division and the need for fresh chieftaincy consultations, which were ordered by successive administrations in the said village and were never carried out.

I deem it necessary to hereby mention the recent public presentation of Reverend Edward Lyonga Elongo, as successor to the late Chief William Ndive Elongo on December, 2011, by the Paramount Chief, SML Endeley, following the will of the deceased, in defiance of this administrative delay. The series of reported incidents provoked by this move has created an atmosphere characterised by a growing risk of bloody confrontation in this village.

“In order to avert any aggravation of this conflict, which is perpetrated by the proceeds of wanton auctioning of community land by Kombe Elongo, you are requested to immediately take conservatory measures to suspend the administrative powers of Chief Kombe Elongo. You shall put in place a Caretaker Council to forestall any further incident pending a resolution of this matter.

The matter should receive merited attention on your part immediately after the jubilee celebration of reunification.”
In response to the Governor’s letter, the SDO on February 13, 2013, signed Prefectoral Order No. 42, 2013, annulling Prefectoral Order No 347/1998 of August 28, 1998, that confirmed Kombe Elongo as Muangai Chief.

The chieftaincy stool of the village was declared vacant and gave room for fresh consultative talks; a Caretaker Council was to be set up to run the affairs of the village until a new chief is designated and Kombe Elongo was barred from representing Muangai in any activity.

After the Prefectoral Order, the SDO also placed an injunction order on the sale of land in Muangai until the chieftaincy matter would have completely been resolved.

After the Reunification celebration, the Counsel of Rev. Lyonga Elongo II, wrote to the SDO about the undue delay to implement the Governor’s decision as contained in his July 11, 2012 letter.

“It is surprising and regrettable that your office has remained silent on the holding of consultative talks in Muangi village. We wish to draw your attention to the rampant and perennial hostilities orchestrated by one Kombe Elongo, the suspended Chief and his gang against our client and the entire Muangai community.

We know as a fact that you have carried out several consultative talks in several villages in Buea Sub-Division and even in villages that have never existed. Why is Muangai village left out? We don’t want to draw the conclusion that it is a deliberate act from your office to frustrate our client from ascending the throne of Muangai which is his right,” wrote the Counsel.

Governor Backtracks

Contrary to his July 11, 2012 letter to the SDO, Governor Okalia on January 7, 2016 signed a Regional Order quashing the decision of the SDO on the Muangai chieftaincy conflict.
In the Regional Order, Okalia uplifted Prefectoral Order No. 42, 2013 and rehabilitated the suspended Kombe Elongo as Chief of Muangai.

Stunned by the Governor’s U-turn, Counsel for Lyonga Elongo in a pre-litigation complaint to the Governor for the annulation of the Regional Order, argued that if the Regional Order was passed based on the necessity as the Governor claims, it would have been proper for the Governor to maintain Lyonga Elongo II, whom he acknowledged in his July 11, 2012 letter to the SDO as having been publicly presented to the people by the late Paramount Chief of Buea, or should have caused the SDO to carry out fresh consultative talks to choose among the illegible candidates.

“The question for determination is; what criteria did you use to select Kombe Elongo as Chief of Muangai after acknowledging in your letter to the SDO that he misled the administration? Better still, why did you not cause fresh consultative talks to be held before selecting from the linage? Your orders under reference invariably contradict your earlier decisions to the SDO in relation to the same matter hence constitute an abuse of authority and is ultra vires on the law of chieftaincy in Cameroon,” Lyonga’s Counsel argues.

In the pre-litigation complaint the Counsel for Lyonga Elongo II advised the Governor to annul his Regional Order or face the law. It was due to the Governor’s unwillingness to annul his decision that he was sued at the Buea Administrative Court, alongside MINATD and Kombe Elongo.

Despite the court case brought against the Governor and others, the DO of Buea, Paul Wokam Kouam on Friday, January 15, 2016, executed the Governor’s Regional Order by enthroning Kombe Elongo as Chief Muangai.

The DO said at a time when Cameroon is talking development it was incumbent for every community to have clear leadership.

According to him, it was in that light that Kombe Elongo was given back his administrative powers. But the DO was quick to add “as a DO I won’t say all is well. The administration has done its part; it is left on the villagers to do theirs. The Chief must work to resolve the chieftaincy conflict in Muanga.”

Surrendered Land Fuelling Chieftaincy Conflict

After reclaiming his traditional authority, Chief Kombe Elongo said the chieftaincy crisis in Muangai is fuelled by greed from a non-native who wants to grab land that was surrendered to the village.
According to him, Lyonga Elongo II, who has been challenging him for the Muangai traditional stool is not even a native of Muangai.

Kombe, however, said he is willing to make pace with Lyonga Elongo because the development of his village has been retarded for three years.