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Wabane Protests Creation Of Wildlife Sanctuary 

By Bouddih Adams

CameroonPostline.com — The people of Wabane Subdivision in Lebialem Division of the Southwest Region have protested the planned creation of a wildlife sanctuary spearheaded by an NGO.

Several petitions from the Fon of Bamumbu, elite and youths of Wabane say the people (close to  40.000 inhabitants) depend solely on their land for subsistence; hence carving out some 8087 hectares of the land for the sanctuary, is tantamount to taking away their livelihood. A petition addressed to the Prime Minister, dated December 21, 2011, titled “Wabane Youths’ Objection To The Creation Of Tafala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary,” states: “We the youths of Wabane have, for the past 20 years advocated for the conservation of our forest and wildlife, given that over 95 percent of our indigenous people do farming for their livelihood.”

The petition intimates that: “Wabane Subdivision, for the past nine years, has been suffering for land issues and relocation of their indigenes, given the disastrous landslide of July 20, 2003; many of our indigenes do not have enough land for settlement, cultivation and development.
The youths maintain that: “The remaining portion of land that can be used for the above mentioned reasons cannot be allowed for sanctuary creation as stipulated by the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, that it is the intention of the Cameroon Government to gazette part of their land for the Tafala Wildlife Sanctuary.”

The petition, signed by some 27 youth groups’ representatives, laments: “Many youths of Wabane are migrating because of no land for establishment and cultivation. The remaining portion of land they have earmarked for development cannot be allowed to the sanctuary as they have a high population growth rate of 156 percent.”

Bamumbu Fon’s Petition

The Fon of Bamumbu had earlier petitioned the Senior Divisional Officer of Lebialem on March 9, 2009. The Fon’s note observed that: “For some time now there have been activities and arrangements being made by an NGO called ERuDeF based in Buea with offices also in Menji. They are supposed to be working on conserving a reserve in Wabane Subdivision for Chimpanzee and Gorilla,

“Over 80 percent of the area concerned is in Wabane Subdivision, but we are surprised that neither the Fons of Wabane nor the Lord Mayor have any formal arrangements on the management of this forest or indemnification of those affected by the activity who will lose farm land,” continues the Fon.

He warned: “… be informed that the Bamumbu population will not receive these people when ever they will come because these people ignored our rights to subsistence, because, we all depend on our farms for survival. Most of the active populations in the quarter affected are threatening to migrate to other parts of the country for lack of farmland.” The Fon further laments; “You will recall that we still have problems of resettling Bamumbu people affected by the landslide and flood of July 2003, and now ERuDeR has come to worsen the situation.”

Governor Wades In

In his reaction to the matter, the then Governor of the Southwest Region, Koumpa Issa, wrote to the Forestry and Wildlife Regional Delegate. The Governor’s letter, dated January 20, 2011, and titled: “Attempts To Embezzle Funds For The Gorilla Sanctuary Of Wabane/Alou By ERuDeF, reads: “I have received reports on the catastrophic and improvised management of funds meant for the Wabane/Alou Gorilla Sanctuary by the NGO called ERuDeF. These funds, which have been provided by the British Government, according to the reports, no longer serve the purpose because of the inexistence of the gorilla species and the constant landslides affecting the zone.

The Governor stated: “Such attitude of the beneficiary NGO is likely to tarnish the image of our country and jeopardise our relationship with these funding agencies.” He hence requested: “You are, therefore, requested to carry out the necessary investigation on this matter and in concertation with the funding agency, submit a report on how best the funds could be re-oriented to suit other purposes such as conservation of the zone with intensive tree planting.”   

Suspension Of Technical Note

In a memo to the then Regional Delegate for Forestry and Wildlife, Grace Mbah, dated February 4, 2011, with subject as “Suspension of Technical Note” the Lebialem Divisional Delegate for Forestry and Wildlife wrote: “Madam, I have the honour to request for the suspension of the validation of the Technical Note for the proposed creation of the Tafala Wildlife Sancturay, which I participated in its deliberations here in Menji… “

The delegate posits as one of the reasons fro the suspension, that after the deliberations, he undertook a contact and sensitisation tour of the division since he had just taken over. “What I observed, saw, read and heard from the administration and the local communities, among others, about the activities of ERuDeF (NGO), do not actually reflect what was written in the Technical Note,” wrote the Divisional Delegate, Augustine Sende Achu.

He cautioned: “In order to avoid problems which may arise from the administration or the communities that could obstruct the realisation of the above project, I am therefore requesting for the suspension of the validation process of the sanctuary until proper sensitisation and understanding is reached with all the relevant stakeholders.”

Confusion In Location

Meantime, two public notices signed by the then Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Prof Elvis Ngolle Ngolle have contradictory locations for the area of the sanctuary. The first, dated September 2, 2011, titled “Declaring part of Tofala Hill Forest as Tofala Wildlife Sanctuary” situates the area in Wabane and Upper Bayang Subdivisions in bestriding Manyu and Lebialem Divisions; while the second, dated November 2, 2011, situates it in Wabane and Alou Subdivisions of Lebialem Division only.

The first notice, No. 0053 PN/MINFW/SG/DWPA OF September 2, 2011, states: In accordance with the provision of Articles 5 and 6 of the Decree No. 95/466/PM of July 20, 1995 laying down the modalities for the implementation of the wildlife law, the public is hereby informed that the Government of Cameroon has the intention to gazette a part of the Tofala Hill Forest as Tofala Wildlife Sanctuary”

It states: “The area is located in Wabane and Upper Bayang Subdivisions of respectively, Lebialem and Manyu Divisions, in the Southwest Region and covers a surface area of 8087 hectares.” But the second, No. 0059 PN/MINFW /SG/DWPA OF November 2, 2011 states: “The area is located in Wabane and Alou Subdivisions in Lebialem Division…”. 

First published in The Post print edition no 01382

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