By Elias Ntungwe Ngalame
Over 300 people have been evicted from their ancestral lands, rendered homeless and more vulnerable to the effects of extreme climate in the locality of Banjah- Bamenda in the Northwest of Cameroon. Houses of the entire minority Mbororo pastoralists were recently forcefully demolished by authorities of the Catholic Church despite running battles, complaints and land conflicts involving the pastoralist community and the Catholic University.
Acquired for the construction of the Catholic University of Cameroon-Bamenda the lands deal sparked controversy when members of the Mbororo Community (men, women and children) stormed the premise of the Bamenda Catholic University to express their hopelessness in a sit-down strike after their houses were demolished. Environmentalists and land rights activists have criticized the forced land seizure after blatant threats of violence from the local community. United Nations Special Rapporteurs on minority issues, Rita Izsák, and on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, in a report published on 10 April, 2014 ,UN News Centre • www.un.org/news have called on the
government and the Catholic University authorities to urgently review the evictions and the demolitions and protect the rights of the indigenous people. The people have nowhere to go to at the heart of the rainy season with prolonged rains in Cameroon.
“I urge the government authorities and the Catholic University in Bamenda to review these actions and their impact on this community and immediately seek a settlement with them,” said Ms. Izsák, who happens to have visited the Mbororo community in Banjah during her 2013 official mission to Cameroon. In the report Mr. Anaya recalled that “indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly relocated from their lands or territories,” quoting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed
consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement of fair and just compensation,” he stated in a news release
The University claims to have paid compensation to community members to acquire and build on the site. But the Community members claim to have been misled regarding payments and state that they would not voluntarily have agreed to quit their homes and land that they have occupied since 1904.