UK based human rights advocate Sarli Sardou Nana has called on the Cameroon government to create a judicial commission of inquiry to examine the crisis that led to the destruction of the houses of an estimated 300 mbororo cattle herders after Bamenda archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua accepted to withdraw from the disputed land.
The catholic church needed the 42 hectares land to construct a catholic university but human rights activists said the church ended up appropriating more than 20 more hectares including land where the mbororos had constructed their houses.
He also implored archbishop Esua and the government to give material and financial support to the hundreds of mbororos made destitute after bulldozers destroyed dozens of homes of the cattle herders on April 3 2014 at Banjah village in Bamenda after a five year long battle between the two sides.
“The catholic church showed no compassion when they called in bulldozers to destroy the houses of the mbororos in the middle of the week and the middle of the school year”, Mr Nana said. According to Mr Nana, the commission of inquiry should investigate crisis fully including examining which past and present governor or divisional officers took any unlawful decision concerning the long running dispute. Apart from rebuilding the destroyed houses, human rights advocates are also calling on the government to investigate cases of grievous bodily harm and the psychological damage done to mbororo children who had to stop going to school because of the crisis.
Reports from Bamenda say Archbishop Esua announced the church was withdrawing from the disputed land in the interest of peace during a church service yesterday April 15 2014. “if the land is given to us, we cannot be there in peace, we have continued to suffer in silence”, the archbishop is quoted as having said during the church service. He denied the church used any underhand methods to acquire the land.
The archbishop came under intense pressure at home and abroad after dozens of mbororos invaded the catholic archdiocese to protest against the destruction of their homes.
Rita Izsak, UN special rapporteur on minority rights in an April 10 2014 statement urged “ the authorities and the Catholic University in Bamenda to review these actions and their impact on this community and immediately seek a settlement with them.”She visited the mbororos during her 2013 official visit to Cameroon. Her statement added;
“The Mbororo must be provided with the opportunity to return to their traditional lands.”
“We are saddened that a community whose survival depends on their lands and cattle is now deprived of access to their ancestral lands…This also contravenes the UN Declaration on Minorities which requires the protection of existence of minorities, and their unique ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity within the territories in which they live.” Mrs Izsak added.
Now in hiding as security officials try to arrest him for leading the mbororos in the fight to stop bulldozers from destroying their homes on April 3 2014, another human rights activist Fon Christopher Achobang wrote…”I believe the issue at hand is that the temporary land concession granted to the Catholic University of Cameroon (CATUC), represented by His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua was granted in error and must be reversed”.
A proper statement announcing the church has formally withdrawn from the disputed land is eagerly awaited from his office.