2016 Training of Peace Volunteers

The Civil Peace Service (CPS) Unit of COMINSUD hosted 26 volunteers from five different communities of Mezam Division for a training workshop on “Peace Work and Conflict Analysis”.
First part in this training was clarify and define key words that are very often used but not well reflected on like peace, violence, and conflict.
Angwafo Peter suppored the trainng as a ressource person, presenting the Mankon peace approach

Angwafo Peter from the Mankon Palace supported the trainng as a resource person, presenting the Mankon peace approach

Second part was to analyze conflict examples within the participants communities. Therefore we used tools like the conflict history and actors mapping, the onion model, and the ABC triangle. Based on this analysis participants could see the angles from which a conflict could be tackled.
Looking for entry point for the conflict between graziers and farmers in Wum

Looking for entry point for the conflict between graziers and farmers in Wum

 Most of the conflicts we have in the North West Region are about boundaries and natural resources. Since some participants came from two communites in conflict the workshop was also a good opportunity to see, how your neighbours look at the same issue.

Discussion with trainees from Bambalang

Maja discussing with trainees from Bambalang

At the end of the training, certificates were awarded to our new Peace Volunteers and we are looking forward to see their achievements in the next months.

Participant with facilitators Maja Mueller, Ambe Bruno and Fon Nsoh

Participant with facilitators Maja Mueller, Ambe Bruno and Fon Nsoh

 written by Bii Della and Maja Mueller
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A commission set up to demarcate the boundary between Mbessa and Oku village

Governor Adolphe Lele Lafrique paid a visit to Mbessa on Thursday April 21st, 2016. He is the first Governor to visit Mbessa since the conflict started over 30 years ago. This visit had in attendance over 450 women and 100 men of Mbessa alongside the traditional and administrative authorities of Oku and Mbessa. They all assembled at the Mbessa Community Hall seeking for a lasting solution to the boundary dispute.

The Governor called upon the Regional Boundary Commission to delimit the boundary between the two villages following the August 28th 2008 Ministerial Decision. He said the conflict has caused untold human and material damage and it was time everyone abides to the peace process.

A local committee was put in place to carry out the demarcation process. Among the members are two peace volunteers, trained and accompanied by COMINSUD.

The Fons of Oku and Mbessa reiterated their passion for the need for a peaceful coexistence between the two villages as they shared the common position that “there is the need to think of Oku and Mbessa people as one person because they all have a common origin”.

The Governors’ visit came just a day after the Fon of Mbessa led a Delegation to Oku to discuss ways to end the conflict. The women of Mbessa at the end of the meeting remained optimistic as they look forward for a fair and just boundary demarcation process.

Historic action by Oku and Mbessa Communities in seeking peace

As an aftermath of the peaceful public manifestation walk by over 250 Mbessa a high level consultative peace meeting was held on March 3rd 2016 at the Mbessa Multipurpose Hall.

This meeting had amongst others the Senior Divisional Officers (SDOs) of Bui and Boyo (Nzeki Theophile and Oum II Joseph), the Mayors and Divisional Officers (DOs) of Oku and Belo, the Fons of Oku and Mbessa Villages and a cream of members of their traditional councils.

The historic nature of this meeting is seen in the fact that, in over 30 years, this is the first time a Fon of Oku is visiting the Mbessa Village. The over three hours meeting witnessed frank and open discussions aimed at establishing sustainable peace. Four of COMINSUD’s Peace Volunteers were also able to participate.

Key resolutions from this meeting as agreed by all the stakeholders were that:

  • The people in the disputed land boundary area should shun violence and remain calm for the governor and a regional technical team that will visit the area in the period ahead to demarcate the boundaries of the two communities;
  • More exchange visits between the Oku and Mbessa communities will be carried out to ensure continuous dialogue and sustainable peace;
  • Necessary traditional rites should be carried out by the Fons to enforce peaceful decisions and dialogue.

It is hoped that more efforts will be put to bear for more socio-cultural exchange activities among these communities for sustainable peace as the demarcation process is awaited.

Stay with us to be informed about the progress of this story.

Ndu identity – a foe or blessing?

“The population often goes hungry because more than 1500 hectares of land has been occupied by the CTE”

On 26th February 2016, COMINSUD facilitated a joint study of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (OXFAM), the International Land Coalition (ILC), and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in Ndu on gender tools and large scale investment in Cameroon. The event was attended by 30 persons particularly from the areas affected by the large scale Ndu Cameroon Tea Estate (CTE) with the goal of identifying meaningful community engagement in Large Scale Land Based Investments in Africa (LSLBI).

This session cued in from previous studies in Senegal and Zimbabwe and also Nkoteng in Cameroon on 23rd February 2016 led by the National Engagement Strategy on Land Reform (NES) in Cameroon.

Taking Ndu as one of two case studies in Cameroon, the participants gave the following answers (list of only the main answers) to two major questions:

1. What are the challenges you face as inhabitants of Ndu who live around the CTE?

  • Ndu Council does not receive and has not been receiving taxes for many years
  • the Fon (highest traditional leader of the community) is not paid royalties contrary to the privatization law of Cameroon
  • farmers are forbidden to cross through the plantation to access their own land, this leads to very difficult accessibility and rotting and loss to farm produce
  • more than 75 % of Ndu youths have fled the village due to unemployment and the threats of life from security guards of the CTE
  • the population often goes hungry because more than 1500 hectares of land has been occupied by the CTE making farm land to be inadequate and barren due to no time for fallowing to take place
  • Burning and looting of small holder’s tea plantations

2. If an investor decides to carry out an investment that requires a vast usage of land in your community, what conditions will you give him/her?

  • The investor would state clearly that he/she will rent the land on a contract base renewable over a period of time
  • He/she will pay constant royalty to the Fon
  • He/she will employ more than 75 % of the inhabitants (both men and women)
  • The gender component must be taken in to consideration
  • Employed inhabitants of the community must head at least 50 % the positions of leadership in the plantation

At the close of discussions, the participants lamented that they are like strangers in their own community. That is why they questioned whether their identity as natives of Ndu is a blessing or curse to their lives. Looking at them as a drowning man who catches at the tail of a snake for survival, the participants look up at NES CAMEROON and partners as a great contributor to hope.

It is hoped that data collected will serve as a veritable tool for an in depth study of these challenges and for further lobbying and advocacy activities for the benefit of the suffering population.

Public Demonstration by over 250 Women of Mbessa Village

February 16th 2016
Over 250 women aged between 25 to 70 years engaged in a public manifestation walk from Mbessa village in Belo Sub Division, Boyo Division in the North West Region (NWR) to Bamenda, the Regional Headquarters of the NWR (33 km). Their objective was to table a petition and their grievances to the Governor Adolphe Lele Lafrique. This is as a result of latent boundary conflict between Mbessa (Boyo Division) and Oku (Bui Division) which has been characterised by sporadic attacks by some persons from Oku on the Mbessa community members in their farms.

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The women left Mbessa at 4:00 am carrying each a stem of the peace plant and placards raising issues centred around the fact that Oku presently is the Sub Division of origin of Cameroon’s Prime Minister HE Yang Philemon and most people from Oku perpetrating these aggressions on Mbessa go unpunished…

The placards carried messages such as:

Why is the administration quiet on surprise attacks by Oku on Mbessa?

3 Mbessa killed in 1982, houses destroyed, hundreds rendered homeless, no punishment no compensation, why?

2007/2008 mass burning of houses, destruction of crops, thousands homeless – no punishment, no compensation!

No to recent attacks and torture by Oku in farmlands! No to the use of cutlasses on human beings!

No to recent attacks and torture by Oku in farmlands!
No to the use of cutlasses on human beings!

They arrived at Belo the Headquarter of the Sub Division at around 2 pm and made a stop at the Sub Divisional Office but the Divisional Officer Nicolas Manchang who doubles as the 2nd Assistant SDO for Boyo Division was not on seat (we learnt he was on permission). After about one hour of sitting accompanied with negotiations from the Mayor of Belo Council Tosam Bernard Nenghabi the lone official present at the scene, the women resolved to continue their journey to Bamenda where they hope to meet a listening ear.

The Mayor of Belo Council alongside the Mayor of Njinikom Council, the Member of Parliament Honorable Wainanchi Honorine and the Company Commander Boyo Commandant Passele struggled without success  to convince the women to give him the petition and go back to Mbessa. The Mayor of Belo then invited them to the Belo Grandstand for other negotiations. He was at this point in time joined by the Police Commissioner of Special Branch of Fundong Mr Bezigui. Both still failed. The Mayor invited them to sit for refreshment; they denied arguing that it is a way to waste their time and continued their journey.

The Interim Divisional Officer for Belo Sub Division came at about 6 pm when the Mbessa women had covered over 25 km and were at Mbingo but he could not even talk to the women as they were already saying it is some sort of negligence and lack of consideration from the local administration.

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However, the Mbessa women continued their journey over night. They reached Kejom Keku in Babanki in Tubah Sub division around 2 am and decided to rest before continuing later. It is at that time that the Governor of the NWR Adolphe Lele Lafrique moved to the site when it was exactly 2:10 am. He said he could not wait for them to come right to Bamenda and when he got the information, he immediately took off to meet them on the way.

The governor collected the messages and the petition they had and ordered for vehicles to carry them back to Mbessa while promising to channel the issue to the hierarchy for prompt solution. The women in turn, thanked him and insisted that if within a week nothing is done they will still treck again to Bamenda.

COMINSUD has trained Peace Volunteers (PVs) from Mbessa and Oku in July 1015. This peaceful and very powerful action can be considered as an outcome of this training and the tireless efforts of the five Mbessa PVs to change peoples minds towards non-violent solutions of conflicts and peaceful civic activities.