By Christopher FON A
On 02 January 2013, His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua, Catholic Archbishop of Bamenda issued a quit notice for 300 Mbororo people to leave their houses and farms in Wumse-Ndzah, Bamenda III Subdivision, North-West Cameroon.
His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua claimed that Minister Jean Baptiste Baleoken, formerly of State Property and Land Tenure signed Arête No. 000947/K.6.1/MINDAF/D1/D13 of 2 September 2011 granting 46 hectares 38 acres and 98m at Wumse Ndzah to His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua, Archbishop of Bamenda, representing CATUC.
This was for the construction of a US$ 110,000,000 (FCFA 55 billions) Catholic University of Cameroon (CATUC) complex.
The Archbishop claimed he was interested in the land because it was empty. At the same time he claimed he had paid out FCFA 23,584,236 (US$ 47,169) as compensation for the houses and farms on the land.
Cameroon Land Tenure laws forbid the expropriation, attachment, prescription and alienation of occupied and developed land for any public purposes. The Mbororo had occupied the Mamada Estates since 1904 and their occupancy was recognized by Ordinance No 49 of 1933.
Enow Simon Junior, former Divisional Delegate of Lands and Surveys for Mezam Division had been motivated financially to disregard a 2009 Prefectural order for the identification and demarcation of Land in Category 2 for the CATUC. Land in Category 2 is unoccupied and unexploited land, while land in Category 1 is occupied and exploited.
Commission for the Restoration of Patriotism and Integrity (CORPIC) was approached by Dr Abdulkarimu Shehu of Mbororo Social and Cultural Association (MBOSCUDA) to advocate on behalf of the 300 Mbororo of Bandzah.
Facts and documents were collected convincing CORPIC that the expropriation of the Mbororo land by functionaries of the Cameroon government was biased and a result of some special interest of the local administrations of Mezam and the North West Region.
Meetings were held with Governor Adolphe Lele l’Afrique of the North West Region and SDO Felix Nguele Nguele, Senior Divisional Officer of Mezam Division. His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua and his agents and assigns also attended these meetings where CORPIC pointed out the illegalities of the land concession.
Court actions were commenced to stop the Archbishop from destroying Mbororo houses and farms. The CATUC represented by His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua also filed a suit against the Ardo and others for trespassing on CATUC land.
While the administrative and legal arguments were ongoing, SDO Felix Nguele Nguele personally supervised the destruction of Bambili houses on Mamada Estates 2 May 2013. All the destroyed houses had land certificates issued by the government of Cameroon. Farms belonging to some 175 Bambili people were also destroyed.
This was to make way for the resettlement of the Mbororo. CORPIC protested this destruction and petitioned President Paul Biya.
SDO Felix Nguele Nguele claimed he could not override the decision of the minister as the minister was his hierarchical boss. Yet Barrister Robert Fon had prayed all stakeholders to restrain from any further actions till the court ruled on the matter.
Rita Izsak, UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues paid a visit to the disputed land and dispossessed people on 9 September 2013. She barely held her tears from flowing when she was shown the houses destroyed by the administration.
“I do not believe a government can put its people through such suffering.” Rita Izsak said carrying young Lum who was rescued from the debris of one of the destroyed houses on 02 May 2013.
Court of First Instance Bamenda ruled that it was incompetent to rule on the matter praying it to stop the CATUC from destroying Mbororo houses. After hearing the matter for six months and after ascertaining that the Mbororo land was effectively occupied and developed, Magistrate Francis Achu concluded that the Administrative Court would have to decide since the errors were committed by the administration.
On the matter filed by His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua, against Ardo Mamada for trespass, the court promised to send an arrest warrant to the archbishop for contempt of court. Even though it was the archbishop who sued Ardo Bi Mamada for trespass on CATUC land, Cornelius Fontem Esua despised all the court sessions, so the court dismissed the suit and said it was going to cause the arrest of the archbishop.
Victims of expulsion and destruction Abandoned
While the various court actions were ongoing, the Mbororo were prevented from farming their fields. Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada (third class chief of the Mbororo) alone produced 200 tons of Irish potatoes a year. He missed three planting seasons because he had earlier been arrested, tortured and detained on orders from Divisional Officer (DO) Walters Tarkang. He had hired a tractor from Senator Simon Achidi Achu to till his farm. He was arrested and stopped from farming his land. The Mbororo lived in perpetual fear before CORPIC stepped in to reassure them that nobody will take an inch of their land as their rights were protected by the laws of the Republic of Cameroun.
The Bambili people on their part lost two seasons of corn and other crops during the destruction of their farms by SDO Felix Nguele Nguele.
There is an emergency unit at the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization. This competent relief service has not yet reacted to bring charity to the dispossessed people. There is also a Catholic Relief Services. It has failed to address this human suffering.
"Apart from these people being a minority, they are first and famous human beings. The whole human community of human beings should come to their rescue." said Prof Nche Zama.
It is not dignifying for people to be rendered homeless because of administrative errors for more than six months and nothing is done. They will be spending this cold Christmas as homeless people.
Even after all the media exposure of the matter, very few people are reacting.
Harvard Professor of Cardiology, Nche Zama paid a solidarity visit to these wretched people of the earth and promised that the Archbishop of Bamenda would have to kill him before expelling a single Mbororo from their land. The professor concluded that "..most heart conditions are provoked by physical trials and tribulations."
The government of Cameroon has so far relieved the corrupt Enow Simon Junior of his duties as Lands and Surveys delegate for Mezam Division. It was also discovered that he had sold other government landed properties around Mezam Division and was living in affluence like a billionaire even though his life's savings will not amount to FCFA 50 million.
There was a lot of corroboration in this botched land deal. The former SDO of Mezam is alleged to have received money from the Catholics to visa their application to occupied and developed land. DO Walters Tarkang of Bamenda III should be invited by the anti-corruption unit (CONAC) to explain what caused his bias to consent to the expropriation of Mbororo land by CATUC. As chairman of the Lands Consultative Board of Bamenda III Subdivision, DO Walters Tarkang is aware of the Land Tenure Laws of Cameroon. He chose to despise the laws and arrested, tortured and detained the third class chief of the Mbororo.
As a man of God, His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua should have been wary to expose any member of the human community to suffering. He heads the Peace and Truth Commission of the Archdiocese of Bamenda. Some of the noblest humane goals are espoused by this commission.
The man of God should not have considered the mediation of Dr Alfred Ndi who presented himself as a friend of the Mbororo. Dr Alfred Ndi, lecturer at the University of Bamenda, transformed himself into an Arab’s camel and applied for a title to 45 hectares of the Mbororo land for himself. The brilliant scheme of the learned professor was to take part of the Mbororo land while the CATUC took the other. When his machinations were discovered and reported, he brought a nuisance suit of defamation against the activist.
It was a visibly shocked Laura Anyola (manager of the Peace and Truth Commission of the Archdiocese of Bamenda) who received CORPIC's first petition to the Archbishop.
Many Catholics are disheartened by the actions of this Catholic prelate. Apart from the land matter being construed as an attack by the Catholics on Muslim interests, it is an affront to the very moral values professed in Catholic churches every day. The Mbororo were already threatening to invite the Boko Haram or Alqaeda of the Maghreb to come to its rescue. The North West Region of Cameroon is prone to ethnic conflicts and tribal wars. Fomenting trouble where there was non is very unfortunate, especially as it is coming from a church.
While CORPIC was considering petitioning Pope Francis to fire His (dis)Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua, news came of the firing of Archbishop Tonye Bakot of the Yaounde Archdiocese. CORPIC did not wish to take away so many shepherds from the stampeded flock of the Catholic Church.
Considering that the Archbishop of Bamenda encouraged a situation capable of provoking civil strife, in spite his priestly vows, he should now be relieved by the Catholic hierarchy of his leadership role in front of a lost Catholic flock threatened by pedophilia, corruption, and other earthly gangrenes. Pope Francis should move to accept the resignation letter of the corrupt priest, or to be crude, fire Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua.
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