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Cameroon Law Encourages Land-Grabbing 

By Yerima Kini Nsom & Lionel Tchoungui

The President of the Cameroon Environment Watch, CEW, Prof. Roger Ngoufo, says the 1974 Land Law encourages the rich to grab land at the expense of the poor. He made the remark during a workshop that brought together various actors of the civil society in Yaounde recently.

Participants adopted the results of a study that would enable them to make proposals on the envisaged amendment of the 1974 Land Law. It was in this perspective that Prof. Ngoufo said the 1974 land law requires a total overhaul so that it can hearken to the aspirations of the majority of underprivileged people.

The law, as it is now, he went on, favours only the rich and powerful and enables them to grab land at the expense of the poor indigenous people and local communities. The Civil Society official regretted that the procedure for obtaining a land title is fraught with so much bottlenecks and corruption that only the rich can really show proof of land ownership as provided for by the law.

While further picking holes with the law, Prof. Ngoufo, said it was inspired by the colonial masters. He particularly took exception with Article 1 of the law that says all land is government land. It reads as follows: “The State is the owner of all lands and can by this status intervene to ensure rational use, taking into account economic or defense imperatives. The State guarantees a follow-up of the text to owners of land to enjoy and dispose of freely.”
 

If Cameroon were to continue to rely on such a law, according to the varsity don, young people will not acquire legal ownership of land because it stipulates that land ownership is only recognised for those who acquired it before 1974. He said it was incumbent on Cameroon to clean and ameliorate the legal framework for land management in the country.
 

To him, the amendment of the land law must be tailored in a way to enable underprivileged groups like the indigenous people, local communities, youth and women to have easy access to land. For this to happen, he insisted, the law must define the categories of land that belong to the State, the indigenous people and council areas. Such a law, he went on, must guarantee the respect of the land rights of the various segments of the society.
 

Speaking to The Post, one of the participants, Camille Jepang, from the World Conservation Union, said any amendment of the 1974 land law must provide for the conservation of protected areas. She complained that the execution of certain infrastructural projects in the country like the Kribi deep seaport, has not taken such areas into consideration. The law, she insisted, must be amended to ensure good governance, transparency and justice in land acquisition and ownership procedures.
 

The study highlights the following loopholes in the land law: the multiplicity in texts; Article 1, which states that the State is the owner of all lands and can, at any moment, make decisions on how the land should be used; Article 17, which states that any land which was not issued a title before August 5, 1974 is a free land, and the very high charges for securing a land title as prescribed by Article 23. 
 

Following the study, recommendations were made: that all land laws must be secured, the new laws should encapsulate all strata of society, transparency should be ensured, and the local populations informed on every activity and reforms being made, equity and reinforcement of a new land law. According to the study, these clauses would go a long way in facilitating land ownership and give the leeway for the country to achieve her vision geared towards emergence.
 

The adoption of the results of the study will culminate in a draft proposal that the civil society will present to the government soon. The civil society strengthening programme, known by its French acronym as PASC, the European Union, EU, and the World Conservation Union, are bankrolling the project.
 

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