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CAMEROUN : IL NE RESTERAIT PLUS QU’ENVIRON 250 PYGMEES BEDJANG !

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◊  ACTUALITE > Société > → Pygmies and Mbororos : two peoples, one destiny !

Under a fervent sun Edou Alain, a young pygmy baka, freshly out of two years in prison, is conducted today at the headquarters of an NGO on the outskirts of Bertoua, Eastern Cameroon. His crime : he had an accomplice, he said, in ignorance of the law protecting elephants, helping poachers carry tusks in the forest of Moloundou, south-east of Cameroon : "I was really in the village. Poachers came to me and requested that I should go help them carry spikes of ivory for sale in Moloundou. Now, the forest guardians came to stop with that. They took me to Yaounde. I did a year and a half in Yaounde. I was there, there were not my parents. I suffered. Thanks to Ngobiten Ndoumou, I was transferred from Yaounde to Bertoua. Here they made an effort. I was judged. And I got out of prison. Now I do not know how to do. I do not have money for transport. I’m stuck here. " Edou Alain concluded. Alain Edou is a victim among thousands of other pygmies of unbridled exploitation of fauna and dense forests of the Congo Basin. In this camp of Mayos near Dimako, 700 km from Douala See Port, the Pygmy population is dying : children without panties, malnourished, bare feet and eaten by chic, play on the swing. Only way to give themselves the joy of living. Meanwhile, a baby gets tired of sucking his mother dry and flaccid breast. A small pot boils on the fire. Obviously, this small pot is expected by over a dozen people. Not far away, rickety houses and pygmy small houses. Here they sit and sleep on the floor. The chair or bed, they don’t know. Benjamin Satoukle, pygmy baka of Mayos, describes : "This is my home where I live with my wife, with my children. This is where I sleep, where I do everything. I have seven children with my wife, and this is where we live. We do business even as try to sell small plantain to send the children to school. Until then, it is not easy. Finally, there are other possibilities. Except that often you have your system down and you want to cut and sell plantain, but your Bantu brother arrives and says it’s his. " More and more young pygmy girls are victims of rape and teenage pregnancy. Crimes are attributed to Bantu. This is the case of a girl we meet in Mayos. Loggers have destroyed their natural habitat, the pygmies are also forced to settle without ownership of land, build habitats without building materials, to practice subsistence farming without agricultural equipment, if not with hoes and rudimentary axes inherited from their ancestors. All things that make life difficult for them. These are the lamentations of Noutcheguenou Dieudonné pygmy village chief of Mayos : "As there is a forest, I can say a community forest, there is a manager who works there. But since he promised to develop the village, we had nothing. Yet it is he who is responsible to cut and sell timber. It is he who knows how he does with the money timber. At the beginning of the operation, he promised us he would give us money. Now, time passes, years pass, nothing succeeds. And we are told that we are the alien here. But we are here because our parents have left us here. Parents showed us this place and this is why we live here.” Expressing sadness on his face, chief Noutcheguenou continue : “For example, I am the head of the third degree. But I have a head of 2nd degree and it is he who must inform us of everything. When we go there, we wonder how our problems are dealt with, as they say we are the alien here. Where do we live ? Are we in this country call Cameroon ? Or we are in a country where ... people ... I do not know what to say. Even cultivate this field is always problems. They say we should not grow much, it is not our field”. Meguya Henriette, Baka pygmy of Mayos, stops cleaning the field. She adds :"The change now is that the hunter-gatherers lived of our parents is no longer within reach. We are fighting here. But there is nothing more”. Then the chief insists : “All species were killed. All woods are felled, so the forest has already been destroyed. There is no more to hunt an animal to go sell in town for a little money, there is no more. When the tree falls in the forest, animals run away from us ! Look at our homes, there is nothing, there is no means. " Whatever they are the original inhabitants of the forest, the Pygmies are placed under the authority of the Bantu chiefs. But the real masters of the forest are loggers. They pay billions in taxes to the State of Cameroon, and scroll massively over the day, the logs on the roads to the Port of Douala. Yet a law grants to community forest pygmies whose earnings should benefit them. But they do not receive ever coins for their cash needs. Managers, who are usually local authorities, just grant them insignificant gifts as notebooks for students and some food during the holiday season. Olinga Noel, Focal Point of Okani Association in Mayos continues saying : "where we are, is the Mayos Village, a village belonging to the community forest that brings together three communities namely, a community that is Bakoum of Pol, a Baka community of Mayos, and a small Pole community. Currently this drill is operated since 2008, and the Baka do not receive fallen. If we talk about fallen is because there is no achievement, the only accomplishment that we receive is that parents hire a teacher who is paid by the community forest, and the rest are small donations at the end of the year : fish and some food that are being offered to parents to meet their needs holiday season. Others fallen, according to the simple management plan, the Baka have almost nothing !" Olinga Noel insists : “here where we are called ghosts. We are here to be reached. This means that we do not have the right to do and have nothing. But in the law and as far as we know, the Baka pygmy is the first inhabitant of the forest, and he is the master guarantor, guardian of the forest, and it is thanks to Baka this drill exist till nowadays, and it’s him who will continue to keep this forest, preserve the riches which are inside the forest, despite the looted wealth. We do not draw any benefit ! " Underdevelopment sometimes appears as a manifestation or consequence of the violation of human rights. In the Eastern Region of Cameroon, indigenous peoples illustrate this assertion. This is the example of the populations of Parki village, which although are not pygmies also believe that their forests have been logged, destroyed, and left them without replacing by docking facilities to modernity : Samlong Paul, inhabitant of the village Parki mentions : "often go to the hospital should always needs to hire a motorbike, and this causes us delays. Sometimes you get there when the sick person is already tired ! We absolutely need a health center here in Parki. Lately, a motorcycle hit my grandmother. Before finally arriving to the hospital, it was a little late. Yet if we had a hospital on this place, we would have saved my grandmother”. He means, his grandmother died because of the lack of infrastructures. Mobilization advocacy of Human Rights organizations hasn’t yet pushed out minorities from colonial rule in these modern times. Hence the persistence of poverty with its corollaries as in this hut that serves as a home, where a child is at the point of death, left to his grandmother by his parents. A child whom nobody in the village cannot do anything for him. Once again, the loggers and the Cameroon government are singled out. Theophile EBIL, inhabitant of Parki village underlines : "The people of the East region suffer a lot. Look at these homes that we have in our village, which is not worthy. The road passes, things are expensive to the market, the plates are expensive, cement listening expensive, the villagers cannot pay out for the cement plates, spikes became dear to the market. The houses in which we live are houses mats. This is so bad for the people of the East. " How do the people of the East region live ? They say it is the richest region of Cameroon. There are gold, diamonds, timber. Why there is no money for them ? Theophile EBIL mentions : "The forest company, called SFID for example, in Dimako, where the young people left to fend for, has now closed. Our parents lived with coffee. Now the coffee does not pass, because bushfires have all burned and people have overlooked because the support they had from DoEe no longer exist. Our parents took money on credit, and when the coffee was harvested they refund. The houses here are for two years to three years. They are always rebuilt every two years because there are no means. We harvest farms. As now, I have just left the farm. There is no more the company called MIDEVIV who came to seek food and pay the growers so that we can have money to build permanent houses. Whoever is on the other side has built in hard material because he worked for the State" Although Theophile hasn’t yet finish, another villager appears. This gentleman can succumb at any time. He has just been bitten by a snake. He cannot go to the hospital said too far. He also points to the lack of infrastructure : "It just happened, I ran out of the field. First I put a tourniquet wounding there where snake bit me. At present, the hospital is not near here”. In this village, the case which are presented, are serious some as others. The Pygmies and other indigenous of Eastern Cameroon, say they are robbed by the State, who, instead of protecting them because they are vulnerable, gives for hard cash their forests to multinationals that only have the sole purpose gain. Pygmies and Mbororos : you said two peoples, one destiny ? On the porch of his parents in Yaounde, Aichatou Manou, a Mbororo young woman from Cameroon, write a job application. This is the undefined number of applications that she writes since she got the license in business law and business, three years ago. Still no job for she, like for many young people of his ethnic group. Shall this taxi Aichatou takes bring her luck today ? In any case, young mbororos, son of nomads, say they face more unemployed than other young Cameroonians because, they say, they are marginalized, discriminated against, and their nationality is sometimes questioned. Aichatou Manou confirms : "It is said that the young mbororos girl and mbororo community in general cannot be heard and it prevents us to excel. We want the government and businesses to take us into consideration so that we can better fulfill what we had learned during our schooling." Oumarou Djimila, a mbororo student adds : "On the intellectual level in the mbororo community, we see that it is very difficult. You have young mbororo who go to a school only till baccalaureate level or the probationary. But at the top there is no possibilities to go to a level where we can have mbororos teachers, doctors or even doctors, we stop the License. » Facing with problems of socio-professional integration, Aichatou and its congeners are used to visit their "Ardo", that is to say, their community leader at Etoudi neighborhood in Yaounde. But "Ardo" is, the pygmy chief, a leader of the third degree, and cannot according to the regulations seize the high Cameroonian administration directly without another leader, usually a Bantu chief or an administrative authority. If these young mbororos had the chance to graduate school, most children boned in mbororos pastures, do not get birth certificates and remain illiterate shepherds without civil rights, without nationality. Hence their difficult access to education and employment issue. Aladji Idrissou, Deputy Mbororos Chief at Etoudi neighborhood in Yaounde underlines : "Our main problem in Mbororo community here in Yaoundé, is education. Our children do not go to school because some of us have the means to send their children to school, but do not give importance to education. Some Mbororos are willing to send their children to school, but they do not know where to start. Because their children do not have birth certificates, particularly children born in villages and arrived in Yaounde. It would have been easier if we facilitated our task by allowing an official center in our headquater here in Etoudi, to help us establish birth certificate to our children."

Mbororos are nomadic, crossing Cameroon from the northern region to the south. They are also found in Chad, Sudan, Central African republic, and other Sahel countries. They found a camp in a suburb of Yaounde where they can give hay to their livestock and trade in peace. Aichatou and friends come to visit them before they leave the following day, to new challenges. A Mbororo Berger beneficed the visit to say : « Our main problems us the herders is disorganization in our sector. There is no progress in our activity because it is not considered as an important activity. Every sector is growing but our sector is not growing because herders in the village and the city are all the same ; there is an increase in everything especially the prices of cows but nothing is ever added to our salary us the herders , at times even the agreed amount is not paid to us, but we just mange because some children who leave their villages to the city as herders are at times sleeping on sofar for about two months before having something doing. »

Cameroon counts 20 million people with about 1.5 million Mbororos. In Cameroon, as in Chad, Sudan and elsewhere in Africa, this nomadic tribe is regularly persecuted in eras pasture. This is the case in the West and Northwest Cameroon. However, Mbororos of Cameroon are now aware of their "camerounité." They organize themselves into associations to face problems of social and professional integration. Here at a place called "Marché Congo" in Douala, Mbororo are mobilized in small working group to promote their rights. Ibrahim El Adj Nana, President of the Association Sura – Mama says : "We must educate people, we must educate, we must show them their rights, and they must be taught how it’ll happen. It is through associations, sensitization, doors after doors, house by house, call, ask parents to send children to school. We have created schools for adults, someone who was not at school, how he will do. There’s evening classes, large attend there, and it doesn’t matter." The President of the Sura – Mama Association argues : “In the village we have the traditional leader, who has no power, they have the name they present themselves as the others, but they have no title nor the first level nor the second or the third, they are called “Ardos”. For a “ardo” also to take a decision he has to go ask another traditional chief Moreover. It should also give their power, do not call them only when the minister arrives and asked the head of the Mbororos community of slaughtered an ox, and when the minister go, everything is finished. » Maimouna Ibrahim, member of the Association proposes : "I think to solve the problem of violation of human rights, the bridge must be set like this : wherever you have to make decisions for indigenous, native must be present to say here are our problems, here the solutions we seek. Do not take the solutions for indigenous peoples without knowing what are the problems they are really facing ! " The land law in Cameroon dates from the colonial era. A law that ignores several ways to access the land to pygmies and Mbororos communities, because they don’t have defined territories. Although this is a prerequisite before any registration procedure for having land or for a community identification in Cameroon. In fact, pygmies and Mbororos communities feel violated, trampled their fundamental rights including property rights that pass through the land ownership, the rights of nationality beginning with obtaining a birth certificate, and voting rights which include the right of entry and nomination as a voter. Consequently, they have hindered their involvement in the development of the country. Some believe that some provisions of the Land Act are outdated and must change in order to give the same chance as the Pygmies and Mbororos, and other ethnic groups in Cameroon. The Cameroonian government after 17 years of hesitation established in May 2013 the first Senate in its history representing regions. The country is now focusing on decentralization for better community management including pygmies and Mbororos. But never forget, pygmies and Mbororos are still a thorn in the shoe of a Cameroon which claims itself egalitarian, respectful of human rights and emerging in 2035.

Henri FOTSO

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