A little over 100 irate farmers recently stormed the office of the divisional officer for Limbe I, Seraphin Epale, in protest for an injunction order put on their farms in the Mevio Me’mbenge village in Limbe I sub division.
The farmers are accusing the DO of complying with the chief, HRH Henry Ndiko Fondason, in claiming land they have been farming since the 1970s.
According to Victor Njonami, spokesperson for the protesting farmers “We have been farming in that piece of land since 1976. We were surprised that (Chief) Fondason sent people to cut down our farm produce and caterpillars to bulldoze our farmlands.”
He went further to allege that “He (Fondason) used a gun to threaten us from our farmland, going as far as shooting one of us in the leg and even pressing legal charges on us”
The farmers say instead of settling the dispute amicably, the DO took sides with the said chief and placed an embargo on the land, preventing the farmers from their only source of livelihood.
The divisional Officer meantime refused to attend to the protesters in person, rather sending the commander of the gendarmerie unit and commissioner of the police force of Limbe I to attend to the farmers.
According to the security official, the DO requested that the farmers put all their worry in writing but said he will only uplift the injunction order when the two warring parties have come to a compromise.
A human rights officer from the People’s Human Rights Organisation (PHRIDE), handling the crisis for the vulnerable farmers, indicated that the administrator is making life difficult for the poor farmers who largely depend on the farmlands for a livelihood.
According to Maurice Ngwafogbe, PHRIDE commissioner, “The said chief has been bridging administrative orders while he goes scot free, but these farmers pay the price as the DO seem to be treating them as lesser Cameroonians.”
“We have taken the matter right to Yaoundé (ministry of Justice), they will be hearing soon from us.” Ngwafogbe said.
Meanwhile, Chief Fondason has refuted all the allegations levied against him by the farmers. According to the chief “We have 500 farmers using Mevio land and only 150 are registered into the Mevio Farmers association. These squatters fall under the unregistered farmers.”
He indicated that the Mevio council concerted and decided that all farmers using Mevio land would have to pay some property rights to the village. While others have done so, some are proving tough.
He advised the irate farmers to identify themselves with the village and farm peacefully in the land.