Date: Sat, 16 Oct 1999 11:14:39 -0400
Reply-To: FORUM PAN-AFRICA <AFRICA-L@BROWNVM.BROWN.EDU>
Sender: FORUM PAN-AFRICA <AFRICA-L@BROWNVM.BROWN.EDU>
From: Lyombe Eko <Lyombe_Eko@UMIT.MAINE.EDU>
Organization: University of Maine
Subject: CDC Privatization (Cameroon):World Bank, IMF, Biya create powderkeg.
To: Multiple recipients of list AFRICA-L <AFRICA-L@BROWNVM.BROWN.EDU>
World Bank, IMF, Biya create powderkeg
From FakoNet <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 16 October 1999
Western Multi-national Corporations Vie to Acquire African Agro-industrial Company founded on Land grabbed by Colonial Power from Natives. World Bank and IMF give Blessing to Deal.
Multi-national corporations, Fruitiers/Dole, Chiquita, Del Monte and others, are vying to acquire a potentially prosperous Cameroon government-controlled company under an International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank-sponsored structural adjustment program. Under the program, the cash-strapped government of Cameroon decided to privatize the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) in exchange for structural adjustment loans from both institutions.
The government controlled agro-industrial company, grows bananas, tea, rubber, oilpalms and other tropical products for export, on vast tracts of fertile volcanic land seized from natives, the Bakweri or Whakpe people, more than a century ago by German colonialists. Though the corporation has plantations mostly in Southwest Cameroon, it also runs plantations in the Northwest and Littoral provinces. The company is the largest employer after the state.
The fly in the ointment of this otherwise classic World Bank/IMF structural adjustment tale is that the land issue has not been settled. In effect, the lands on which most of the agro-industries and plantations eyed by the Western companies are located, some 104.000 hectares, was expropriated from the natives, the Bakweri or Whakpe people, by the German colonial administration and its proxies, prior to, and after the Berlin West Africa Conference of 1884-85. This conference partitioned Africa among the Western colonial powers.
Though the Bakweri have asked that the lands be returned to them since Germany lost its colonies after World War I, their pleas have been ignored. The lands are now in the custody of the Cameroon government which exploits them without reference to its rightful owners. In 1994 and early 1999, the Bakweri Land Claim Committee (BLCC), on behalf of the people, officially wrote to President Paul Biya requesting that they be included in the privatization negotiations since the land was theirs. Their pleas have been ignored and even as we speak, the multi-national companies are making deals with individual government officials in Cameroon to sell all or parts of the Cameroon Development Corporation to the companies at throwaway prices. This lack of consultation, transparency and accountability is tantamount to sowing the seeds of yet another African conflict.
In the face of this attempt by the multi-national corporations and the government of Cameroon, with the blessing of the World Bank and the IMF to deprive Cameroonians in general, and the native Bakweri people in particular, of their land for ever, without their consultation and without compensation, Bakweri indigenes around the world have gone on record as having written a letter to the President of Cameroon expressing their views on this potentially explosive issue.
In the interest peace, we the undersigned, have been given the responsibility of making the matter known to the world. To this end, we enclose herewith, the text of the letter to President Biya. We ask all men and women of good will to join in the struggle to protect the interest of ordinary Cameroonians who live in abject poverty and deprivation while their unaccountable leaders and their multi-national corporation partners exploit their heritage before their very eyes.
Jack Efase Endeley,
Letter from the Bakweri around the world to President Paul Biya of Cameroon
October 1, 1999
His Excellency President Paul Biya
LETTER OF SUPPORT FOR BAKWERI LAND CLAIM COMMITTEE.
We, Fako elements living in all continents of the world, assembled through the revolutionary technology of the Internet, have the honour to state that we have read a copy of the letter of 3rd March 1999 addressed to your Excellency by the Bakweri Land Claim Committee, (BLCC) seeking redress for injustices perpetrated on our people for more than a century. We would like to state that we unreservedly associate ourselves with the sentiments expressed by the BLCC as it seeks to regain the lands of which the Bakweri were dispossessed.
We whole-heartedly support the approach of the BLCC, which we understand is not against privatisation, per se, but against disposing of the land in Fako division, on which the CDC has its agro-industrial facilities, without consulting its Bakweri owners or compensatiing them for past use. We whole-heartedly support the BLCC position because we believe that it is consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 21 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights of 1981, which states, inter alia:
1. All peoples shall freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources. This right shall be exercised in the exclusive interest of the people. In no case shall a people be deprived of it.
2. In case of spoilation, the dispossessed people shall have the right to the lawful recovery of its property as well as to an adequate compensation...
We note that the BLCC has opted to resolve this CDC land problem peacefully, in the interest of national unity, peace and progress of all Cameroonians. We would also like to state that in the interests of the generations to come, each and every one of us would like to stand up and be counted as having contributed, in his or her own small way, to the resolution of this thorny issue.
The letter from the BLCC has given an exhaustive survey of the history of how the Bakweri were dispossessed of their land by successive colonial governments, and how these land ended up in the custody of the Republic of Cameroon. We could not have done any better. While we the Bakweri are generally moderates by nature, we would like to put on record that our moderation has limits. History records that the lands in question were the subject of a protracted conflict between the Bakweri and the brutal and inhuman German colonial administration. In effect, the plan of the Germans was to move all the Bakweri into reservations or Bantustans in order to better exploit them and their lands. That move was resisted by force of arms and the Germans renounced the Bakweri Bantustan project.
Your Excellency, we would like to put on record that it is our considered opinion that if the privatization of the CDC goes ahead without input from the Fako indegenes on whose land most of the corporation's agro-industrial activities are based, this would be tantamount to postponing resolution of the land problem. Cameroon, under your leadership, would have missed an historic opportunity to right a longstanding wrong, and sowed the seeds of socio-economic disharmony for future generations of Cameroonians.
Our fervent prayer is that the BLCC appeals would be heeded in the interest of peace, national unity and the generations of Cameroonians to come.
Please accept, your Excellency, the expression of our highest consideration.
For and on behalf of Fako elements around the world whose names are appended to this letter.
President of Fako America
Jack Efase Endeley, Illinois, USA
Ad hoc Secretary
[List of 139 endorsers, largely resident in the US, here omitted]
Chief Philip Mofema Ewusi
Hon. Peter Mafany Musonge,
H.R.H Sam Endeley,
H.R.H Bille F. Manga Williams
All Traditional chiefs of Fako Division
The Managing Director,