Never before have voices been heard so laud in the city of Bamenda over land issues relating Nkwen, the Bamenda City Council BCC and Bamendakwe. The land in question is located along the new road up station from mile two Nkwen. With the crisis taking off from the demolition of a house by the BCC for reasons of non-conformity with building permit regulations in the city (mandatory presentation of a land tittle) resulting to a street protest by over a hundred placards carrying youths from Nkwen then a media epistolary warfare between the Fon of Nkwen HRM Fon Azehfor III (claiming rights to the land as property of the Nkwen people) and the Government Delegate to the BCC Ndumu Vincent Nji (accused of attributing the said piece of land to his village Bamendakwe.) . Though strong and accusative as their words sound, one thing that remains unique to all is that the people of Nkwen and those of Bamendakwe just like the Fon of Nkwen and the City Delegate share ancestral and historical relationships. 

Oral History has it that the people of Bamendakwe earlier settled in a quarter called Mendah in Nkwen. Because of their predominant activity as blacksmiths, they had to move up the hills of Bamenda present day Bamendakwe so as to make use of wood which has made the village very well known as supplier of charcoal. Until April of 2007 when a presidential decree created the Bamenda I, II and III subdivisions, very little was talked about the boundaries.
On the eve of the 2013 Municipal and Legislative Elections, a crisis emanated from an attempt by the Bamenda I Elections Cameroon ELECAM branch office to register voters in a border quarter which the people of Bamendakwe call Ntenefor while those of Nkwen call Sisia IV. Attempts by the people of Bamendakwe to install a Quarter Head around the same area meet unprecedented resistance from the people of Nkwen with a canopy mounted for that purpose destroyed and almost resulting in an open human confrontation. It took the then Divisional Officers DO for Bamenda I Vianguelle, Bamenda III Takang Walter and the Mayor for Bamenda III Sub divisional Council Fongu Cletus to the site to calm the situation. Elections however took place in the area in September 2013 with results from these areas recorded as Bamenda III with the Councilor seat given to the Bamenda II and III Sub divisional councils.
In a bid to curb the rising tensions over boundary issues between Nkwen in Bamenda III and Bamendakwe being Bamenda I, Nguelle Nguelle Felix the Senior Divisional Officer SDO for Mezam at the time on the 24, April 2014 placed an administrative injunction order on “SISIA III and IV/Nyi-Ntenefor I & II Lower Achichem” prohibiting all forms of trespass and investments on the said places under dispute. Section IV of the said order however exempted “land owners with a land certificate and building permit issued by the Bamenda City Council.”
 This and a few other reasons necessitated a two day visit by the Director of Territorial Organisation in the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation in June 2015 with the objective to determine the boundary limits between Bamenda I, II and III. In the process of establishing this limits, a proposal by the Government Delegate of the BCC suggested that Bamenda I sub division externs down town including parts of areas like Old Town (named Ntambag by the Mankon people) Sisia IV (Ntenefor according to Bamendakwe) and Bayelle (Achichem named by Bamendakwe). This suggestion was however not received lightly by the Paramount Fon of Nkwen and His Colleague of Mankon with both leaders saying that there is no way they will allow their land to be ceded to Bamendakwe or Bamenda I. So far the final limits have not been made public by the National Commission charged with the regulation of administrative boundaries and territorial units despite the submission of the required documentation by the SDO for Mezam produced in tandem with the Divisional delegation for State property, Survey and land tenure.
This work is done mindful of a correspondence from the Minister of State property, Survey and Land Tenure Jacqueline Koung a Bessike on the 24 July 2012 referring to a Prime Ministerial Order of the 21 March 2012 incorporating five hectares in Bamenda for the construction of 50 low cost houses and eventual compensation of the victims whose property would be destroyed.
Though the site in Bamenda is not specifically mention in the correspondence and the Prime Ministerial Order, this investigation however stumbled on the list of those compensated after the Bayelle/Achichem area was chosen.
North West Regional Delegate for Housing and Urban Development Akechui Thomas Tamukum through the Service of Local Partnership and planning then went on to secure the land for the state. The houses have been constructed but the land dispute is not solved around the Bayelle/Achichem area as over a hundred youths from Nkwen staged a protest last January 3 accusing the Government Delegate to the BCC of trying to seize part of their land.
According to the youths and corroborated by their Fon, the said land is community land which the Fon is custodian. The protest with placards they say was because the BCC had started demolishing the house of one Atanga Collins on the said piece of land. According to Atanga Collins, the land on which he is building was given to him by the Fon of Nkwen.  The Fon admits he made the donation because the property belongs to the Nkwen community with him as custodian and he can give to anyone of his children in need of land.
As to why demolish the said house the Director of Urban Development at the BCC tells this reporter that “this man has submitted a document requesting a building permit but we discovered the file was incomplete. He does not have a land tittle so he cannot just go ahead to build…..the law will have to take its course.”
On his part the Government Delegate said “I have been accused wrongly of discriminating in issuing out building permit. The first thing about the issuing of building permit is that you must show proof of ownership of that piece of land. And that particular area even has an administrative injunction dating back as about three years…… as far as I am concerned as a Government Delegate nobody can put up a building without a building permit. Somebody who starts putting up such a building is wasting his resources.”  
The Nkwen people and their Fon have rejected the City Council position saying that the government delegate acted that way because he says that the house is being constructed on Bamendakwe land. The Government Delegate has rejected such claims saying “I have nothing to do with land issues. If he has problems with land he should meet the Fon of Bamendakwe or the Administration or the people of the land. I have nothing to do with land insofar as the two Fondoms are concern. It is an aberration for the Fon of Nkwen to be mixing me with land issues.”
The Fon of Bamendakwe has not however make a public statement on the issue but the Fon of Nkwen told the Independent Observer that “be informed that I was called up recently by the State Counsel of Mezam on this issue where some elites of Bamendakwe complained that I am claiming a portion of their land. When I presented myself before the state Counsel with genuine documents to support my claim, the complainants disappeared into thin air.”
Several land certificates have also emerged on the piece of land under dispute bearing Bamenda I Subdivision a situation the Fon of Nkwen now questions. “Take note that some four people have showed up with four different land titles on the same piece of land. Who are these people? When did they acquire these land tittles and the names are bearing Bamenda I Sub division which cannot be imposed on the territory of Bamenda III Sub division?”
As it is now, the Fon of Nkwen maintains that he stands for “peaceful coexistence between the two villages.” Heis however challenging “anyone who could disprove me the Fon of Nkwen that the disputed area belongs to Bamendakwe and not Nkwen; let the person go ahead and do so. I have all the documented proves and I am waiting for anyone who can challenge them.”  
The Government Delegate however thinks that the Fon should concentrate on more serious issues and stop fighting over land because that fight will take him nowhere. “Let him keep me out of that fight. I am a Government Delegate; I don’t belong to any land consultative board. If he wants to attack me as an individual, over my own land, it is a fair fight.”
Derick BAKAH

Derick BAKAH

Bakah Derick is a Broadcast Presenter and Multimedia specialist with focus on sharing with the rest of the world the daily happenings in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. You can contact us on +237 675460750 or debakah2004@gmail.com.

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