|No rights, no compensation|
|No rights, no compensation
Building roads can bring not only infrastructure but new opportunities to remote and poorly developed areas. However, while roads may bring benefits to the majority, for the people whose land they cross they can be very costly, as crops, trees and even buildings are bulldozed. And if people do not have well established rights of ownership, they may not even be compensated for their loss. Mike Davison introduces this report from Cameroon, where such a road building project led to violent protests from local farmers.
IN: “In Babungo village, in North …
OUT: … are benefiting from the route.
Tumoh Emmanuel who, because of having no secure right to his land, received no compensation when a new road was built across it.
Studio In Babungo village, in North West Cameroon, the right to land is held by the village chief. He’s known as the fon. When a wealthy cattle ranch owner, Alhadji Baba, wanted to build a road to his ranch, he approached the fon, to ask for permission, since the road would have to cross land under the fon’s control. The fon agreed but the road proved to be very controversial, as Martha Chindong found out when she investigated the project. She spoke first to Fuangwe Soweh Christopher. He’d been chosen to manage the road building project.
Christopher The fon authorised me to trace a route. It was not an easy thing. The villagers rebelled against the route, because it was going to destroy their crops, it was going to destroy their trees, in fact it was going to destroy their land. So there was high tension, and may of the villagers carried dangerous weapons, waiting for who will enter his land to trace or dig a route.
Chindong Did you not consult with the people before starting the project, or you just went into their land like that?
Christopher At that time land was not being sold, and the fon is the custodian of all Babungo land, by our tradition. And he had the right to dish out any piece of land, especially for development, to anybody. So it was not necessary to bargain with the people.
Chindong Maybe the people were violent because you did not communicate with them. Those who had crops growing on the land; maybe you did not promise to compensate them in any way.
Christopher It’s true. There was no promise for any compensation. And at that time, we never even thought that if we had asked the people to accept compensation they will accept. Because they did not talk of compensation, but they talked of not allowing anybody to tamper with any piece of their land. And we knew that if we stayed at that stage, development would not come to the village. But I think that the Fon who was custodian of the village had some compensation from Alhadji Baba, and that was on behalf of the people. That is a crucial thing in African society, where the big man enjoys for his subjects.
Chindong And today, how are the people benefiting from this road?
Christopher The whole community, including myself are benefiting from this route, because we transport sick ones through the route, we carry crops from farms to our homes through this route, people are building along the route and can easily have electricity connected to their compounds, whereas it was not easy before. It is easy to transport food to distant villages like Belo and Kom, through this route. So I think that the route has been beneficial to every citizen in Babungo.
Studio While the new road has clearly brought advantages to the people of Babungo, some of those whose crops and trees were destroyed are still unhappy that they received no compensation for their losses. Martha spoke to Tumoh Emmanuel about how the building of the road has affected his livelihood.
Emmanuel The road is passing through my plot, so I lost many mango trees, pear trees, palm trees etc.
Chindong Now tell me when they started the route, before they started the project, did they tell you that this is what is happening, and this is how it is going to affect you?
Emmanuel No. I had no idea of the development, I had no idea. They did not inform us. So we only found that tractors were sent to bulldoze every place.
Chindong What were your reactions?
Emmanuel We went out to stop caterpillars. So we had information from the workers, that all that was being done had already been compensated, so we would get our compensation after the construction of the road, which has never come until now.
Chindong Are you regretting that the road cut across your plot?
Emmanuel Yes I am regretting, because the crops that were destroyed, were those crops that we were living through.
Chindong Have you ever benefited anything from this project?
Emmanuel If I can say that I have benefited something from there it is just because gravel was sprayed on the road, so now travelling during rainy season, we have not mud on the way.
Chindong What of selling some items to tourists who pass through this route to Elba ranch?
Emmanuel Some other people who come from other quarters they do sell, but we around the road now, whose trees were destroyed, we have nothing now to sell, so we are just empty. But different people are benefiting from the route. End of tape.