Cameroon Report- YAOUNDE
An indigenous platform has demanded a public apology from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and restitution of customary lands in Cameroon.
The demand was made on Dec. 29 2020 in Abong Mbang, eastern Cameroon, where the Gbabandi platform met to discuss the recently released independent investigation report into WWF-related human rights abuses.
The 160-page document focused on selected protected areas managed or supported by WWF across six countries – Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Nepal and India – and revealed systemic problems resulting in violence and abuse, underpinned by the denial of traditional and customary rights to lands.
In Cameroon, protected areas have long been created with no or little regard to the customary rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to their lands and natural resources. The result has been the exclusion of indigenous peoples and local communities from their lands, in violation of the international human rights law obligations of the Republic of Cameroon, in conjunction with significant other violations such as physical abuse by ecoguards.
The default position in a protected area is that use and access by local communities is not permitted, and restrictions on access are enforced by ecoguards who patrol national parks and wildlife reserves. Over several decades, many cases of abuse have been documented, including severe physical attacks, by ecoguards against community members seeking to use their customary resources.
In relation to Cameroon, the independent report found that:
- WWF continued to provide financial, technical and material support to ecoguards, despite having been made aware of allegations of human rights abuses as early as 2008 and on repeated occasions since that time;
- WWF failed to take adequate steps to prevent, investigate and remedy allegations of human rights abuses committed by ecoguards it funded and supported;
- WWF failed to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples.
Today, the Gbabandi platform issues a position statement on the independent report’s findings and the future of conservation in Cameroon.
A member of the platform states: “The harm caused by WWF is perceptible. It is imperative that we have a frank discussion with WWF management in Cameroon, and that conservation respects human rights in the future, as animals are more loved and respected than we indigenous people are.”
Gbabandi’s key recommendations to WWF include:
- That WWF issue a public letter of apology to indigenous forest communities in 2021 for the moral damage it has caused them, as result of its failure to address human rights violations connected with its conservation work.
- That an effective and immediate procedure for the restitution of indigenous peoples’ customary lands that have been arbitrarily integrated into protected areas be initiated under the diligence of WWF.
- That WWF recognise the true value of indigenous peoples’ identity as guardians of the forest and that indigenous peoples’ role in conservation contributes to the perpetuation of their traditional knowledge.
- That a thorough and independent investigation into human rights abuses in all protected areas where WWF operates in Cameroon be carried out with a view to repairing the harm done to communities.
- That WWF explicitly acknowledge and require that Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is an inviolable principle in all conservation projects involving indigenous peoples.