In Cameroon’s mineral-rich eastern region, the sight of artisanal gold miners getting expelled from mines by the military is getting more and more common. In the town of Kambélé for example, landowners like Nabedja George have seen their terrains change. What used to be a lush forest is now to a vast mining field with open pits.The man has been in conflict with Chinese mining companies for months, he accuses them of land grabbing.
"Before I was born, villagers here were involved in artisanal gold mining but things have taken another turn with the Chinese, George Nabedja tells. Since they've arrived, we no longer have the possibility to wok in our own fields. Firstly, because we've been expropriated and secondly, no one in the village has the right to benefit from the Chinese economic fallout. Once, there were big trees here, it was all a dense forest. Today, it has become more like a savannah."
In the town located over 400 km east of Yaoundé, residents also look at the past with envy. They regret how cohabitation with the mining companies has turned out.
"We no longer have the possibility to operate freely on our territory, today we are practically slaves of the Chinese who make our lives harder, Koumbo Seme Leonard confesses. We no longer have the possibility to do things as we want in the same way we were used to".
Supporting local communities
The team of local NGO Foder has made a priority to report the cases of alleged land grabbing. However, they decry the authorities' lack of involvement.
"Some community leaders have sometimes been imprisoned simply because they wanted to secure their living space. So it is to say that these Chinese companies are settling in these localities in a bit of an anarchic way. But one of the things that worsens the situation is the absence of a land use plan."
The problem continues to worsen as inhabitants wait for the state's intervention and clear land-use regulations. The Foder NGO has vowed to accompany the residents in their proceedings.