ILC Africa Regional Assembly 2017: Summary of day one

Marie Christelle DJUKO
Friday, September 15, 2017

Over 200 lecturers, masters, and PhD students in Cameroon receive practical knowledge on land reforms as ILC Africa kicks off its Regional Assembly at the University of Yaounde 2.

 “Land issues are difficult. It deals with people, wealth and cultures,” says Mawamba Harlette, Masters Student at the University of Yaounde 2. Mawamba attended a 2 hours international colloquium organised by CED and ILC Africa at the University of Yaoundé 2 on September 12. At the international forum, about 70 experts from over 22 countries shared practical knowledge with over 200 lecturers, masters, and PhD students in Cameroon.

Welcoming the initiative, Pr Adolphe Minkoa She said land is a very important source of livelihood for communities. “Land is indispensable,” he says. “It is a heritage communities transmit from one generation to another for agriculture and production.” He also argues participants must join hands to help reform our land laws.

 “We came here to inspire young people to gain interest in land issues,” said Samuel Nguiffo, General Secretary of the Centre for Environment and Development (CED). CED wants postgraduates to research on land issues and aspire to make a career defending land rights. Several students confessed to having developed new perspectives after listening to speakers. For example, Yannick Mbarga and Hamadou Ibrahim, Public law graduate students feel Africa should have a harmonised land law. They would like to see increased inclusion of rural people in continental debates. Mbarga says he hopes to research land governance but the colloquium has left him hungry for knowledge.

Sessions

Two sessions shaped the thinking of students. The sessions where two sets of ILC members shared their experiences from countries touched on two themes:

  1. Experience of land law reform in selected African countries
  2. Regional processes and land rights

The first session touched on land laws and reforms in Benin, Madagascar, Malawi, and the host, Cameroon. National Engagement Strategy (NES) platform facilitators and members sharing knowledge involve:

  1. Malawi (Tawongo Chihina Tawongo Christina, NES Malawi)
  2. Benin (Floquet Anne Bernadette, the Benin Centre for Environment and Development Economic and Social Council (CEBEDES-XUDODO)
  3. Madagascar (Raparison Eric Hermann, NES Madagascar)

Students and lecturers listened to stories about winning ILC member cases. Kafui Kuwonu of Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) talked about the Kilimanjaro Initiative, which campaigned for women land rights. John Samorai from the Ogiek Peoples' Development Program (OPDP) shared the recent Ogiek land victory and reminded participants of the numerous challenges Indigenous Peoples face. Jamus Jospeh, ILC Africa Coordinator and Amadou Kanoute, executive director of the Pan African Institute for research, training and action for Citizenship, Consumer and Development in Africa (CICODEV) and ILC Africa steering committee member shared views about continental processes and exploitation of natural resources.

Data for land governance

During his opening remark, Michael Taylor revealed land grabbers seized 8 million hectares of land away from communities in Africa. “It is not only an issue of talking and understanding but a question of doing something about it,” Taylor told participants. During the exchanges, panellists cited several times reports from Land Matrix as a reference to land grabbing. After members exchanged on a set of 15 challenges shared by Cameroonian Civil Society Organisations, Land Matrix shared quick updates about its activities in Africa. It believes land observatories will help record and report more cases of land grabbing at local community levels.