Director of an NGO arrested with 3 of his colleagues
Director of an NGO opposed to the HERAKLES Farms project in Cameroon arrested with 3 of his colleagues
Nasako Besingi, the director of the NGO Struggle to Economize the Future (SEFE) based in Mundemba (Southwest Cameroon) was arrested on November 14th, 2012 by members of the national military police. He has since been detained on the military police premises in Mundemba. Nasako Besingi was arrested at the offices of SEFE with three of his collaborators.
Nasako Besingi is the most well-known actor in the debate concerning the American company HERAKLES Farms and its establishment of a controversial palm oil plantation on 73,000 hectares in Southwest Cameroon. As a spokesperson for local communities concerned about the current project developments, Nasako has worked tirelessly to ensure that the views of communities affected by the project were heard. He faced continuous harassment from project supporters and from the company SGSOC (HERAKLES), which has recently pursued legal action against him.
HERAKLES’s presence in the region is considered a security risk by those opposed to the project, and as a threat to local communities’ rights. Its reputation is tarnished by an abundance of illegal activities: for example, the treaty of establishment linking SGSOC to the Cameroonian State gives the company the right to “arrest and detain” any person crossing the concession, a clause that violates both national law and international conventions ratified by Cameroon. Moreover, the company does not have a lease agreement with the State and therefore does not have the legal right to conduct its operations in the areas where it is located. Lastly, the Observeur indépendant’s forest audit report No. 40 (June 2012)1 to the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife clearly shows that SGSOC operations in clearing forests were illegal, because they did not follow established legal procedures to exercise the right to use forest lands.
Additionally, the company “did not respond to the notice to appear [before the local field services of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife] and instead continued its activities.”
“It is curious, declared Samuel Nguiffo, that the company is continuing its operations, even though there is considerable evidence of illegality, and that those who draw attention to the systematic violation of the law are threatened by the authorities. We demand an immediate halt to SGSOC’s operations and the immediate release of Nasako Besingi and his colleagues.”
For Brendan Schwartz, “SGSOC’s oil palm project is not a development project. Cameroon does not need investors like SGSOC that do not respect the laws of the State or communities’ rights. Nasako and his colleagues are heroes to our country, and role models for Cameroon’s youth. They are leading a noble struggle for legal compliance and for sustainable, equitable development in Cameroon. Nasako and his colleagues can do nothing in a jail cell. They must be released immediately.”