By Paul Ndiho
August 8, 2011
In the south of Cameroon, a huge, ultra-modern seaport will be constructed by the China Harbour Engineering Company, but the project has not been without controversy.
More than one thousand people living in Kribi, a fishing town in south Cameroon, are facing eviction as the Cameroonian government moves ahead with the plans to construct a deepwater project in the area, a major development program estimated to cost $985 million dollars.
Cameroon’s government had announced a $50 million dollar compensation package for residents of the port, but residents say they are yet to receive any funds and threaten protests if alternative housing is not provided.
“We were born here by the sea. It will really be a problem for us if they take us far away to the forest. The coastal man lives by the sea. If they take us away, then we will not be able to work. But it seems that it’s all in the hands of the state.”
Another resident echoes this sentiment.
“We have yet to be resettled and we don’t know exactly how people will be resettled. That is the reason why we are making requests so that the government can guide us. If they can provide us with alternative housing, then when we have money, we will be able to buy houses elsewhere. But if we are compensated and have nowhere to live, it’s pointless in the long run as we will always live in poverty.”
Although there are no clear figures on how many people will be displaced, the government says it’s reviewing the compensation process that was suspended due to corruption.
“There were some complaints. People wrote to us telling us that there are some beneficiaries they don’t know. Where did they come from? Nobody knows, and this is why the head of state has decided for some inquiries. The policemen came here and we have noticed that… yes there has been some fraud, and this is why there has been a sort of delay in the operation of indemnifying people,”
But many like Ernest Essono, a resident of Mboro village in Kribi say they fear they will never get full compensation.
“That’s why some people’s accounts were closed. People protested, and some were paid but then the payments were stopped. Like my grandmother, to whom they had started paying money but in less than a month, they stopped paying her.”
James Edonge, a chief of a village in the area known as South Grand Batanga, is concerned about this resettlement program.
“The resettlement sites have to be near the sea. And if they ask, why should they have to be resettled near the sea? Simply because our lives are linked to the water.”
The Kribi port complex will have four terminals, as well as a wharf for exporting ore, and will allow access to the bigger ships. Alongside the port, work is also underway on a gas power plant, which is expected to become operational sometime in late 2012.