Christian Jitar Taku, Coordinator at COMAID, shares the lessons he learned and applied about engaging with corrupt chiefs and enhancing accountability on land transactions at local level
COMAID was one of the ILC members participating in the first cohort of the Community Land Protection Learning Initiative in 2018-2019. Every two months, members of the initiative join a virtual meeting to inform other members about the progress in the implementation of their learning plans, mentor each other, and hear from experts about strategies for securing community land rights. In a recent webinar, Christian shared with members of the second cohort (2019-2020) the lessons COMAID learned about engaging with corrupt chiefs and making them accountable. This is an excerpt from the presentation.
The Community Land Protection Learning Initiative is equipping ILC members with the practical skills to support communities to document and protect their indigenous and customary lands.
Who are corrupt leaders and why?
Corrupt traditional rulers may vary depending on the country, their system, culture, and social and economic demands. The approach to engage them and make them accountable may vary depending on the context. Transparency International puts Cameroon as the 25th most corrupt in the world, and the following strategies are based on lessons learned in this specific context.
Traditional Rulers (Chiefs) are corrupt when they illegally sell community land for their self enrichment, without accountability. Redundancies of the customary tenure system in 1973, and the statutory law in 1974, stripped them of their powers to manage land. They inherit power and are auxiliary to government officials who are co-opted in the legal land boards during land allocation processes.
Social pressures, lifestyle changes, fallen cultural standards and the commodification of land, push them to carryout illegal land deals.
How to engage with corrupt leaders?
- Know the community well and understand existing land problems faced by women, men and young people. This will help determine your entry point.
- Know the interest of Traditional Rulers to lobby their support. They will be interested to know area of land not occupied for them to sell.
- Investigate on existing local land governance structures, composition, function and weaknesses. This will reveal that women and youth are marginalized, and you can re-structure local land board to be gender sensitive.
- Master existing laws, connect with lawyer to help. It's important to focus on aspects of the law that supports collective ownership, for instance participatory mapping.
- Find informants on the ground to get information at local level, and know how the population feel about their Chief. This enables you to know if you will gain support from community members.
- Show how the project outcome will suit their interest. Maps, surface area, knowledge of their land and resources, land security.
- Show you master the topic, if possible show examples of other communities you have supported. This helps trust and confidence building.
- Let the community know the Chief is the initiator of the project, this will make the Chief famous amongst his subjects. Gain support always from the Chief throughout the project.
How to make chiefs accountable in land transactions?
- Integrate GIS/GPS technology in participatory mapping. It reveals spatial fraud and helps local communities know their territory and resources and enable them to defend their interest at any time.
- Create and restructure local land decision making bodies to be gender sensitive. Bring women and youth to participate in decision making on land and how proceeds are used.
- Create local land registers to document all deals and monitor future land allocations. This can upgrade customary tenure to be credible.
- Draft and implement by-laws. This defines rules and responsibilities, punishes defaulters, promotes downward accountability and clarifies benefit sharing from land proceeds. It reduces the power of Traditional Authorities and promotes team work.
- Build the capacity of paralegals to monitor the implementation of by-laws and legal empowerment support to the community.
- Traditional Rulers can refuse to embrace a community land protection project for fear of exposure and uprising in the village. Project outcomes that can work against their interest should not be exposed in the beginning of the project.
- Integrating many approaches (by-laws, participatory mapping, paralegals) have more chances of fostering downward accountability and backstopping the corrupt practices of the Chief.
- Combining many approaches in community Land Protection can yield better results too, than using just one approach.
- Try as many skills and approaches you have learnt in your project.
Learn more from COMAID!
Helping communities take control over their lands in Cameroon
13 September 2018Read More
COMAID's diary: experience with the Community Land Initiative
13 March 2018Read More