Strengthening Indigenous land rights in Cameroon: Recognising Indigenous territories as ‘chieftaincies’ could be an interim solution ahead of law reform

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Between 2017 and 2022, LandCam explored creative strategies to enable Indigenous communities in rural areas of Cameroon to exercise their rights to their historical and legitimate territories. Cameroon’s land laws do not recognise collective and customary land rights, making Indigenous Peoples particularly vulnerable to expropriation, displacement and human rights violations.

A solution to safeguard their territories is essential and urgent. Pressures on land continue to grow and Indigenous territories are being squeezed or completely overtaken by land-intensive commercial projects, hindering their capacity to meet basic needs. Although land law reform began in 2011, there is currently no clear road map and its outcome is unknown.

To counter this, CED has piloted an interim solution: recognising Indigenous territories as villages or traditional chieftaincies — an official administrative unit that gives the chieftaincy responsibility for and decision-making power over a given land area. Benefits include protecting Indigenous Peoples’ cultural identity, ensuring their participation in decision making, providing better protection of land and resource rights, and better access to customary dispute resolution.