A new dawn for Baka as first chief is installed in South Cameroon

Posted on
02 June 2021

For the first time in the history of indigenous Baka people in the South Region of Cameroon, a third class Baka chief has been officially recognized and enthroned by government. Fifty-eight-year-old Abila Martin, a third class Baka chief of Assok village, was on Friday, February 26 installed during a solemn ceremony in Assok, in the presence of local administrative officials, forces of law and order, Bantu third class chiefs and civil society organisations including local NGO APIFED, and WWF.

This is a milestone in the long effort of the Baka to raise their voice, promote their tradition and safeguard their cultural heritage. On the request of the Baka in Assok, WWF supported the process for the creation of the third class Baka chieftaincy as part of its strategy to empower this indigenous people.

While installing the Baka chief, the Divisional Officer of Mintom, Besseme Ematy Ebenezer, who is also the representative of the Head of State of Cameroon, called on the Baka to take charge of their destiny and preserve their tradition and their environment for the wellbeing of their people. He advised them to contribute in the fight against ills such as poaching and illegal wood exploitation, which destroy their natural heritage and source of livelihood.

 “Government recognition of Baka third class chieftaincy has great significance; it seeks to empower the Baka to take charge of their fate and guard their tradition. We encourage the Baka to be more stable in a bid to preserve their natural and cultural heritage that include their streams, their forest and activities such as hunting and gathering for the wellbeing of their people,” the DO said.

The installation of the Baka chief comes to fulfill a long held Baka wish that their chiefs too be recognized, so that their voices can be heard in decision-making platforms and in the equitable sharing of natural resources with their Bantu neighbours.

For the new chief and the over 250 Baka people of Assok village, it is a historic day and marks a new era for the Baka. “It is a great thing for me and for the Baka that I am installed chief. I say thank you to government for recognizing me as chief and all the people who contributed to this. Baka and Bantou are one and we will work together as one people with one voice for the good of Cameroon as a whole,” states Chief Abila.

WWF has continued to support the Baka in the past years and months including the signing of an MoU with government granting them access right to national parks, the promotion of the respect of the indigenous people’s rights and the protection of their cultural heritage.

“WWF welcomes the creation of third class chiefdom for Baka, which is a milestone in the process to protect and promote their rights. We look forward to working with the new chief and we will continue to support the Government of Cameroon in its efforts towards the protection and preservation of the rights of indigenous people,” states Moise Kono, WWF IP Coordinator.