History: How the Oku-Mbessa Land Dispute Was Handled

The concept of conflict resolution in the Oku community, can be dated far back in the 1900s, when trivial misunderstandings over property, land disputes and human resources, degenerated into major conflicts.

The Oku community is a subdivision, in the Bui division of the Northwest region of Cameroon. It is mother to over 36 subvillages, ruled by sub-chiefs under one Paramount ruller, Fon Sentieh Yosimbom Ngum.

From the main city of the Northwest region, it is situated some 75 kms through the Babungo-Bamenda ring road. It is neighbor to the Noni, Banso and Bikom communities, who share her similar customs and traditions.

Resolving conflicts in the Oku land, lies in the hands of designated authorities, composed of mayors, divisional officers, fons and quarter heads, depending on the degree of the conflict.
Like the Oku/Mbessa conflict that gained life in the early 1980s, authorities with respect to the Oku customs, traditions and cultural norms, employed diplomatic energy to curb the consuming effects of the land dispute over a farmland called ‘Koh_Embel’ (in the Oku language), on which the Mbessa people had trespassed and claimed ownership of.

They destroyed and uprooted crops on this farmland, beat and seized baskets belonging to the Oku women, and sent them home in tears. This went on for years, with the Oku people sending words to authorities, yet no positive feedback.

The Mbessa community is a village in the Belo subdivision, Boyo division of the Northwest region of Cameroon. It is made up of 20 sub villages, ruled by quarter heads under one paramount fon. However, it is relatively small in size as compared to Oku.

Though the neighboring Oku and Mbessa tribes, practiced intertribal marriages, trade and interactions in sociocultural activities like funerals and anniversaries, they openly plunged into disputing over the ‘Koh_Embel’ farmland in 1982, a clash that resulted to the destruction of lives and properties.

Authorities of the Oku community in an attempt to overcome this dispute, implemented peace approaches, which to them was a way of mitigating the much caused destructions and damages she allerged was caused by the Mbessa people on her women and farmland.

By Nai Vonna Nubeh

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