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Women residing in the vicinity of SOCAPALM plantations (Société Camerounaise de Palmeraies or Cameroon society of palm plantations) gave a press briefing on Wednesday 27 September 2017 in Yaoundé to condemn the French company’s failure to respect its contractual obligations, sexual assaults by male security personnel, and land grabbing.

On Wednesday 27 September 2017 in Yaoundé, women living in areas surrounding the SOCAPALM plantations united before the press to expose the human rights violations they are subjected to on a daily basis. Originating from many different areas, including Dibombari in the Littoral region, Kribi in the southern region, and Mundemba in the south-west region, these women, with the support of the RADD (Réseau des Acteurs du Développement Durable, or the Network of Actors for Sustainable Development), told of the atrocities they experience on the palm plantations. In Dibombari, for example, “SOCAPALM requisitioned all the land and oil palms, even those that belonged to indigenous peoples. We do not have any clean drinking water. We do not have the space to grow our own food. The women are raped regularly, especially by the soldiers in charge of company’s security”, stated a female local resident.

In these areas, possessing a palm nut can see you sent to jail on a charge of theft. Some people are given up to two years in prison for being caught in possession of a few palm nuts. Young girls who are starving turn to prostitution as a practical solution and young boys resort to theft and drug abuse. SOCAPALM has been accused of not respecting its obligations.

“We do not have hospitals, we do not have schools for our children. We cannot cultivate our own land and we have to walk miles to get food. Also, the neighbouring areas that supply us with food are extremely expensive”, they protested. The men, on the other hand, mostly laze around, drinking bootlegged alcohol, often accompanied by their spouses. The palm plantations surround huts and plots of land belonging to families.

RADD, which supports these women in their protests, has launched a petition on a national and international level to stop all types of abuse on large monoculture tree plantations. “Women are violated in the most intimate way, they are abused, tortured and prosecuted because they hold onto a few palm nuts or palm oil that come from their own oil palm plantations. These nuts are the basis of their diet. Some women are raped in or around the fields and their rapists go unpunished…" stated the petition, among other things. According to Marie Crescence Ngobo, Executive Secretary of RADD, when the petition obtains 40,000 signatures, it will be presented to the decision-makers. This will take place on 8 March 2018.

Source: Cameroon Info

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