Cameroonian environmental activist Nasako Besingi was arrested on Monday morning (25th September) in Mundemba, southwest Cameroon, at the headquarters of his NGO, SEFE (Struggle to Economize the Future Environment). The premises are reported to have been ransacked and Nasako arrested by a large group of police and soldiers and taken away in the back of a gendarmerie pick-up. We do not know where Nasako is being held and the authorities are yet to give a reason for his arrest.
On several occasions in the past Nasako has been questioned by the judiciary, which is critical of him for his fierce opposition to a large proposed palm oil project in southwest Cameroon by the company Herakles Farm (which threatens forests, freshwater and marine ecosystems as well as the species and people who live in these areas). He was fined heavily in November 2015 and January 2016 for mobilising communities to rally against the project. As he could not pay the fines, he was given a prison sentence. At the time Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), a Cameroonian subsidiary of Herakles farms, told Jeune Afrique that it had nothing to do with Nasako’s arrest. In recent months Nasako has also publicly opposed the arrests arising in the context of violence in the northwest and southwest of the country, in the midst of an anglophone crisis (a situation rooted in divisions between the 20% of the population who are English-speaking and the French-speaking majority. For more see this link).
We will keep you updated as soon as we have more information on the situation.
(*) This is a summary of an article which appeared in French, in Jeune Afrique:
If you would like to know more about the threat of palm oil in Cameroon, or about SEFE’s important work, please contact us.