Endless scramble for cattle

Hard time for Cameroon’s Mbororo people

In the Adamaoua Region of Cameroon, local authorities have a long tradition of dispossessing the Mbororo Fulani pastoralists of their cattle. NAI researcher Tea Virtanen has followed the situation in Adamaoua since the 1990s.
– The Mbororo people are losing their cattle in many ways. They are exploited by local livestock service authorities, in whose possession some cattle often end up during vaccination tours. Traditional leaders are also known for their greediness for cattle. For instance, laamiido, the traditional Muslim chief, approves a Mbororo household’s move to a new campsite. The approval often requires the transfer of some cattle, says Tea Virtanen.

Moreover, various traditional cattle taxation forms include payment in cattle to the laamiido. The Mbororo are even supposed to give him some of the beasts of a deceased relative.
– As if this weren’t enough, different forms of taxation or payment often involve middlemen, who then collect their share of cattle. Most of these cattle transfers are not recognised in law and could be considered illegal, says Tea Virtanen.

There are also new religious leaders, notably the sheikhs of Muslim Sufi brotherhoods, who nowadays compete with the laamiido for the favours of their Mbororo followers.

– The well-off Mbororo are expected to donate cattle for slaughter during festivities in local Sufi centres. Moreover, tours by the sheikh and his entourage are often financed through Mbororo cattle sales.

The Mbororo development organisation in Cameroon, MBOSCUDA, is fighting this exploitation by making the Mbororo people aware of their cattle rights, especially in relation to the laamiido. This has led to tension between MBOSCUDA and the laamiido in certain areas. Additionally, certain traditional Mbororo chiefs have recently been removed from leading positions in the organisation on account of their role as laamiido’s middlemen in the collection of cattle tax.

– Unfortunately, one can nowadays also hear complaints about some MBOSCUDA officers taking possession of cattle as some sort of compensation for their efforts to defend their people against local authorities, says Tea Virtanen

Read Tea Virtanen’s article on the Mbororo and MBOSCUDA in the NAI Annual Report, 2012 (pdf opens in new window).

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