NASAKO BESINGI | FREEDOM TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT | 2018


Good afternoon. My name is Nasako. I am an environmentalist, and nature is my life’s passion. I am from Cameroon, but the story is complicated because la République happened. The roots of this go back to when Cameroon was divided as spoils between imperial powers. By the end of World War I, Cameroon was divided between France and Britain. I am from the British zone
called the Southern Cameroons. The U.N. took responsibility
to transition us from the British
administration to independence. However, one day in 1961, we woke up being part of La République, French Cameroon. As a result, the government
of French Cameroon was determined to suppress our identity. You could be arrested for
speaking about Southern Cameroons. 23 years later, Cameroon’s current dictator, Paul Biya, came to power. La République struck again. With the stroke of a pen, Paul Biya removed the anglophone community from the constitution. Meanwhile, as I was growing up, I received important education from my mother. She educated us about the importance of respecting human dignity. She taught us that
discrimination is an illness. We should never allow it to infect us. She was an outspoken lady. I am here today because of the education I received from her. Thank you, mom. Because I’m in exile, I didn’t have the time to grab my family photos. To become an environmentalist is not to sit in the classroom. Two major events pushed me to action. First, Prince Charles. In 1988, the Prince of Wales came to Cameroon to inaugurate the Korup National Park, a rich biodiversity hotspot home to endangered species like forest elephants and chimpanzees. The rainforest also provides vital goods and services to local communities. However, the mangrove ecosystems of the park, which is vital for sea turtles, dolphins and other species, was negated. In fact, the mangrove was under attack from multinational oil companies and fishermen from Nigeria. Add to that an increase in pollution due to population expansion rendered water passing through my town undrinkable. Cases of skin infection were rampant. In 1995, I realized that if no one speak for my environment, it would be destroyed. So, I founded my NGO Struggle to Economize
Future Environment, SEFE. But in 2009, Herakles Farms,
a New York based company sought to develop 280 square mile commercial oil palms plantation in the midst of four protected areas including the Akonicoro National Park. Palm is used for products such as margarine, soap, and biofuel, and it represents a 20 billion dollar industry. Herakles, through it’s funding of scientists and researchers got them to write reports to justify land grab. The reports falsely alleged
that the plantation site was highly deforested and degraded area. Herakles leased land from government at dirty cheap price, half a dollar per hectare. By comparison, the same
land in francophone Cameroon would be valued at 20 dollars per hectare. Even the value of land in anglophone regions reflect discrimination. Herakles promised investors profits from sustainable agriculture and impactful investment in local economic developments. They never expected any kind of opposition, especially not in this area. When I started campaigning
against Herakles Farms I never knew Greenpeace, the
Arca Institute, or Green. I had my community behind me and my belief of doing the right thing, and I had my bike to travel to remote communities. It was very difficult work to engage community in peaceful, honest discussion to convince them that jobs, schools, health clinic, roads, electricity, and water that Herakles promised were not worth the value of their forests. Despite all the sugar-coated
promises from Herakles the community still opposed
the project by demonstration protests, petitions, and lawsuits. This was dangerous and hard work. Just take a look at the video. Nasako is one of the project’s fiercest opponents. He’s openly at war with it’s supporters and fears that allowing a foreign firm to monopolize the forest
will come at a high price. His position has earned him some enemies. We will stop you! I am warning him not to work in my village, never to work in my village. Personally no matter whatever you do, keep out this village. – It is always like this. That is the competition which we face daily to protect rainforest. Shortly after this, I was ambushed by employees of Herakles. They attempted to drag me to
the bush and strangulate me. I was never afraid. Thank you. Herakles tried everything
to stop my campaign with the backing of the government. I was offered money, but I refused. They sued me in courts. In 2015, I was sentenced three years in prison on charges of defaming their business. In 2016, I received a two-year suspended prison sentence on charges of unlawful assembly. I received death threats
from unknown individuals. Despite all the odds,
Herakles did not succeed. With community mobilization, demonstration protests, and pressure from international NGO the government of Cameroon ordered Herakles to cease operation in 2013. The company abandoned
all operations in 2015, and we won! In 2016, people in my communities in anglophone Cameroon revolted against decades of neglect by La République. They marched peacefully, but the government ignored their demands and unleashed security crackdown. Security forces started out killings and arrested dozens of protesters. La République also shot down internet in anglophone regions
for three months twice. I could not communicate
with the outside world or report what was
happening on the ground. I criticized the use of
disproportionate force against unarmed protesters
and internet shutdown. In September 2017, the government
forces came to my office. They took away my phone,
laptop, camera, and documents. I was taken to prison 200
kilometers away from my home and thrown into a two-meter square cell with 40 to 50 persons. I got sick in prison, but I
was denied access to hospital. By the time they took me to see a military judge, I had been there for a week. My family did not know where I was. I looked disheveled I looked disheveled and was charged with terrorism. The charge was later changed
to attempted insurrection. Because of pressure at home and abroad, the government released me. But according to the court order the charges could be revived any time. Here is the court order. In fact, my presentation
here today could make me be rearrested. In November 2017, La République declared war on Southern Cameroons. Today, as I speak with tears,
over 100 villages and towns have been burned. Many people killed, thousands
of people have been displaced in the bushes and others have become
refugees in Nigeria. French Southern Cameroon was a child bride that the British Empire
push in a forced marriage with La République du
Cameroon back in 1961. This disaster is playing out right now in the form of total oppression of my anglophone community. So marriage counseling is in order. The U.N. should cut it
out in annual review of this unhappy marriage
before it’s too late. Citizens of the world, be you in tech, be you in conservation, be you in media we need your help to
bring peace to my area and to protect our forest and ecosystem because the future of the entire planet depends on their survival. Thank you.

1 thought on “NASAKO BESINGI | FREEDOM TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT | 2018

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *