Cameroon Activists on Trial for Peaceful Protest Against Wall Street Land Grabber

Nasako Besingi was travelling to a village to talk about Herakles’ plans when he was ambushed by a group of men. (Screenshot: France24)

Nasako Besingi was travelling to a village to talk about Herakles’ plans when he was ambushed by a group of men. (Screenshot: France24)

from GRAIN

Herakles Farms is engaged in the development of a controversial 20,000 ha oil palm plantation in the South-West Region of Cameroon that faces strong opposition from affected communities.

Nasako Besingi and his NGO, Struggle to Economise Future Environment (SEFE), have been working alongside other activists and local organisations to protect people’s rights and preserve forests in the area where Herakles is operating. They have been subjected to intimidation, lawsuits, arrests, and violent attacks.

On December 31, 2013 Nasako was summoned, at the request of Herakles Farms, for “publication of false news via the internet”. Nasako’s court case began on January 28, 2014 and he faces a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and a $4,000 fine.

Herakles’ lawsuit is based on an email that Nasako sent in August 2012 in which he explained how he was ambushed by a group of men that he identified as junior managers of Herakles Farms. Luckily a team of French journalists from France24 happened to be trailing Nasako that day. When their truck appeared, the men let Nasako go and fled. Herakles Farms admits that the men who attacked Nasako were “local service providers”. Nasako and 4 colleagues are also facing other charges for organising “an undeclared public meeting” while distributing anti-Herakles t-shirts to locals.

Nasako is not the only target of intimidation by Herakles and the Government of Cameroon. Another local NGO, Nature Cameroon, has in effect been barred by a government official from informing residents of the threats posed by the Herakles Farms project to their livelihoods and environment since last September.

International support is urgently needed to help Nasako with his court cases and to pressure Herakles to stop its intimidation of Nasako and Nature Cameroon.

On 28 January 2014, a letter was sent by several NGOs to relevant UN Special Rapporteurs (pdf) requesting they investigate and intervene in these cases of acts of repression and criminalisation of local organisations and activists in Cameroon.

Supporters can email the company directly to demand that it withdraw its defamation case against Nasako and stop intimidating activists and organisations. Emails can be sent to the current head of the project in Cameroon, Patrick Jones.

Click here to email Herakles Farms and tell the company to stop its intimidation of Nasako Besingi and other defenders of local communities and forests.

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