Absence of an Effective Legislative and Administrative Framework
For many years now, Cameroon has been concerned by the absence of a defined government strategy to preserve its cultural heritage.
In the Heritage at Risk report 2001/2002, ICOMOS Cameroon mentioned the need to train heritage department staff, so as to produce a complete inventory of the cultural and natural heritage of our country. Therefore, it is not necessary to discuss this further in this current report, other than to once again note that our country possesses a large variety of cultural sites, ranging from architecture to cultural landscapes, and natural sites that cover geological formations to forested reserves.
This year, we wish to attract the attention of the international community to the lack of a substantial legislative, administrative and institutional frame to protect the cultural heritage of Cameroon. This could lead to the disappearance of the rich heritage that Cameroon currently hosts in abundance.
The legislative mechanisms that are important tools in heritage protection have still not been put into place to support the action of the new heritage department. It is this department's mission to promote and preserve the rich heritage of Cameroon. As surprising as it would seem, leaving aside the government order to create the heritage department, no law exists to provide a legislative framework that prescribes the protection of cultural heritage. This has immediate consequences: the absence of a definition for the types of cultural heritage to be protected, and the spread of administrative responsibilities across the Ministries of Culture, Habitat and Urbanism, of the City, of Tourism, of Environment and Forestry, and of Town and Country Planning.
In 1982 Cameroon ratified the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Even if this legal international instrument commits the country to ensure 'the identification, the protection, the preservation, the development for future generations of the cultural and natural heritage', nothing concretely demonstrates the national will to create real conditions to prevent the degradation of our heritage, or even the disappearance of the principal cultural and natural heritage properties in Cameroon.
Case Study 1: The Huts of the Mousgoums of Cameroon
The Mousgoum huts have been famous since the 19th century. Their grand size, curved features and slender shapes have surprised many travellers stopping in the Mousgoum villages. The explorers Heinrich Barth in 1852, Schweinfurt in 1868 and Nachtigal in 1872, allude to these structures in their writings as 'hutshells', a term that was later translated by the French colonisers as 'cases obus'. Unfortunately, this magnificent architectural culture is slowly disappearing. The few huts still standing that one can admire, which include several in ruins, are located in the Canton of Pouss, in the villages of Mourla and Gaya and in the town of Maga.
If no institutional and administrative arrangement is made by the Cameroon government, the international community will have little left in which to invest an interest or to attempt to save.
Case Study 2: The Bafut Palace
A rare testimony of the Fons of Bafut's power, the palace's architecture was constructed using wood and liana. It was destroyed following the war with the German colonisers at the end of the 19th century. The palace was rebuilt by the Germans, after the signing of a peace treaty with the traditional local chiefs. Of the original palace only one building remains: today it shelters the spirit of the Fons ancestors. The habitable buildings of the palace are made out of fired bricks, covered by tiles. The royal family tries its best to maintain this architectural vestige, but if nothing is done at the government level to list and protect the building, it will eventually be destroyed.
Haman Mohaman & Lazare Eloundou