Included or Excluded: An Analysis of the Application of the Free, Prior and Informed Consent Principle in Land Grabbing Cases in Cameroon




Free, prior, informed and consent, land grabbing, governance, local communities/indigenous people, access to information, public participation


Even though the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) is soft law, the need to respect, protect and fulfil the rights to be informed and to be involved in development projects is strongly backed in international legal instruments including inter alia the ILO Convention 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal People in Independent Countries (1998) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal People (2007). These instruments do not only appear to be the most comprehensive and advanced international legal instruments that deal with indigenous peoples' rights in terms of the FPIC, but also signal an addition to the growing body of international human rights law that serves to ensure the realisation and protection of the substantive environmental and other human rights of indigenous people, particularly in the context of land grabbing activities that have the potential to negatively impact on their rights. Such rights include, for example, the rights to be informed and to participate in decision-making processes with respect to development projects, including land grabbing activities. This implies an obligation on states party to such international agreements to ensure that indigenous people are informed about and are actively involved in both the negotiation and the implementation of land grabbing deals. However, because the latter often takes place against the background of non-transparent transactions which are inimical to the rights and interests of indigenous people, one may wonder why the principle of FPIC is not applicable during land grabbing transactions.

Focusing on Cameroon, this article examines instances of land grabbing in the country in order to support this hypothesis. This is done by focusing specifically on the application of the principle of FPIC. The arguments in the article are inspired by international law in which the application of the principle in the context of land grabbing serves not only to protect the rights and interests of indigenous people but is also conducive to fostering and reinforcing the land governance regime of host countries involved in such deals. To this end, the article concludes that because the principle embodies aspects of procedural rights such as the rights to information and participation, which are often conspicuously lacking during land grabbing contracts, its application in and during land grabbing might be useful to set the basis for the recognition, promotion, and enforcement of local communities' rights in Cameroon.


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Author Biography

Jean Claude N Ashukem, North West University Potchefstroom Campus

Faculty of Law


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International instruments

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights of 1948

The Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992

The International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966

The International Labour Organisation Convention on the Rights of Indigenous People of 1989

The United National Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal People of 2007

The United Nations Conference on Human Environment of 1972

The United Nations on Environment and Development of 1992

National Legislation


Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon, 1996

Law No 94/01 of 20 January, 1994, to lay down Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Regulation

Law No 96/12 of 5th August 1996 on Environmental Management in Cameroon

Ordinance No 76/166 of April 27th 1976 laying down the management of state land in Cameroon


Access to Information Act 6 of 2005

Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995

National Environmental Management Act Cap 153 of 1995

National Forestry Act 8 of 2003

National Forestry and Tree Planting Act 8 of 2003


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Centre for Minority Rights Development & Others v Kenya Centre for Minority Rights Development & Others v Kenya (2009) AHRLR 75 (ACHPR 2009, Endorois case)

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Domestic cases

South Africa

Tongoane & Others v Minister for Agriculture and Land Affairs and Others [2010] ZACC (CC)

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Annoymoushttp// accessed

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Greenpeace 2012 Palm oil’s new frontier: how industrial expansion threatens Africa’s rainforests accessed 26 March 2015

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Mousseau F 2013 The truth behind Herakles Farms false promises in Cameroon accessed 13 April 2016

Ngorgang C 2009 Chinese in Cameroon: An agricultural misunderstanding accessed 2 March 2016

Oakland Institute date unknown Herakles Farms is destroying rainforest and local livelihood in Cameroon for palm oil plantation accessed 19 April 2016

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SEFE 2013 Calls president of Cameroon’s land deals with US Company accessed 22 April 2016

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How to Cite

Ashukem, J. C. N. (2017). Included or Excluded: An Analysis of the Application of the Free, Prior and Informed Consent Principle in Land Grabbing Cases in Cameroon. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 19, 1–29.




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