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© Jan Cappelle

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  • Sub-Saharan Africa

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Last updated: 2 Jul

Human rights defender's story: Organic Farming for Gorillas Cameroon (OFFGO)

Story behind

Organic Farming for Gorillas (OFFGO), is an organisation founded in September 2015 that aims to support the practices and rights of traditional farming and nomadic livestock communities in the North West Region of Cameroon.

In May 2019, Special Procedures mandate holders expressed concern about a defamation campaign and acts of reprisals against OFFGO, who had published information about abuses and disputes linked to land and business operations in Cameroon.

The defamation campaign began in 2015, following OFFGO's publication of a report describing how communities were facing 'systematic intimidation and harassment by local administrative and judicial authorities' and denouncing a 'serious case of alleged land grabbing by a tea and cattle corporation.'

What happened

OFFGO President, Belgian national Jan Joris Cappelle, was arbitrarily deported from Cameroon in May 2016. There have also been threats against OFFGO's Vice-President, traditional chief Prince Vincent Awazi, and death threats and attacks against Elvis Brown Luma Mukuna, the organisation's lawyer.

Following the May 2019 action by Special Procedures mandate holders on their case, Elvis Brown Luma Mukuma and Vincent Awazi faced serious security risks and had to go into hiding for periods of time. In one of the incidents, on 21 March 2020, Elvis Brown Luma Mukuma was subject to an attempted kidnapping in Bamenda, and on 27 March 2020, as he and his brother-in-law were attacked by unidentified armed men.

In June 2020 Cameroon was sent a communication in connection with the 2020 SG report on reprisals. Following this, men in military outfits raided OFFGO's offices, destroying equipment and confiscating documents.

The case of Elvis Brown Luma Mukuma was documented in the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2021 to the Human Rights Council on death threats and killings of human rights defenders. The Special Rapporteur noted continued threats and physical attacks against his relatives, including as a warning against him to stop his human rights activities.

Elvis Brown Luma Mukuma and Jan Joris Cappelle received numerous death threats via telephone between October and December 2020 following their public submission to the Special Rapporteur. A group of individuals in civilian clothes reportedly monitored Brown Luma Mukuma's house during the holidays in December 2020.

These and other incidents have regularly been reported to the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms of Cameroon, with opposition senator and barrister Henry Kemende Gamsey acting as counsel for Jan Joris Cappelle.

On the night of January 11, 2022, Senator Henry Kemende Gamsey was pulled from his car and stabbed to death by unidentified men in Bamenda. He died on the way to the hospital. No one has claimed responsibility. Kemende Gamsey had received a multitude of threats against his life, including from both armed separatist fighters and government forces, but also in relation to the OFFGO affair.

This case was raised publicly at the 49th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (March - April 2022) by the Benelux countries.

What do we want

ISHR calls on the government of Cameroon to take specific actions to resolve this case, to publicly commit to protecting human rights defenders and the communities they represent, and to condemn any intimidation or reprisals against them.

What do we want

ISHR calls on the government of Cameroon to take specific actions to resolve this case, to publicly commit to protecting human rights defenders and the communities they represent, and to condemn any intimidation or reprisals against them.

How you can take action

Look through our 2021 campaign to learn more about ISHR's work to #EndReprisals against human rights defenders and how you can help us ensure they are able to work safely and effectively wherever they are, including unhindered engagement with the UN and other major international human rights bodies.