On May 21, 2021, Cameroonian defense forces raided the Benoue National Park to comb for the criminals and illegal miners settled within the park. According to regional tri-weekly L'oeil du Sahel, during the operation, about forty clandestine artisanal miners were arrested and handed over to constable authorities but numerous criminals escaped. Also, four camps were destroyed and some equipment was recovered.
During the second raid on May 22, the elements of the 31st motorized brigade destroyed four additional camps, arrested 33 clandestine artisanal miners, and recovered bikes, motor pumps, 267 blisters of narcotic drugs, 210 wraps of Indian Hemp, etc...
Memorandum of understanding
"The operations fall within the framework of a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife. In that regard, the agents of the Ministry of defense and security forces are providing support for nature conservation,” explains Achille Mengamenya, curator of the Benue National Park to L'oeil du Sahel.
He adds that the Benoue National Park, which is part of the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative that includes Bouba Ndjidda National Park and the Faro National Park, is facing several threats and pressures.
The threats include illegal gold panning. According to the curator, this illegal activity carried out by Cameroonians and foreigners from neighboring Chad and West Africa, is growing. "They are even moving towards semi-industrialization with large machines. For the time being, only small gold miners are being caught,” he says.
He further indicates that farming activities are also thriving in the park, exposing the protected space to alterations of the natural environment, destruction, and deforestation.
The magnitude of the clandestine gold mining
According to Colonel Dominique Njoka, commander of the 31st motorized brigade, the extent of the illegal gold mining phenomenon inside the park can be assessed with the equipment seized, namely, gold detectors, bikes, motor pumps, shovels, picks, etc…
He reveals that "gold panning sites [inside the Benoue Park] are areas where criminals retreat. The sites also help criminals obtain supplies, sell their drugs, narcotics, and small arms. In addition, the criminals traffick protected species, human bones.” “Several bad things happen there…,” he comments.
“In the North and the Adamaoua, parks are breeding grounds for insecurity. Those areas have become hideouts for people who kidnap their peers and steal livestock. The victims are usually taken to those parks,” the Cameroonian army indicates.