14 Families Await Justice 14 Years After Illegal Demolition Of Houses In Y’de

Jul 3, 2024

By Yerima Kini Nsom

Over 14 families whose houses were illegally demolished by one Jean-Pierre Folefack at the Emana neighbourhood in Yaounde on February 12, 2010, are still awaiting justice from the court, 14 years after the incident. 

Their expectations rose to the peak at the Yaounde Court of First Instance last June 21. But the court adjourned the delivery of the verdict to July 19 because the concerned judge was on annual leave. It was the third time the delivery was adjourned. The various parties in the case had delivered their submissions as far back as last March 15 and have been waiting for the court to pronounce its verdict.

The case dates back to February 12, 2010, when Folefack brought in caterpillars and destroyed several houses, thereby rendering over 14 families homeless under the supervision of a bailiff, Maitre Evariste Tchoung, and law enforcement officers. He claimed that he was the owner of the large piece of land on which houses of the victims were found. 

Many people, who had gone out of their homes that ill-fated day, came back only to discover that their houses had been destroyed with everything in them, including documents like birth certificates, academic certificates, among others. According to the facts of the case, Folefack brandished an Appeal Court decision that ordered for the demolition of the houses on claims that the piece of land belonged to him. The land title Folefack reportedly brandished indicated that he was the owner of a piece of land that had no buildings on it. A description that stood starkly at variance with the parcel of land that he is claiming ownership of. The Post learnt that the people had won the case of the land against Folefack at the Yaounde Court of First Instance. But their lawyers said none of them was aware that Folefack had appealed against the decision of the lower court. None of them was served a notification letter appear at the Appeal Court. 

Observers hold that it was curious that the Appeal Court ruled on the matter without as much as hearing the 14 respondents that had won the case in the lower court. In the demolition exercise, Folefack went overboard and destroyed houses that were not on the disputed parcel of land. 

According to the French language daily, Mutations, which published an article on the case in one of its editions of February, 2010, one of such houses belonged to ace journalist, Joe Chebonkeng Kalabubse, who is now the President of the National Communication Council. 

The journalist was presenting news on national television, CRTV, when he learnt that his house was being destroyed with everything in it. He then quickly enlisted the services of a bailiff who took note of the demolition of the house that the court later evaluated at FCFA 22 million. Another victim, whose house was not on the disputed land, was an indigene of the area, Tsanga Ebode. He watched helplessly as his modest house, which was home and haven to his entire family, was brutally demolished. Members of the homeless families had to seek shelter in the houses of friends and relatives.

They later took the matter to court and Jean Pierre Folefack was arrested, charged with destruction, violation of residence and other related offences and shoved into pre-trial detention at the Kondengui prison in Yaounde. The complainants said they were surprised to discover that after a short while, the defendant was released on bail.

However, investigations continued and experts did an evaluation of the houses destroyed. The case progressed at a very slow pace, thereby suffering several adjournments. The Post learnt that, in 14 years, six judges have handled the matter. The lawyers of the victims cried out against such delay of justice, which was fuelled by the fact that each time a new judge was appointed he or she started the hearing of the case afresh. The lawyers of the victims would then be force to submit documents anew.

Five Judges who started hearing the case in succession did not get to the level of passing judgment. It is the sixth cum present judge (likely the last), Justice Ekoman, that has handled the case up to the level where all the parties have made their submission and are waiting for the verdict. In the submission of the state counsel at the Yaounde Court, the court was called upon to slam a prison term on Folefack for illegally destroying the houses and rendering many people homeless. Justice Ekoman has been handling the case for close to four years.

Apparently due to the frustrations generated by their homelessness and the snail pace of the case, some victims have died without having justice on the matter. Anaba Mvongo and Tsanga Ebode died homeless. The original proprietor of the disputed land, Biloa Agnes, who had given out the land certificate as collateral for loan in a bank and constructed her residence somewhere at the Nkozoa neighborhood, has also died. As time ticks away to July 19, the victims are choking with anxiety, wondering whether the judgment will be delivered that day or subjected to another adjournment.