UPDATE: Musa Ndamba was released on bail on 12 June 2018. While we welcome this news, this does not spell the end of the six years of judicial harassment Musa has endured for his work serving his community as a justice defender. His health, family, and livelihood continue to be affected by this judicial abuse, and we must demand #JusticeForAll for Musa and all justice defenders across the globe.
Musa’s release was created in part by all our voices coming together to free #MusaNdamba with support from the following coalition partners:
Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales
Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC)
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Community Initiative for Sustainable Development (COMINSUD)
International Federation for Human Rights
Minority Rights Group International
Justice For All
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
On May 11, 2018, Justice defender Musa Usman Ndamba was sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of 1 million CFA ($1,000 USD) in Cameroon. His imprisonment comes after over five years of judicial harassment for unsubstantiated allegations of defamation, during which time the court adjourned his hearings over 55 times. Musa’s prosecution was initiated upon the complaint of wealthy businessman and politician, Baba Ahmadou Danpullo, based on an affidavit containing the alleged defamatory statements, which was not signed by Musa Usman Ndamba but by another individual by the name of Musa Adamu.
The unsubstantiated allegations against Musa are part of the larger pattern of targeting justice defenders advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples in Cameroon and around the globe.
Musa Usman Ndamba has advocated for land rights with pastoralist communities since the early 1990s, and is the 1st National Vice President of the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA), an organisation which advocates for the rights of the indigenous Mbororo peoples in Cameroon, a minority group which has been subject to harassment, sometimes with the complicity of administrative or judicial authorities.
“Indigenous peoples of Africa are losing their ancestral lands to the multi-millionaires. Corporate owners work in complicity with corrupt government officials with impunity, and render communities even more vulnerable to exploitation and human rights abuses.” – Musa Usman Ndamba
In 2016, Musa participated in a community land protection network learning exchange in Kenya and is an active client of the Lawyer’s for Resource Justice – a joint initiative between Namati, the International Senior Lawyer’s Project, and AVAAZ, that connects national and grassroots organizations with high-level international lawyers who can provide customized legal support, advice, training and leverage in international jurisdictions.
He works to expose corruption in land acquisition deals between the government and landowners while monitoring the infringement of the land rights of indigenous people.
The protracted litigation of his case has caused Musa to suffer damage to his reputation, anxiety, and financial burdens.
In recent years, Musa collapsed during a conference, after which he underwent an operation to remove a growth in his neck. He has never fully recovered, and his health remains in jeopardy, particularly as a result of his unjust imprisonment.
Musa is only one of many grassroots justice defenders around the world who suffer great risks as they endeavor to address the biggest injustices in their respective countries.
Musa is a Justice Defender working to secure Land Rights: #JusticeForAll. But, the work of grassroots justice defenders remains chronically underfunded, and the defenders themselves are increasingly at risk.
Justice For All signed onto a joint letter to the President of Cameroon to call for Musa’s immediate release.