Land Tenure System in Cameroon

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Content Analysis
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This study looks at the land tenure system in Cameroon. Cameroon’s land tenure regime remains based on subsequent laws, including some laws that addressed land titling.  Nonetheless, most land is still managed informally through local arrangements, whose malleable rules create uncertainty, foster land conflicts, and hamper local development. Most land today is considered National Land, administered by the State for the “public good.”  National Lands include untitled lands occupied or used by rural communities. 

The State can evict communities from these lands and reallocate them to guarantee the lands’  “effective exploitation. The problem in this research is the lack of a conclusive and final title to land which is usually the center of many land disputes among Cameroonians. The main objective of this research is to critically examine the land tenure system in Cameroon, to be more specific, this work will bring out the historical, institutional, and legal framework of the land tenure system in Cameroon.

In order to successfully come out with a good write-up, the researcher chooses the qualitative method which involves content analysis. It is intended that at the end of this research, the researcher must have critically examined the laws governing land tenure in Cameroon and the role of traditional rulers in the land tenure system. However, the researcher suggests that further research be conducted on the role of ethnicity, land ownership, and private companies. The researcher finally recommends that the laws governing land in Cameroon should be repealed to suit the contemporary realities.



For a long time past, the land has always been a source of economic and political power; it has equally been at the center of many ethnic conflicts as well as one of the reasons behind tensions between the natives and their colonial masters during the era of colonization. The prime advantage of land registration over unregistered landed property is the security of title to wit; land registration clearly accords full and final title to the landowner. This means that a land certificate is a full guarantee to the title over the land.

This chapter is going to introduce the historical evolution of land registration in Cameroon through the background of the study, raise problems in the research in the statement of the problem which will unravel research questions and objectives using a particular methodology. This chapter is also going to review the literature and equally highlight the gaps in the literature used in the research and also provide justifications, significance, and scope for the study while looking at the limitations of the study, define key terms and end with the synopsis of chapters.

1.1 Background of the study

The territory Cameroon did not exist till the arrival of the Portuguese in the early 19th Century, who named the country rio dos cameroes (River of Prawns)  from which the country had its name. However, the territory only became a colony upon the signatory of the Germano-Duala Treaty in 1884 and since then, the territory has had a triple colonial experience[3]. In this light, the historical evolution of land tenure in Cameroon is not very different from the changes in colonial masters and policies.

The historical origin and evolution of land tenure in Cameroon can be subdivided into three parts to wit; land tenure prior to colonization, during (German, British and French rule) and the post-colonial era.

During the post-colonial era, land tenure in Cameroon still followed the blueprints of some aspect of colonial land registration, The British system of land tenure was applied in West Cameroon as it then was while the French system continued to apply in East Cameroon. However, with the emergence of a new state,[22]  there was an urgent need to control land which had been placed under customary care by the colonialist before their departure. In a bid for the government to consolidate all lands, they introduced to the concept ‘la patrimonie collective national’ or better still national law under the 1963 decree.[23] This was more or less a continuous reflection of the concept of ‘terre vaccante´ under the French reign and ‘herrenloss land’ under German rule.

  The 1963 law identified 4 major types of land to wit; national land,[24] state land, land under the customary tenancy, and land covered by the land certificate. In addition, another decree was passed in 1966[25] in East Cameroon stressing the need for ‘la mise en valeur des terres’ (evaluation of land) before anyone could obtain a land certificate. Notwithstanding, land tenure in both parts of the territory were eventually harmonized in 1974 with the enactment of the 1974 Land Ordinance.[26] Other subsequent ordinances, decrees, orders and circulars were passed between 1972 and 2011 to form a compendium of laws governing land tenure, registration, state land, national land, state property et cetera.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Land today is a key asset in every stratum of our society. However, despite the fact that many people own land today, very few have title to those lands or have embarked on any form of registration. A vast majority of those who own or purchase land usually brandish sale/transfer agreements or Deeds of Conveyance as proof of title. But even these are not conclusive titles of ownership because while they might suffice to justify an interest in land, they are inadequate to justify absolute ownership.

The lack of a conclusive and final title to land is usually at the center of many land disputes among Cameroonians. Hence the importance of land registration cannot be overemphasized either can the problems caused by its absence underestimated.

Further, despite the presence of the 1974 ordinance on land tenure in Cameroon and more specifically the 1976 decree establishing the condition for obtaining land certificates, the procedure for land registration still remains complex and unnecessarily lengthy in some cases and not many are familiar with the procedure.  The complex nature of the procedure coupled with lack of mastery probably accounts for the disproportionate rate of lack of registration to land acquisition in the country which is in itself problematic.

1.3 Research questions 

      This study seeks to address the main research question and other specific questions.

1.3.1 Main Research Question

 What is the procedure for land registration in Cameroon?

1.3.2 Specific Research Questions

  • Are there any legal and institutional frameworks for land tenure systems (land registration) in Cameroon?
  • Who are the major actors of the land tenure system in Cameroon?
  • What measures have been put in place to surpass the challenges involved in the acquisition of land?

1.4 Objectives of the study

This study has general and specific objectives that it set outs to achieve.

 1.4.1 General Objective

  • The overall objective of this research is to assess the land tenure system in Cameroon

1.4.2 Specific Objective

  • To critically assess the legal and institutional framework of the land tenure system in Cameroon.
  • To examine the major actors involved in the land tenure system in Cameroon.
  • To make policy recommendations on issues relating to land registration in Cameroon.

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