Several international legal instruments habour provisions designed at regulating certain activities related to forests. Among the numerous global conventions in this domain are the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the 1994 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). In Cameroon, the 1994 Forestry law (Law No. 94/01 of 20 January 1994 to lay down Forestry, Wildlife and Fishery Regulations) and its Decrees of implementation (Decree No 95/531/Pm of 23 August 1995 to determine the conditions for the implementation of the forestry regulations and Decree No. 95-466-PM of 20 July 1995 to lay down the conditions for the implementation of Wildlife Regulations) constituted the main national instruments regulating the forest sector. These approaches taken at the different levels are motivated by the fact that the forest ecosystem is a precious resource provided by nature and offering various tangible and intangible valuable ecosystem services which are prone to degradation due to anthropogenic activities.
The Mount (Mt) Cameroon region situated in the South West Region of Cameroon supports forests which are of exceptional scientific, economic, social and cultural values. It habours a great variety of endemic and endangered flora and fauna species and at the same time supplies many commercial and subsistence forest products, as well as providing valuable ecosystem services. It is a biodiversity hotspot, the most diverse ecosystem in Cameroon and the 10th most conservable places in the world as per the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), yet it is increasingly facing threats of depletion due to constant and increasing anthropogenic activities. The sustainability of forest in the Mt Cameroon region is of great importance to nature as well as to the human communities as it provides several services such as wood and non-timber forest products. The forest ecosystem is a source of: food, income, medicine, building materials, craft material and a natural habitat for both man and wildlife species. Ecologically, forest provides rainfall and acts as a watershed protection. It further controls soil erosion and serves as a purifier of air by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Forest to the local community does not only provide natural resources but is also of great cultural and religious significance. These valuable services provided by the forest has been recognized by the 2003 African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in its definition of natural resources to include “renewable resources, tangible and intangible, including soil, water, flora and fauna as well as nonrenewable resources.” The importance of services offered by the forest necessitates the need to effectively regulate and conserve the forest heritage in the Mt Cameroon region. These benefits shall be examined under two main groups: the tangible and the intangible benefits, and constitute the focus of this paper.
II. Tangible benefits of forests in the mt cameroon region
These are benefits which are real and not imaginary. They can be seen, touched or experienced. To this end, the forest of the Mt Cameroon region provides tangible benefits such as; wood or timber products and non-wood forest products (NWFPs). More so, it constitutes a source of income, and serves as a habitat for human beings and wildlife species. The uncontrolled or irrational exploitation of the forest in the Mt Cameroon region will affect the sustainability of these services.
(A) The Provision of Wood or Timber Products
According to an estimate from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), 9.8 million cubic meters of fuel wood are collected annually worldwide with more than 76% of this fuel wood collected in forest zones such as the Mt Cameroon region. Over 80% of the energy supply in African countries comes from wood and fuelwood accounts for about 90% of the total wood consumption in Africa. More than 1.5 thousand million people use wood daily for maintaining essential level of warmth in their homes and about 200 million people worldwide depend on wood for cooking their food. Wood used for bioenergy production increase from 2 billion cubic meters in 1970 to 2.6 billion cubic meters in 2005 and the figures have increased substantially at present. This suggests that up to 3.8 billion cubic meters of wood will be required by 2030. Generally, fuelwood is used as an energy source in two main forms: firewood and charcoal. Charcoal use in urban centres is increasing and alternative energies are not yet sufficiently available. Global wood charcoal production trebled between 1964 and 2014, increasing from 17.3 to 53.1 million tones. Of this global production, 61 percent occurs in Africa, primarily to satisfy cooking-fuel demand from urban and peri-urban households.
The forests of Cameroon make up a significant portion of the Congo Basin, which is the world’s second largest forest ecosystem after the Amazon. Forest in Cameroon covers about 22.5 million hectares of the country’s total surface area, representing 48% of the national territory. In Cameroon, the annual consumption of wood energy in urban areas is estimated at 2,203,496 tons for firewood and 356,530 tons for charcoal in a year. In rural areas, it is estimated that, the population consumes per year approximately 4 million tons of firewood collected directly from surrounding vegetation, representing an estimated value of 77.8 billion CFA. Fuelwood remain the most common source of energy not only for the rural communities where most cooking and processing depend on fuelwood, but also in urban areas. The local community preference for fuel wood is not only based on its energy but the belief that, food cooked with firewood test better than that cooked with other sources of energy. Since 1990, Cameroon’s forest sector has increased its logging activities, which now contributes around 6% of its GDP. Today, Cameroon’s legal timber production has reached approximately 3 million m3, making the country to become one of the leading exporter of timber products in Africa.
In the Mt Cameroon region just like in other parts of Cameroon, wood is used for furniture and several industrial and domestic uses, such as fibers boards, mortar, chip boards and cardboards among others. Most houses within the forest communities in the Mt Cameroon region are constructed with material gathered from the forest. Products such as rattan canes used for making furniture are collected from the forest. Trees are also felt down with chainsaws machines to produce weather-boarding for house construction and canoes for river activities such as fishing, sand removal and river transportation.
Still in the Mt Cameroon region, charcoal-wood and firewood play a great role in satisfying the energy needs of the households. The commercialization of wood energy in the region is seen as part of the subsistence economy. Wood is one of the most important forest product, obtained by the indigenous people to meet energy needs. Studies conducted in the following village communities in the Mt Cameroon region show that, 80 to 90 percent of people rely on wood for cooking and several other activities such as smoking, drying, among others: Lower Boando, Batoke, Bakingili, Njonje, Bibunde and Sanje in the West coast.  Bonakanda, Bokwaongo, Muea, Bomaka, Tole and Bolifamba in Buea, Lykoko and Ekata in Muyuka, while we have Bimbia-Bonadikombo in Limbe. We equally have Bomana, Big Koto I, Efolofo, Kuke Kumbo, Mundongo, Bova, Bomboko and Boviongo in Bomboko. Out of the Mt Cameroon region other communities that could be identified are: Mindourou, Beul, Ngola and Achip, in the East region; Nkolevodo, Vela and Simbane in the Centre Region; in the South Region, Kondebilong, Ndoundouand Ngam could be identified, while in the Littoral Region, we have Nkokom, Boomaboog and Pouth-Djock.
In the Bimbia- Bonadikombo community of the Mt Cameroon region, both the indigenes and the non-indigenes use the community forest as a source of fuelwood collection and charcoal production. In an interview  with one of the non-indigenes representatives in the Bimbia –Bonadikombo Natural Resource Management Council (BBNRMC), he revealed that, using the forest for farming, timber, firewood [fuelwood] and charcoal production is how they have survived and if they are stopped, their livelihood subsistence will be negatively affected. In the Southern Bakundu Forest Reserve, it is very much evident that, fuel wood collection has degraded a significant portion in the forest reserve. The high involvement in fuel wood collection has been partly attributed to the failure by the government to prioritize more and better investment in modern agriculture and non-wood domestic cooking energy. The excessive use of this fuel wood has a negative impact on the forest. There is therefore need for an effective regulation of the manner in which the forest resources (in this case fuelwood) are used.
With regards to the Mount Cameroon National Park (MCNP), fuel wood collection from the park especially by the nearby rural settlement has continued to be one of the threats to the high biological diversity of Mount Cameroon’s forest resources just like the situation in other protected areas in the region. This increase in the demand for fuel wood around the park has been linked to the cold mountain climate characterized by low temperatures and heavy rainfall necessitating the collecting of fuelwood from the park for the heating of homes. Mount Cameroon region with its national park is recognized as the one of the world’s most biologically diverse tropical rainforests and the overexploitation of different species of wood in the Mount Cameroon Forest Region contributed as a threat to a number of tree species.
It is understood that the 1995 Forestry Decree provides in article 26 (1) that “In national forests, people living on the forest edge shall retain their user rights, namely their right to carry out their traditional activities in those forests, such as gathering … firewood.” Subsection 2 further states that (2) “In order to meet their domestic needs, inter alia for firewood …, people living adjacent to the areas concerned may fell the number of trees to meet their needs. …. They shall not be permitted to market or exchange the timber from such trees.” Unfortunately, in practice, this is not the situation prevailing around the MCNP as the locals have engaged in the commercialisation of firewood which now constitutes part of their subsistence economy. These provisions of the 1995 Forestry Decree which authorizes local people leaving in forest edges to exploit firewood from such forests gives way for people to indulge in excessive felling of trees which threatens the sustainable management of the forest resources. Article 94 (1) of the 1995 Forestry Decree further states that “In order to meet their own domestic needs, in particular for firewood …, persons who are nationals of Cameroon may fell a limited number of trees in national forests if they have a personal felling permit.” Most often, this provision of the law is not respected as Cameroonians in the Mt Cameroon region with or without felling permits engage in felling trees for firewood not only to satisfy domestic needs but also for commercialisation. The abuse of these provisions of the law is greatly contributing to the loss of the tree species in the Mt Cameroon region necessitating effective regulation and sustainable conservation of the forest. This therefore requires effective regulation through the instrumentality of laws.
(B) The Provision of Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFPs) or Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs)
The phrase “non-wood forest products” have been used in the 1994 Forestry Law and in the 1995 Forestry Decree respectively to refer to goods of biological origin other than wood. The 1995 Forestry Decree goes further to state some NWFPs to include raffia, palms, bamboo, cane, foodstuff and firewood. According to Mbetiji, NWFPs constitutes wild plant and animals found in the forest. Therefore, for the purpose of this study, the forest of the Mt Cameroon region is important because it provide NWFPs such as medicines, food and protein as discussed below.
- Forest as a Source of Medicine
The health of every human being constitutes a priority not only to individual States but to the international community. It is certainly in this regard that the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights in article 25, the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in article 12 and the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in articles 11 (1) (f), 12 and 14 (2) (b) stresses on the right to health or to elements of it, such as the right to medical care. Additionally, the constitution of the WHO (1946) envisages the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being. The enjoyment of this right cannot be achieved without the sustainability of the forest. This is because forest provide a wide range of medicinal plants and about 80% of the rural population in Cameroon relay on traditional medicine harvested from the forest which is a practice that has been in existence for over a century and very common to West and Central African rural communities. It is also argued that, about 80% of the ingredients of used for the production of pharmaceutical medicine are derived from the forest. It is certainly based on this important role of the forest and the need for the local people to meet their health need that the law authorizes the indigenous people to exploit plants from the forest.
To the indigenous Bakweri people of the Mt Cameroon region, tree barks, roots, plants, leaves and honey among others are used in treating many illnesses especially typhoid and malaria which are common in the region. A variety of medicinal plants which are used in healing and healthcare in the region could be identified by their common names: Noisette (Coula edulis), Kola (Kola accuminata, K. caricifolia, K. garcinia and K. nitida), Milk stick (Euphorbia tirucalli), Feuilles (Afromamum hanburyl and A. melequeta), Quinine stick (Cinchona), Padouk (Pterocarpus soyauxii) Cures dents (Garcinia manu), Young Moambe (Enantia chlorant), Emien (Alstonia boonei), Mosusu (Terminalia sericia) and Okan (Cylicodiscus gabunensis) among others. Furthermore, the leaves and roots of Pygeum or the African Cherry (Prunus africana) are used in treating fever, stomach aches and heart infections. It is also harvested for veterinary use. Aside from wild plants being used as medicine, wild animals in the Mt Cameroon region also have a place in traditional medication. This is because animal products are believed to possess some qualities that modern medicine does not, coupled with the local belief that many diseases are caused by loss of ancestral protection and can only be cured by traditional medicine. From this perspective, the oil obtained from the tissues of the African boa and the python is believed to cure and prevent many illnesses when applied by rubbing on the skin and consumed.
Traditional herbs from the forest are gaining much attention in Mt Cameroon region where the medical plants are of essential need, especially in poor communities where hospitals are absent or if present, there exist poor infrastructures and insufficient instruments. This is coupled with the long distance from some villages to the hospital to obtain medical attention; the roads which are muddy during the rainy season in some localities such as Ekata village in the Muyuka Sub-Division, making movement to urban parts of the country difficult, risky and expensive for patients who need primary health care. Again, according to Vava Mary M., most natives of the Bakweri villages belief that modern pharmaceutical medications shortens life-span and provoke unnatural illnesses and that traditional herbs has no negative effects. These limitations and belief have increased the exploitation of NWFPs or NTFPs in the Mt Cameroon region leading to the degradation of the forest warranting an effective regulation of the exploitation and conservation of the forest heritage of the Mt Cameroon forest.
- Forest as a Source of Food
Apart from the medicinal benefits offered by the forest in the Mt Cameroon region, the forest also serves as a source of food. The wild plant and animals found in the forest was once the main source of food for the early hunter societies otherwise known as the hunter-gatherer society. Till date, the forest has not seized in providing local communities with food. Several international and regional human rights instruments such as the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in article 3 and 4 respectively  are clamouring on the right of man to life but it is obvious that there can be no life without food. Equally the preamble of the 1996 Constitution of Cameroon stipulate that every person has a right to life, however, this right cannot be safeguarded without the availability of food. In this regard, the forest serves as a means to ensure this right by providing food such as fruit (e.g. bush mangoes (irvingia gabonensis), bitter Kola (garcina kola), coconut and monkey kola), legumes and Eru (gnetum africanum) either fresh or dried. Other edible food such as njanjsanga (ricinodendrom heudeloti), mushroom and honey which contributes significantly in human nutrition can also be identified. These products do not only constitute important traditional diet in the Mt Cameroon region but are also commercialised in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Recognising this importance of the forest in ensuring life, the 1995 Forestry Decree authorises local people to exploit food products from the forests. However, the wanton exploitation of forest in the Mt Cameroon Region for food products is negatively affecting the sustainability of the forest. There is therefore need to regulate this exploitation.
- Forest as a Source of Protein
Animal products constitute an important source of protein which is indefensible for human nutrition. The variety of animal found in the forest had since time immemorial been hunted to satisfy this need for local communities. In the Mt Cameroon region, the local communities have continued to depend on the forest for the constant supply of the needed protein essential for their survival by engaging in the hunting of bush meat. Some of the animals which are hunted by the local communities include Cave rat (rat mole) (Heteropsomys insulans), giant squirrel (Ratufa centralis) monkey (Cercaicebus spp.), snakes (Serpentis spp.), porcupine (Atherurus africanus) and African civet (Civettictis civetta).
In recognising the importance of bust meat as a source of protein to forest dependent communities, the 1994 Forestry law authorizes traditional hunting throughout the national territory except in State forests protected for wi1dlife conservation or in the property of third parties subject to certain conditions The same law goes further to specify the category of animals to be hunted as there are protected species which are considered as endangered species. However, the disrespect of for this law has led to unsustainable hunting in the Mt Cameroon region. This is manifested through practices such as poaching. Poaching comprises a great threat to wildlife in the Mt. Cameroon region especially as it is practiced using modern hunting equipment such as sophisticated guns, traps, carbide head lamp and torchlight. This practice is accelerated by the need to satisfy the demand for protein in the city markets.
In the past, traditional hunting posed very little threat to animal populations in the Mt Cameroon region especially the elephant population. Today, poaching has greatly reduced the elephant population to less than a hundred in the MCNP. In the Bimbia-Bonadikombo Community Forest birds, Drills (Mandrillus leucophaeus), chimpanzees and other mammals have been almost extinct in the forest as they are persistently hunted for their nutritional value. The Mona monkey remains relatively common although it still constitute a target for hunters. Other species such as antelope, dwarf crocodile, pangolin, tree hyrax, tortoise and African rock python are threatened with extinction due to excessive poaching. The situation is even made more complicated by the seemingly increase in the number of hunters in the Mt Cameroon region. In a nutshell, the disregard for regulatory measures on hunting because of the desire to satisfy the protein needs of local and urban dwellers is negatively affecting the fauna population in the Mt Cameroon region requiring the need for an effective regulation.
(C) Forest as a Source of Income
About 80% of the rural population in Cameroon is engaged in biodiversity based activities linked to the forest which generates income upon which their livelihoods depend on. In the Mt Cameroon region, the forest supplies NTFPs such as fishes, honey, mushrooms, caterpillars and tree fruits which are sold for their essential nutritional value needed by the local population. It is estimated that about 450.000 FCFA is said to be generated from the sales of gnetum africanum commonly known as eru by a full time trader in the region and it is estimated that about 600 tons of eru from community forests in the region worth market value 1800.0000 FCFA, leave the markets in this region yearly. Other resources derived from the forest to generate income include craft material such as furniture, baskets, mats and other products from cane, reeds and vines which are sold locally or internationally.
Commercial hunting further constitutes one of the oldest activity and an importance source of income for indigenous communities in the Mt Cameroon region. It should be noted that, although hunting is an entirely male occupation, women too are often involved in the marketing and processing of the bushmeat. In addition, the number of hunters seems to be increasing while the animal populations are declining. The poaching of elephant for ivory by hunters has greatly reduced the elephant population to less than a hundred in the Mt Cameroon national park (MCNP). This activity is also promoted by some politicians, military personnel, traditional rulers and wealthy businessmen who need the ivory for prestige and for sale at the international markets in order to earn huge income. The country is a signatory to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES) of 1973 which obliges her to protect her flora and fauna species from trade across national borders especially those classified as endangered. It is hoped that more monitoring and control will be carried out by state officials in order to meet the expectations of this convention.
Following Cameroon’s 1994 Forestry Law that decentralized forest management, several community forests have been created in the Mt Cameroon region such as the Bimbia- Bonadikombo Community Forest, Bakingili Community Forest and the Woteva community forest. The implication of this on the economies of these communities is that, income generated from the activities carried out in these communities forest is purportedly used by those communities to improve on their livelihood through various developmental projects. In this light, the 1995 Forestry Decree specifically provides that, the management of such forests is the responsibility of the community concerned, with the help or technical assistance of the forest administration. Through the framework of “Community Forest”, opportunities are thus provided for local communities to participate in the management, preservation and sustainable exploitation of biodiversity resources upon which their livelihood is based and at the same time generating income through several forest services to better their livelihoods especially through commercial logging and through other ecosystem services such as tourism. Commercial logging in the Mt Cameroon region especially in the Ongo-Mokoko and Boa Plain forests in the Buea-Limbe area contributes significantly to government revenue. The formal forest sector is the second largest source of export revenue in the economy after petroleum. Government revenue is increased from several levies on forest exploitation activities in this region such as Felling Tax, the Annual Royalty for a Concession, the Sawmill Entry Tax, income from resale of confiscated timber, penalties, tax on export of processed products, and log export duty. The forestry sector in Cameroon accounts for 11% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 20% of export trade. Forestry in the country also contributed to over 45.000 jobs in 2010.
Another area of the forest where income is generated is through tourism. Tourists from around the world come for wildlife safaris, nature photography and bird watching in protected forest areas in the Mt Cameroon region. They come to witness endemics and rare species harbored by the Mt Cameroon forest region. At the MCNP this activity necessitated the park’s conservators to embark on the construction of some modern eco-lodges up at the mountain. Tourism greatly contributes to the inflow of foreign exchange as tourist are required to obtain permits and licenses, the cost of which goes into government coffer. Again, the cost of tourist’s travel, local transportation, food, and accommodation, indirectly contributes significantly to the nation’s economy. With the influx of tourists in the Mt Cameroon region, seasonal job opportunities for the local population also increases as they serve as tour guides and potters organising themselves through authorized organisations such as Fako Guide and Porters Association, Mt Cameroon Trekking, Flora Travel and Tours Ltd, and Charis Eco-tourism.
Ecotourism constitutes an important income generating activity in Woteva, a Village in the Mt Cameroon region and villagers are developing unique eco-touristic and attraction sites in the Woteva Community Forest. This activity is valued because, the villagers belief it brings revenues into the village treasuries, employ village youths and help to preserve and effectively utilize natural forest resources. This motivated the Chief of Woteva village and other villagers to embark on a research project to identify more potential eco-touristic sites in the Woteva Community Forest in 2014. Further, the Bimbia-Bonadikombo Natural Resources Management Council (BBNRMC) in 2007 and in 2008 generated the sum of 395.000 FCFA and 125.000 FCFA, respectively from tourism. This demonstrates the significance of ecotourism in terms of generating income for local communities in the Mt Cameroon region. There is thus need to ensure the effectively regulation of the forestry sector to sustain this activity (tourism).
Due to the economic value of tourism, many countries are striving today to promote forest wildlife tourism even if they have to go to the extent of creating artificial habitats and importing flora and fauna from biological diversity rich countries. Singapore is one of such examples whereby the government has taken measures to promote tourism through the creation of artificial habitats and introduction of wildlife.
(D) A Habitat for Wildlife and Human Beings
Forest play an important ecological function as it provides habitats for the preservation of biodiversity. Forests have been discovered to be biodiversity warehouse, providing home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and has attracted protection from legal environmental legal instruments such as the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), the 1994 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the 1963 African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. In the Mt. Cameroon region, forest serves as habitats to diverse plant and animal species. In this regard, the Mt Cameroon region endowed with the following types of vegetation which constitutes habitats to several species: the lowland rainforest, the submontane forest, the montane forest, the montane scrub, the montane grassland and the Sub-alpine grassland. With regards to flora, the region records several species with at least 49 plant species recognised as endemic and another 50 near-endemic to the region. Due to this outstanding plant species harbored in this area, in 1994, Mt Cameroon forest region was listed as a center of plant diversity by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Concerning, fauna, the forest region habours endangered and threatened primate species such as drill (Papio leucophaeus), chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), putty-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus nictitans), mona monkey (Cercopithecus mona), red-eared monkey (Cercopithecus erythrotis), red-cap mangabey (Cercocebos torquatus), Preuss‟ guenon (Cercopithecus preussii) and crowned guenon monkey (Cercopithecus pogonias). Additionally, the area contain African elephants let alone endemic bird species such as Francolinus camerunensis and Speirops melanocephalus. 86 reptile species, representing more than one third of the reptile fauna known in Cameroon, are found in the Mt Cameroon forest region, making this site among the richest in the country. With these great biodiversity potentials, it is imperative for Cameroon to ensure its sustainability by protecting the forest. This will certainly be in line with the provision of article 8 (a) 1992 CBD which demands member States including Cameroon to create protected areas in order to conserve biological diversity. Besides, the MCNP falls under the classification of a State forest which makes it subject to strict supervision especially as section 11 (4) of the of the 1994 forestry law states that “Clearing or exploitation shall be forbidden in forests or parts of forests that have been declared out of bounds or classified as State forests … .” This provision of the forestry Law contributes in safeguarding the forest as habitat for biodiversity.
Apart from constituting a home for wildlife species, the forest of the Mt. Cameroon region constitute habitat for man as well. The World’s forests and woodlands provide a dwelling place for more than 3.000 million people and for more than 200 million people in the tropics. A total number of about 900,000 Pygmies were estimated to be living in the Congo basin forest in 2016, about 60% of this number were in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congo Basin has been inhabited by humans for more than 50,000 years and it provides food, fresh water and shelter to more than 75 million people. Nearly 150 distinct ethnic groups exist there and the region’s Ba’Aka, Bambuti and Efe people often referred to as Pygmies are today’s most visible representatives of an ancient hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They possess an incredible knowledge of the forest, its animals and its medicinal plants.
An estimated number of 100 to 300 million people live on the edges of the forest and use forest products for most of their daily needs. This include indigenous people as well as settlers and squatters and people who live part-time in the forest working as small-scale loggers, harvesters of forest products or using the forest as a place of refuge during war/conflict periods. For instance, the Bamenda Highlands Forest Project (BHFP) reveals that, during the Southern Cameroons Incident in 1997, many people hid themselves in the forest for weeks where they were able to meet their needs in terms of shelter, food, water and medicine among others. Furthermore, with the outbreak of the “Anglophone Crises” in 2016, the forest of the Mt Cameroon region in the Muyenge and Ekata areas located on the foot sloop of Mt Cameroon has being providing temporal shelter, food, water and medication to those who run away to seek refuge from frequent confrontation between government forces and separatists fighters of the self-proclaim State of “Ambazonia.” Other forests on the Southwest and Northwest regions of Cameroon have also been providing temporal shelter and other resources for victims of the “Anglophone crisis.”
III. The intangible benefits of forest in the mt cameroon region
Unlike the tangible resources of the forests, the intangible resources of the forest refers to the various ecosystem benefits offered by the forest to mankind which cannot be touch nor seen but the impacts are felt by humanity as a whole. In this regard, the intangible benefits of forest in the Mt Cameroon region include among others: its influence on hydrology, its effects on the protection of the soil, its influence in purifying the air and fighting global climate change, and its role in the sustainability of local cultures. The availability of these intangible benefits largely depends on the conservation of the tangible benefits provided by the forest. Thus the uncontrolled and unsustainable exploitation of timber and NTFPs from forests in the Mt Cameroon region will negatively affect the intangible services gotten from these forests. The intangible services rendered by the forest are examined below.
(A) The Influence of the Forest on Hydrology
Life on earth depends on sustainable clean water supplies and the sustainable management of watersheds is critical in ensuring the availability of water. The availability and quality of water in many regions of the world are more and more threatened by overuse and misuse of forests which constitutes a watershed. Forests contribute partly in the water cycle by increasing water to the atmosphere through the process of transpiration, in which trees release moisture from their leaves during photosynthesis. This moisture contributes to the formation of rain clouds, which then releases the moisture back on earth in the form of rainfall. When forests are cleared, less moisture goes into the atmosphere and rainfall declines, which at times leads to drought. The Forest canopy recycles water more efficiently through evapotranspiration than sparsely vegetated surfaces such as crop fields. In Cameroon, the mean annual rainfall per month has decreased by about 2.9.mm (2.2%) per decade since 1960 mostly as a result of deforestation.
Given that water is so important for human existence, the availability of this precious liquid to man has been recognised as a human right by several international human rights instruments. In this regard, right to water is guaranteed in the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child in articles 14 (2) and 24 respectively. This right is also reiterated in the 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in article 14 (2) (c). From the foregoing, it implies that if the forest is not protected, it becomes difficult for the right to water to be enjoyed. This is because, trees through ecosystem services supply fresh and portable water which is important for livelihood.
In the Mt Cameroon region, the Bimbia community is one of the communities that rely solely on its community water supply project thanks to the constant water supply from the Mt Cameroon forest. Similarly, the need for portable water was one of the objectives of the Kilum-Ijim project in creating a community forest in the Northwest region of Cameroon. This shows that the relationship between forests and water is that which is inseparable and must be accorded high priority, especially as forest serves as a habours to most water sources such as streams, springs and rivers, which are used for domestic, agricultural, industrial and ecological needs. Again, trees serve as natural sponges, collecting and filtering rainfall and releasing it slowly into streams and rivers. Some rivers and streams running through forests are kept cool and also from drying out as they are protected from the sun’s radiation by the forest cover. The Amazon provides one of the largest watershed and river systems in the world. In the Amazon, 50-80 percent of moisture remains in the ecosystem’s water cycle. This demonstrates the importance of forest in the water cycle.
Many areas where annual rainfall were relatively high, have become desertified once tree cover were removed. This depicts that forests greatly enhance water quality. Studies in Nigeria, Indonesia and other countries have shown that when the forest is removed, minerals and nutrients that trees absorb or recycle make their way, unchecked, into drainage water. Also, forest buffer zones around lakes and streams act as a filtering system by reducing the amount of sediment, agricultural chemicals and pesticides in the watercourses. The loss of this filtering system results in high levels of sediment and dissolved minerals in rivers and streams which reduce crop growth and disrupt fisheries. Increased reforestation on unstable land, and around lakes, rivers and streams will help to increase the water-retention capacity of land and improve water quality, both of which benefit food production.
(B) The Impact of the Forest on Soil Protection
The clearing of the forest may results in changes in the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil, leading to leaching or water induced soil erosion. In order to protect our soils, there is need to protect the trees and forests. When the forest is cleared, it exposes the land to direct attack from wind and rain-soil erosion. Thus protecting the forest is important because trees reduce the effect of erosive forces using their root systems and foliage: Tree roots help stabilize the soil around the tree and hold it in place. The leaves and branches of trees create a flexible screen that reduces the force of wind and rain in the surrounding area.
Additionally, it has been argued that, soil protection is imperative because: it is the foundation of plant life as a tree will not be a tree without soil; it supports the animal kingdomand it is necessary for water supply. Thus if the soil is not protected it will lead to: deterioration in the quality of river waterand soil erosion  among others. With this in mind, it is necessary to protect the soil by ensuring sustainable management of forest. That is certainly the reason why the 1994 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and 2003 Maputo Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources have expressly employed States parties to take appropriate measures towards protecting vegetation cover. This need to protect the soil also is reiterated in the 1981 World Soil Charter (revised in 2015) when it starts in its principle 8 that “soils are a key reservoir of global biodiversity, which ranges from micro-organisms to flora and fauna…. Therefore it is necessary to maintain soil biodiversity to safeguard these functions.” From the foregoing dispositions, it is only logical to assert that, in the Mt Cameroon region, one best way of protecting the soil in order to safeguard it benefits is by promoting forest protection and conservation.
(C) The Contribution of Forest in Fighting Global Climate Change
Climate change describes a change in the average conditions such as temperature and rainfall in a region over a long period of time. Climate change may cause weather patterns to be less predictable. It has been reported that deforestation is a primary contributor to climate change thus when it comes to fighting climate change, trees have emerged as one of the most popular weapons to improve climate conditions on the local as well as on the global level. With nations making little progress controlling their carbon emissions, many governments and advocates have advanced plans to plant vast numbers of trees and to conserve the already existing ones. This is in an effort to fight global climate change. In the Mt Cameroon region, the forest plays an important role in fighting climate change through the purification of the atmospheric air. This is done through a process called photosynthesis whereby trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide and give out oxygen, as such, helps in the purification of the air that we breathe.
The sustainable conservation of the forest in the Mt Cameroon region is important for the role it plays in mitigating the negative effects of climate change and ensuring a natural environment among communities by absorbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When a tree is cut down, not only does it constitutes an efficient carbon-storage potential lost, but all the carbon that was stored in the tree is released into the atmosphere contributing to climate change. Forests contribute in controlling climate change and creating a natural environment essential to human existence. This is done by the role it plays as a great absorber of carbon dioxide (which constitutes one of the main pollutants of air pollution) and other greenhouse gases that would otherwise be free in the atmosphere contributing to pollution and changing climate patterns. Keeping forests intact is therefore a no-brainer in fighting climate change. Cameroon is expected to master the trend of biomass transformation and loss because these aspects affect national, regional and global climate patterns.
Recognising the importance of the forest in maintain climate patterns, Cameroon decided to be a party to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC objective is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere by preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” It is therefore no doubt that the Mt Cameroon forest region falling within Cameroon’s territorial boundaries, benefits from the protection accorded by this Convention. However, despite this commitment by Cameroon to the UNFCCC, the forest in the Mt Cameroon region is undergoing deforestation and degradation due to factors such but not limited to agriculture and timber exploitation The results of these activities have not only been limited to climate change but is has also resulted to valuable tree species such as iroko (Chlorophora excelsa), Bossé (Guarea thompsonii, G. cedrata), Ayous (Triplochiton scleroxylon), zingana (Microberlinia bisulcata), Kapok (Ceiba pentandra), Moabi (Baillonella toxisperma), Azobe (Lophira alata) and Movingui (Distemonanthus benthamianus) amongst others being threatened with extinction. However, It remains questionable why this situation keeps persisting whereas the State could take appropriate actions to halt the activities of logging operators as provided under section 8(2) of the 1994 Forestry Law. Besides Section 11 of the same Law states that, “the State shall ensure the protection of the forestry… heritage.” Thus protecting the forest from unsustainable and illegal logging will be indirectly contributing in fighting climate change.
(D) Sustainability of Local Cultures
Forest also has an important role to play in different cultures. The irrational and uncontrolled exploitation of forests leads to the destruction of local cultures and traditions contrary to the spirit of article 8(j) of the 1992 CBD which state that “each contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate subject to national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity….” Many plant and animals species present in the forest actually represents the cultural backbone of many African communities. This could be the reason why the 1972 World Heritage Convention advocates for the protection of sites which habours cultural and natural heritage properties. In this regard the Convention states in article 4 that, each State Party to the Convention recognizes that the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage situated on its territory. Therefore, from the foregoing, we argue that it is necessary for Cameron to ensure the sustainability of the Mt Cameroon forest so as to guarantee the transmission of the natural and cultural heritages it habours for the benefits of the future generations.
The forest contains certain animals which are associated with the gods and goddesses and are symbolic of a deity’s power. In the Mt Cameroon region, the indigenous Bakweri people have developed strong ties with the forest because of the multiple benefits they derive from it in fulfilling many cultural roles. In this regard, to the Bawekri people the forest is seen as a sacred place which harbors native shrines wherein traditional rites and worship are performed. For instance many rituals and libations need to be done in shrines in the forest, before the “elephant dance” is performed by members of the malle group. The same practice is also required to initiate the nganya dance performed by men and the malowa dance performed by the old women to cleanse the land in order to appease the gods. To this end we argue that if these cultural associations with the forest and some forest animals had not been formed by the ancestors, some portions of the forest and species would have been extinct centuries back. Besides these cultural heritages in the forest of the Mt Cameroon region are of beneficial interest to the Bakweri people and do not pose any threat to the forest. Thus, they ought to received legislative recognition in accordance with Section 27 of the Southern Cameroons High Court Law 1955 and be protected by courts provided that they are not repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience, nor incompatible with any law for the time being in force.
The forest in the Mt Cameroon region is important to local communities as well to nature itself. It provides several tangible and intangible benefits such as: fuel wood; income generating activities; serves as habitats; and provide home construction materials, hunting, fishing and farming tools. The forest further helps in the preservation of local cultures, regulate water supply, prevent desertification and land degradation by stabilizing the soil as it reducing water and wind erosion, prevents global climate change and purifiers the air among others.
The increasing demands for forest resources in order to meet human needs has brought about the wanton depletion of the forest ecosystem in the Mt Cameroon region despite the numerous provisions in national and international instruments advocating for it protection. This fragile ecosystem has been threatened over the years by several anthropogenic activities ranging from un-environmentally friendly agricultural practices such as the slash and burn system, illegal hunting or Poaching of threatened species like the African elephant, unsustainable and illegal timber exploitation, unauthorized fuel wood and charcoal collection and uncontrolled bush fires. Despite the availability of State regulatory instruments, they have not been very effective in curbing these unfriendly human activities having a negative influence on the forest.
Individuals earning big fortunes from unsustainable and illegal activities associated to the forest in the Mt Cameroon region would in the years ahead realize that, most of the forest resources are extinct if effective sustainable measures are not adopted. When there is no forest, there will be the loss of vital ecosystem services that it provides. Thus, there will be the loss of some major wildlife species. No forest means more soil erosion, warmer weather, drying water bodies such as rivers and streams and little or no rains which will affect crop cultivation among others. These are some of cascading effects of forest deterioration which the legislator need to realize now and act upon by effectively regulating forest exploitation and conservation in the Mt Cameroon region before it becomes too late. It should not be a single responsibility to sustainably conserve the forest heritage, but a collective responsibility of every citizen as provided in the 1996 Constitution of Cameroon. To this end, paragraph five of its preamble specifically stipulates that: “…The protection of the environment shall be the duty of every citizen….”
 Author is a Ph.D. Student at Faculty of Law and Political Science, The University of Bamenda., Cameroon.
 Author is a Senior Lecturer at Faculty of Law and Political Science, The University of Bamenda, Cameroon.
 Author is an Associate Professor of Law, Faculty of Law and Political Science, The University of Bamenda, Cameroon.
 UNFCCC was adopted as a consequence of the worldwide concern over global warming. The ultimate objective of the Convention is to limit human-induced disturbances to the global climate system by seeking to achieve a stable level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
 CBD has three goals which are: the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.
 Protection and expansion of forests are important elements in UNCCD, since forests have significant ecological functions that mitigate effects of drought and prevent desertification. Strategies to deal with desertification are likely to mitigate forest loss as well
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 See section 9(1) of the 1994 Forestry Law.
 See article 3 (22) of the 1995 Forestry Decree.
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 Mbetiji (n 5) 110.
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 Interview with Asoh Clementine, a Cocoa farmer in Ekata village, conducted on 27/05/2020.
 Neh (n 55)
 Interview with Vava Mary Magdaline M. of Muea, a Bakweri indigene, conducted on 10/06/2020.
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 See also 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child in article 6.
 Mbetiji (n 5) 110.
 FAO, (1993).Common Forest Resource Management. Annoted Bibliography of Asia, Africa and Latin America, FTP-FAO. Rome. P. 198;
 Article 26(1) of the 1995 Forestry Decree.
 Tata (n 34)
 Ewane (n 32) 231.
 See Section 86 (1 &2) of the 1994 Forestry Law.
 See Section 78 & 79. Ibid.
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 See Gadsby, E. L. & Jenkins P. D., (1992). Report on Wildlife and Hunting in the Proposed Etinde Forest Reserve, Report to ODA, In: Watts J., (1994), Developments Towards Participatory Forest Management on Mount Cameroon (The Limbe Botanic Garden And Rainforest Genetic Conservation Project 1988-1994), Network Paper 17d, Russell Press Ltd, Nottingham. P. 7.
 MINENP (n 46) 23.
 Efuet (n 49).
 Shiembo N. S., (eds). The sustainability of Eru (Gnetum africanum and Gnetum Buchholzianum): Over Exploited Non-Wood Forest Products from the Forest of Central Africa. In: FAO (1999), Non-wood Forest Products in Central Africa, Current Research Issues and Prospects for Conservation and Development, FAO, P.62.
 Mbetiji (n 5) 117.
 Gadsby (n 72).
 Forlemu (n 68) 21.
 Law No. 94/01 of 20 January 1994 To Lay Down Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Regulations.
 Decree No 95/531/PM Of 23 August 1995 to determine the conditions for the implementation of the forestry regulations.
 Article 3(1). Ibid.
 Ashu T. N., (2016). The impacts of formal and informal institutions on a forest management project in Cameroon, Rural Development and Natural Resource Management – Master’s thesis, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (published at : http://stud.epsilon.slu.se) P. 32.
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 Ameriei, L., (2005). Legal compliance in the forest sector: A case study of Cameroon. Final report, FAO, Rome. P.7. Available at: http://www.fao.org/forestry/12937-3-0.pdf, (accessed on: 25/03/2020).
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 See Mount Cameroon National Park at http://www.mtcameroonnationalpark.org/Ecotourism.html, consulted on 22/04/2020.
 The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) refers to ecotourism as a “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. Such traveling can be created thanks to an international network of individuals, institutions, and the tourism industry where tourists and tourism professionals are educated on ecological issues. See Youmatter (May 2020) Ecotourism: Definition, Meaning And Examples available at: https://youmatter.world/en/definition/ecotourism/, consulted on: 20/11/2020).
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 See WWF, (2020). Forest Habitat, available at https://www.worldwildlife.org/habitats/forest-habitat, (consulted on 07/02/2020).
 MINFOF (n 4)19.
 Forlemu (n 68) P. 20.
 Ibid. P. 20.
 See IUCN/WWF, (1994) In MINFOF (n 4) 22.
 See FAO (n 11).
 See FAO’s Tropical Forestry – Action Plan, available at http://www.fao.org/3/r7750e/r7750e06.htm, (consulted on: 27/04/2020)
 The Congo Basin spans across six countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
 See African Pygmies at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Pygmies#cite_note-3, (consulted on: 27/04/2020).
 WWF, (2020). Congo Basin, available at: https://www.worldwildlife.org/places/congo-basin, (consulted on: 27/04/2020).
 See WWF (2020) The Importance of Forests cannot be Underestimated, available at https://wwf.panda.org/discover/our_focus/forests_practice/importance_forests/, (consulted on: 30/04/2020).
 BHFP, (2001), community forest seminar series. In: Mbetiji (n 5) P. 114.
 Interview with Asoh Clementine, a Cocoa farmer in Ekata village. Conducted on 25/05/2020. (At the time of this conversation, this farmer along with other villagers from Ekata village where seeking shelter in the forest. She revealed they have been there for more than three weeks).
 Mbetiji (n 5) 120.
 Zhang Y., (2008). Watershed Forest Management Information System (WFMIS), Faculty Publications. Paper 24. Stephen F. Austin State University, Environmental Modelling & Software, PP.1–7, at P. 1.
 Calder I., et al., (2007). Towards a new understanding of forests and water, Available at: http://www.fao.org/tempref/docrep/fao/010/a1598e/a1598e02.pdf. P.3. (consulted on 19/04/2020.)
 Ekhuemelo D. O., Amonum J. I. and Usman I. A., (2016). Importance of Forest and Trees in Sustaining Water Supply and Rainfall. Nigeria Journal of Education, Health and Technology Research (NJEHETR). APREHET. P. 274.
 ITTO (n 87) P. 47
 Article 14 (2) ( h) of this Convention warrant states parties to ensure to rural woman the right “To enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.”
 Article 24(2) (c) of this Convention provides that” States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures: To combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care, through, inter alia, the application of readily available technology and through the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water, taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution.”
 This article provides that “ State Parties to the present Charter shall undertake to pursue the full implementation of this right and in particular shall take measures: to ensure the provision of adequate nutrition and safe drinking water”
 See Lambi C, M., (eds). The difficult Life of the Kridi: The Mandara mountain settlement of the North Cameroon. In Mbetiji (n 5) 120.
 Ngalame E. N., (2017). Mount Cameroon Forest blazing trail in community forest drive, available at: http://climatereporters.com/2017/02/mount-cameroon-forest-blazing-trail-in-community-forest-drive/, (consulted on 19/04/2020).
 Mbetiji (n 5) 120.
See eSchoolToday (2018-2020). Importance of Forests, available at http://eschooltoday.com/forests/importance-of-forests.html, (consulted on 16/04/2020).
 Madaan S., (eds). Why are Forests Important? Available at https://www.eartheclipse.com/environment/importance-of-forests.html, (consulted on 19/04/2020).
 Ekhuemelo (n 113).
 FAO, (1992). Forest Trees and Food, available at http://www.fao.org/3/u5620e/U5620E05.htm, (consulted on 25/04/2020).
 FAO, (2015). Forests and Forest Soils: An Essential Contribution to Agricultural Production and Global Food Security, at http://www.fao.org/soils-2015/news/news-detail/en/c/285569/ , (consulted on 02/05/2020).
 Thompson, D., (2017). How Can Trees Help Prevent Soil Erosion? Available at: https://sciencing.com/how-can-trees-help-prevent-soil-erosion-12620837.html, (consulted on 06/05/2020).
 Our agriculture also relies on soil, for its location and for other functions to be derived from its existence. It will be almost impossible to support the animal and human life without land. Biodiversity relies on soil at all times.
 Nicholas J., (2017). 3 Reasons Why Soil Conservation is so Important, available at: http://www.ocscd.org/3-reasons-soil-conservation-important/, (consulted on: 16/10/2020).
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 See article 2 and article 5 of the 1992 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
 See article VIII and article XVII of the 2003 Maputo Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
 NASA, (eds). Climate Kids, available at: https://climatekids.nasa.gov/climate-change-meaning/, (consulted on 16/10/2020). See also Article 1(2) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
 See National Geographic at https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/climate-change/, (consulted on (16/10/2020.)
 Sutter J. D., (2019). 10 climate change villains , available at : https://edition.cnn.com/2015/08/13/opinions/gallery/top-climate-change-contributors/index.html,(consulted on16/10/2020)
 Hassan (n 97) 588.
 Pawer K., V et al, (2015). Forest Conservation and Environmental Awareness, Procedia Earth and Planetary Science 11, Elsevier B.V. India, PP. 212- 215, at P. 214
 See: Forest Conservation, available at: https://www.toppr.com/guides/evs/whose-forests/forest-conservation/, consulted on: 20/03/2020.
 See Forest Habitat, available at: https://www.worldwildlife.org/habitats/forest-habitat, (consulted on: 20/03/2020).
 MINENP (n 46) 28.
 Adopted on the 9th of May 1992 and opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro from 3rd to the 14th of June 1992. On the 14th of June 1992 Cameroon signed the treaty.
 The term anthropogenic designates an effect resulting from human activity. Some human activities that cause damage (either directly or indirectly) to the environment on a global scale include, overexploitation, pollution, and deforestation.
 See Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992.
 MINENP, (2013). Document submitted to the “Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP)” of the “Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) of the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. Retrieved fromhttps://www.forestcarbonpartnership.org/sites/forestcarbonpartnership.org/files/Documents/PDF/Feb2013/Cameroon%20final%20R-PP-English-January%202013.pdf
 Richards P. W. (1963). Ecological notes of West African vegetation: II. Lowland forest of the Southern Bakundu Forest Reserve. Journal of Ecology, 51(1), PP. 123-149. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2257510, consulted on: 25/03/2020.
 It provides that “The Ministers in charge of forestry, wildIife and fisheries may, by reason of public interest, and in consultation with the populations concerned, temporarily or permanently suspend the exercise of logging rights, when necessary.”
 See Convention on Biological Diversity: Article 8(j) – Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices, available at https://www.cbd.int/traditional/, (consulted on: 05/05/2020).
 See Kabuye, C., (eds). Socio-economic research and non-wood forest products. In Mbetiji, M. M., (n 5) 124.
 Efuet (n 49) 2286.
 Ibid. P. 2287.
 Section 27(1) of the Southern Cameroons High Court Law, 1955. See also the Customary Courts Ordinance cap 142 of 1948 applicable to Anglophone Cameroon.
 Law No. 96-6 of 18 January 1996 to amend the Constitution of 2 June, 1972.