There is already an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Cameroon, with many lives lost and families displaced, especially women and children. For many years’ conflicts in the northern region of the country has main the area unstable and downright uninhabitable. This situation has been made worse with reports according to the UN that, at least 100,000 people which consists largely of women and children, have crossed the Logone and Chari rivers to find refuge in Chad last year, because of a outbreak of violent conflicts between herding and fishing villages. What level of violence would provoke such mass exodus of people from their country into unknown lands?
According to regional governor Midjiyawa Bakari, the first inter-communal conflicts between Mousgoum fishermen and Arab herders in Cameroon began when Mousgom erected dams to channel water to enable them to catch fish in a location where ethnic Arab Choa herders also take their livestock for watering. Reports say the violence erupted on August 2021 in the Far North region, a patch of land squeezed between Nigeria to the west and Chad to the east, killing 12 people and injuring hundreds more. “For a few weeks, we organised mobile clinics to provide basic healthcare to 11,000 refugees in Chad, before the situation calmed down” says Jessie Gaffric, MSF head of mission in Chad. However, the violence resumed suddenly and brutally, on December 2021 in Kousseri, a Cameroonian town on the border with Chad’s capital N’Djamena, due to tensions over agricultural, pastoral and fisheries resources, which have not been resolved. According to MFS, “forty-three people were injured by knives, bullets or arrows. Twenty-five of them had to be hospitalized in N’Djamena because of the lack of appropriate care in Kousseri”. For a people living almost constantly under a barrage of violence and gunfire this occurrence is another one too many.
“The pressing needs are for health services, shelter and food,” said Iris Blom, the United Nations refugee agency’s deputy director in Chad, addressing the new influx of Cameroonian refugees in the neighbouring country. She said 85% of the refugees who fled to Oundouma, south of the Chadian capital N’Djamena, were women and children. This population is at risk of many cases of abuse along with their present dire situation. “Some of the evacuees were put with families, while others were housed in schools and churches”, said Chari-Baguirmi region Governor, Gayang Souare. Authorities in Chad are working to prevent the crisis from spilling over the border from Cameroon, according to the local governor. Precedents have shown that it is often the case for conflicts to cross the border between the two nations and that is why it is of great importance that a peaceful resolution is found as soon as possible.
The refugee crisis in Cameroon has been a matter of concern for years. The United Nations and non-governmental organizations announced earlier this year that millions of people have been made homeless by the different conflicts in Cameroon. Thousands of schools have been closed as a result of the conflicts, and 1.6 million children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
“We’ve seen hunger in West Africa surge by almost a third – to the greatest levels in the best part of a decade,” said Chris Nikoi, a regional director of the UN’s World Food Programme warned about the crisis in central and West Africa of which Cameroon is, unfortunately, a theatre for. Hunger and malnutrition are being driven by skyrocketing food prices linked to the violence, he noted. “Behind the numbers and data, there are stories of human suffering”.
The news of more displacement is saddening and is the opposite of what the people of Cameroon are demanding for. It is undeniable that the different flashes and deaths are leaving an indelible mark on the country and holding the country back from peace and development. The first step to peace is to abandon weapons and replace them with dialogue, for the collective betterment of the society, to save the lives of many men, women and children; and that is what they want.