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Cameroon: Refugees Warn of Looming Civil War

Photograph: UNHCR

Cameroonian refugees arriving in Cross River State

Up To 20,000 anglophones have fled into Nigeria amid fears a secessionist battle is spiralling out of control

As Patrick Ndong was on the point of leave house for his chicken farm in the Cameroonian commune of Akwaya, a group of infantrymen stormed into his compound and began capturing in the air.

Ndong took to his heels, However as he did so he might see infantrymen dragging younger boys from the village right into a waiting van.

“They [the boys] were shouting for help,” Ndong informed IRIN. “One woman was once crying and rolling on the floor because her son had been shot.”

Like thousands of others who fled Akwaya in English-talking southwest Cameroon, Ndong spent three days within the bush earlier than crossing the border into the tiny Nigerian village of Utanga, in Move River State.

“I had to eat leaves to live on,” said Ndong, a livestock breeder. “I Will never omit the day squaddies absolutely destroyed my lifestyles.”

That was on 1 October, the day when thousands of Cameroonians within the two English-talking regions took to the streets disturbing secession from the remainder of the bulk Francophone united states of america.

The Security forces spoke back with violence. Simply in Bamenda, the capital of Northwest Region, Amnesty Global mentioned 17 individuals have been killed. There’s now mounting situation that Cameroon’s “anglophone main issue” is spinning out of control.

Fleeing refugees

The refugee waft from Akwaya – a set of villages sandwiched between Nigeria and Cameroon – and different places in western Cameroon, is just one example.

At Least 20,000 people are currently sheltering in a string of communities in Nigeria’s Cross River state, in step with state Government officers.

“The influx of individuals has now not ceased yet,” John Inaku, the director-common of the State Emergency Managing Authority advised IRIN. “They’re nonetheless coming in, even up until this morning.”

The UN’s refugee company, UNHCR, mentioned ultimate week that 5,000 people had been registered or were waiting for registration, However delivered that it was once engaged on a contingency plan of Up To Forty,000 people crossing into southeastern Nigeria.

“Our worry, then again, is that Forty,000 may in reality be a conservative figure in a scenario where the war would possibly proceed,” warned UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch.

Tensions are indeed increasing. On Tuesday, two Cameroonian gendarmes were killed in Bamenda in an overnight raid on a safety checkpoint, reportedly by English-speaking separatists. A 3rd officer was killed in an ambush on a patrol an hour later.

Nobody yet is aware of how many people died in Akwaya, However “The Federal Government has forced our individuals into carrying fingers,” mentioned 39-12 months-previous Solomon Ode, who fled to Utanga last month. “That Is going to turn into a full-blown War.”

Activists of the Southern Cameroonian United Front had warned for months that they would symbolically declare Northwest and Southwest Cameroon the so-referred to as independent Republic of Ambazonia on 1 October.

There Were huge protests in reinforce across the regions’ main towns, but it surely used to be in places like Akwaya where some of the worst violence used to be dedicated by means of The Safety forces, and which went largely unreported.

“We needed to inform the world that we are not slaves of Cameroon,” mentioned John Tita, who marched with protesters in Buea, the capital of Southwest Area, earlier than returning to Akwaya later in the day to seek out his house destroyed, allegedly via the military.

One woman informed IRIN her 14-12 months-outdated son was once shot by using squaddies inside her compound in Akwaya and was once then taken away. “I don’t know if he is useless or alive,” she mentioned. “There was once blood far and wide his body.”

Chronology of main issue

Anglophones make up roughly one fifth of Cameroon’s population of 23 million. At The Start part of British-administered Cameroon, the prior to now separate Region voted to join the rest of the united states of america in 1961. However they have complained of discrimination and marginalisation for decades.

Over the previous few years there had been more and more loud requires a return to a pre-1972 federal constitution and better self-governance for western Cameroon.

The tempo of dissent elevated in November last 12 months when attorneys in Bamenda protested towards the Cameroonian Government’s decision to appoint anglophone magistrates who had no coaching within the British widespread law used in the western areas. They have been joined through lecturers in a similar fashion adverse to the appointment of francophones in English-speaking faculties.

The Protection forces arrested At The Least 100 folks because the protests degenerated. A month later, police opened fire on a demonstration killing four people.

The Government has labelled the demonstrators terrorists. It has tried to snuff out the unrest with mass detentions. Prior within the 12 months it minimize the internet to western Cameroon for 3 months, arguing that social media was once being used to fan the disturbances.

The response from the protesters has been to declare a weekly one-day industry stayaway as a part of a broader civil disobedience campaign, which has included college boycotts.

Govt condemned

The Federal Government’s heavy-passed means has eroded both domestic and World fortify – with Western governments condemning the taking pictures of protesters in Bamenda closing month.

the U.S. mentioned The Government’s “use of force to limit free expression and peaceable assembly” was once unacceptable, whereas and the UK known as for restraint, urging all parties “to reject violence, include speak”.

Anglophone bishops have kicked back towards “the barbarism and the irresponsible use of firearms towards unarmed civilians through the forces of regulation and order”.

The Federal Government has denied the allegations of deliberate killings through The Security forces. Communications Minister Issa Bakary Tchiroma mentioned it used to be propaganda by using the secessionists to “perform their evil intentions to destabilise Cameroon”.

The United Countries and the African Union have each known as for talks to finish the concern – a name supported by Ben Ayade, the governor of Pass River State.

“Any type of relocation of a individuals, irrespective of how brief, is a failure of the arena to deal with the issues,” he said closing week.

But IRIN discovered little appetite for dialogue among the Akwaya refugees.

“It Is Ambazonia or nothing,” said one man aiding the separatist lead to who requested to not be named. “The Government in Yaoundé has been killing our individuals like ants.”

“How repeatedly do we’ve to negotiate with The Federal Government?” asked Ode, who warned of civil War. “We Now Have been speaking with them [the government] since 1961, But they don’t see the rest just right about anglophones.”

Bernard Chongo, who used to work in an orphanage in Akwaya, believes the situation is more likely to get worse.

“I pray each day for Cameroon,” he stated. “[But] the best way things are, only a miracle will prevent a civil Warfare.”

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