Tag Archives: Cameroon

Nigeria – 30,000 displaced by Boko Haram return from Cameroon

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displaced by Boko Haram return from Cameroon

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

The Borno State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, says 30,000 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, who fled the state at the peak of the Boko Haram insurgency have returned home.

Abdullahi Umar, the spokesperson of the agency, said in a statement issued in Maiduguri on Wednesday that the figure was part of the 78,000 IDPs that fled the state to Cameroon during the period.

Mr. Umar said that the returnees were part of the 43,000 IDPs that signified interest to return home.

He said the displaced persons were being kept in a camp at Banki in Bama Local Government Area of the state.

He said that a team of SEMA officials had already visited the camp to assess their condition.

“The SEMA Executive Secretary, Malam Alkali Goni, has led a delegation of the agency to Banki to assess the conditions of the IDPs,” he said.

The spokesman also said that the IDPs had been assured that the State Government had made adequate provisions for their welfare.

He quoted Baba Shehu, the Caretaker Chairman of the local government, as thanking the state government for the gesture and promising judicious use of the items donated.

Cameroon restores internet to Anglophone

Reuters

By Joel Kouam | YAOUNDE

YAOUNDE Cameroon’s government said on Thursday it had restored the internet to its restive Anglophone region, three months after cutting it amid protests against the predominantly French-speaking government of President Paul Biya.

Cameroonian forces have cracked down on protests in the English-speaking region that erupted last October, beating and arresting protesters, some of whom face the death penalty in military courts.

The unrest has exposed national divisions between the regions of Cameroon that were historically colonised by the French and the British. It has also been a lightening rod for opposition to Biya’s 35-year rule.

“It seems that the conditions that preceded the suspension of the internet to that part of the national territory have much changed,” Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma said in a statement.

“The head of state therefore instructs the (communications) minister … to re-establish internet connections in the northwest and southwest regions.”

Pulling the plug on the internet was a particular blow for Cameroon’s ‘Silicon Mountain’, as it was called locally, a cluster of tech start-ups in the region that had been flourishing prior to the crackdown.

At least six protesters have been shot dead and hundreds others arrested during the rare challenge to state authority, prompting criticism from human rights groups.

Activists had condemned the internet shutdown as a form of collective punishment.

At the end of World War One, the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors.

After independence in 1960, voters from the smaller English-speaking zone opted to join Cameroon rather than neighbouring Nigeria, but they have often felt marginalised by the Francophone government in Yaounde.

“Finally, it’s back. I’m on Facebook right now, so I’m very happy,” said a user in the northern city of Bamenda after the internet was restored. “Everyone is getting back in contact to let each other know the lines are OK.”

(Additional reporting by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

UNHCR criticises Cameroon for forced return of Nigeria refugees

BBC

An aerial picture taken on February 14, 2017 at Monguno district of Borno State shows a camp for internally displaced people.AFP  Many returnees are ending up in camps in Borno state

The UN refugee agency has criticised Cameroon for the forced return of hundreds of refugees to north-east Nigeria after they had fled from the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency.

The UNHCR said forced returns had “continued unabated” despite an agreement earlier this month.

Under the deal, any returns would be voluntary and only “when conditions were conducive”.

Cameroon has rejected the accusation and said people returned willingly.

According to the UNHCR, more than 2,600 refugees have been forcibly returned to Nigeria from Cameroon this year.

Many are unable to go back to their villages in Borno state for security reasons and have ended up in camps for displaced people.

In some cases, the UNHCR said, people had been returned “without allowing them time to collect their belongings”.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch spoke of “chaos” in the returns process and said “some women were forced to leave their young children behind in Cameroon, including a child less than three years old”.

Many of the returnees are now settled in the Banki camp for internally displaced people.

UNHCR staff also recorded about 17 people who claimed to be Cameroonian nationals, who it said had been deported by mistake to Banki.

Cameroon's army forces patrol near the village of Mabass, northern CameroonImage copyright AFP
Image caption Cameroon says Boko Haram militants have infiltrated, disguised as refugees

It is common in the region to find people who have no documentary proof of their nationality.

Cameroonian Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme: “I strongly deny this accusation” of forced returns.

He said the Cameroonian army had been working “hand-in-hand” with the Nigerian army against Boko Haram and any civilians who had returned to Nigeria had done so of their own accord.

“This repatriation has taken place willingly,” he said.

The Cameroonian authorities have previously said Boko Haram militants have been entering the country disguised as refugees.

Militants have carried out a number of attacks in northern Cameroon in recent years, often using suicide bombers.

The UNHCR said forced return constitutes a serious violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 OAU Convention, both of which Cameroon has ratified.

It called on Cameroon to honour its obligations under the conventions and continue keeping its borders open so as to allow access to territory and asylum procedures for people fleeing the Islamist insurgency.

Cameroon-Nigeria: 5,000 civilians rescued from Boko Haram

Punch

Cameroon said its troops had rescued 5,000 civilian “hostages” held by Boko Haram Islamists in a cross-border operation that left scores of jihadists dead.
Cameroonian troops carried out “a vast operation all along the Cameroon-Nigeria border and in Nigeria” from February 27 to March 7, government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said in a statement seen by AFP Wednesday.
The operation, dubbed Thunder 2, “led to the liberation of more than 5,000 people taken hostage by the terrorists”, he said, referring to Boko Haram.
“The freed hostages — most of them women, children and elderly people — were taken to a camp for displaced people in Banki, Nigeria,” he added.
“More than 60 terrorists” were killed, he said, adding that “21 suspects were arrested”.
Boko Haram, which wants to establish a caliphate in northern Nigeria, has been waging an insurgency since 2009.
Though it was born in Nigeria, the Islamic State-affiliated group has also carried out frequent attacks on “soft” targets in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, prompting them to form a regional force to fight back.
Some 200,000 Cameroonians from the Far North region near Nigeria have fled their villages in fear of the violence carried out by Boko Haram militants.
The UN Security Council earlier this month vowed to turn the spotlight on a “neglected crisis” affecting 21 million people in the Lake Chad region that straddles Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
AFP

Nigeria – suffering in Lake Chad region leads mothers to sell sex to survive, says Red Cross

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IDPs

IDPs

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday said women in the Lake Chad basin had been forced to prostitute to survive.

ICRC attributed it to an insurgency by Boko Haram fighters that had driven millions from their homes and left children to starve.

The violence has displaced over 2.4 million people across the swamp lands of Lake Chad, where the borders of Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria meet, and disrupted the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of others,’’ ICRC said.

According to the United Nations, up to a million people have been cut off from humanitarian aid by Boko Haram in spite of a regional military offensive against the Islamist militants.

“It’s extraordinary to see a woman and her family and they have nothing other than what they have been given.

“The children are clearly malnourished and it’s just hopeless,’’ Simon Brooks, head of ICRC’s delegation in Cameroon, said.

According to Brooks, as the head of their households, some mothers have been forced to prostitute so they could feed their family, since many no longer have husbands because of the conflict.

“When you don’t have the means to survive, you’ll go begging for it.

“It’s a loss of dignity when you’re having to resort to something like that just to keep your children alive – fraternising with people who have money,’’ he said.

The unfolding catastrophe in the Lake Chad basin was named the most neglected crisis of 2016 in a poll of aid agencies by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Overshadowed by the wars in Syria and Iraq and the global refugee and migrant crisis, Lake Chad has barely made the headlines,’’ Brooks said during an interview in London.

Report says over 7 million people lack food but insecurity makes it hard for aid agencies to reach the most vulnerable.

“Half a million children are severely acutely malnourished and on the brink of death if they are not treated.

“This area has suffered from decades of chronic neglect … if it continues to be under-funded and under-reported, then millions of people will continue to suffer,’’ Brooks said. (Reuters/NAN)

Cameroon – English-speaking region rises up, wants Republic of Ambazonia

IRIN

BAMENDA,  December 2016
Mbom Sixtus

Freelance journalist based in Cameroon, and regular IRIN contributor

 

A middle-aged man stands in front of a freshly covered grave, a flag tied around his neck. The flag has blue and white stripes and a white dove in its top left quadrant, but these are not the colours of any country recognised by the United Nations.

That is something this man and thousands like him in the two western English-speaking regions of Cameroon want to change. They are agitating for secession, and the creation of a brand-new country called the Republic of Ambazonia.

The grave contains the body of a young man shot dead by security forces on 8 December in Bamenda, the largest city in Cameroon’s Northwest Region. He was one of four people who died that day, as they demanded the rolling back of French influence.

“Innocent southern Cameroonians (a reference to the pre-independence name of the two Anglophone regions: Southern Cameroons) went out to the streets to complain, without weapons: no guns no bullets. But here is our younger brother, lying here,” he says to a group of men paying their respects at the graveside.

“The time is now. Our independence is our inherent right,” he says. “We are calling on the United Nations and all African heads of state [to support us]. Brothers, go back to Bamenda safely. Tomorrow, a new fight is starting.”

There’s a collective yell of “forward ever, backward never”, and the men troop out of the cemetery in Kumbo, the second-largest city in Northwest Region.

“Swamped”

Cameroon is a bilingual country; the constitution gives equal status to both English and French. But Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions, Northwest and Southwest, are seething over their perceived marginalisation, swamped by Cameroon’s eight other regions and majority French-speaking population.

Flag of
Wikipedia

They believe they are treated as second-class citizens, and over the past few months there has been a series of demonstrations in defence of their language and culture.

The movement began as protests by lawyers and teachers in October, striking over the increasing use of French in courts and schools. It has since snowballed.

Clashes with the security forces in Bamenda on 21 November left one person dead and more than 100 arrested. Students supporting the strikers at the University of Buea, the largest English-speaking university in the country, were teargassed and beaten on 28 November, with images of the violence going viral on social media.

The discontent, known as the “Anglophone problem”, has been bubbling since the 1990s. It is fanned by the perceived lack of benefits earned from the oil produced in the region; the government’s failure to appoint English-speaking Cameroonians (with the exception of the prime minister) to senior positions; and the difficulty faced in the job market by those for whom French is not their first language.

“Excessive force”

Paul Atanga Nji, the minister of special duties at the presidency, denies there is a systemic problem. In what was seen as a provocation in the heated political atmosphere, he decided to hold a rally of the ruling CPDM in Bamenda on 8 December.

It went badly. Protesters blocked the roads to the city. They stopped everyone they found wearing CPDM colours, stripped them, and set their clothes on fire. They pulled down the Cameroonian flag on administrative buildings and hoisted the secessionist southern Cameroon flag.

Atanga’s car was torched, and he was forced to seek refuge in a nearby hospital as a military helicopter flew to his rescue. Other politicians had to be rushed out of the venue, escorted by soldiers mounted on pickup trucks firing into the air.

Police and soldiers used what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described as “excessive force”. Among their victims was a 12-year-old boy, shot while fetching water from a public tap.

The government, though, has characterised the protesters as quasi-terrorists. According to press reports, some 100 people arrested in Bamenda have been flown to 101 Military Base in the capital, Yaoundé, and are currently being held in an undisclosed location.

They could face the death penalty if tried under Cameroon’s controversial anti-terrorism law, enacted in the wake of Boko Haram attacks in the country’s Far North Region.

Government spokeman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said at the weekend that the comparison with Boko Haram was apt. He said security forces had been confronting a well-planned act of urban guerrilla warfare, while the raising of the Southern Cameroons flag was insurrectionary.

Call for investigations

But Amnesty International has urged the government to immediately conduct “thorough, impartial and effective investigations”, into the actions by the security forces.

“Responding to incidents of violence during protests with unnecessary or excessive force threatens to further enflame an already tense situation and could put more lives at risk,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Southern Cameroons was under British colonial rule at the end of World War I, and administered as part of neighbouring Nigeria. In a referendum in 1961 it chose to join French Cameroon, and the two territories were formally united.

The men at the graveside in Kumbo, and other secessionists, represent the hardline option. The more mainstream position in western Cameroon is for federation, returning to a system of governance that existed from independence until 1972.

No dialogue

The Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, made up primarily of lawyers and teachers involved in the strike action, are among the groups pushing for the federal option, so far with little success.

Ayah Paul Abine, an opposition politician and the lone Anglophone among five advocates-general on Cameroon’s Supreme Court, is putting together a list of eminent leaders to negotiate with the government.

“We will dialogue with the government to have federalism, and if we can’t have that, both Cameroons will go their separate ways,” he told IRIN.

But the depth of anger in western Cameroon has so far been best expressed by Member of Parliament Wirba Joseph, who made an impassioned speech to the national assembly that has become a local internet sensation.

Furious over the actions of what he described as an “army of occupation”, he announced, “those saying that we should break Cameroon are right”.

Quoting a phrase often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, he added: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”

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TOP PHOTO: Bamenda. CREDIT: Gabriel de Castelaze

Cameroon – three Boko Haramn attacks in 24 hours

Reuters

Suspected Boko Haram militants launched three attacks in northern Cameroon within 24 hours, including a thwarted suicide strike on a camp for people who have been displaced by the conflict, security sources said on Tuesday.

The Islamist militant group is based in northeastern Nigeria but regularly carries out raids in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, prompting the four countries plus Benin to create a 10,000-strong joint task force.

The frequency of the attacks has dropped in recent months, although more than 1,500 people have been killed in Cameroon by such attacks, International Crisis Group said in a report this month. Attacks were happening on an almost daily basis, but have dropped to between six and eight a month, it said.

Only one of this week’s strikes, at a military camp at Darak where six soldiers were killed, resulted in the deaths of people other than the attackers themselves, the sources said.

“Between yesterday and today there were three attacks: in Darak, in Diguina and a thwarted kamikaze strike in the Kolofata (camp),” said a senior army source who asked not to be named, referring to three places in the Far North Region of Cameroon.

On Monday, a young women armed with explosives attempted to enter a military post for soldiers adjacent to a camp for thousands of people displaced by the militant group.

“We thought it was a beggar at first but then she sped up and refused to stop when we shouted at her so she was neutralised,” said an intelligence source.

In the third incident, militants set fire to houses in the village of Diguina, the sources said.

(Reporting by Sylvain Anzongo in Yaounde and Josiane Kouagheu in Douala; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Alexander Smith)