Massive Influx Of Refugees Into Nigeria From Cameroon As Crises In The English-speaking Regions Escalates

The West African office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has disclosed that thousands of Cameroonian refugees have moved into Nigeria in recent days due to the ongoing crises rocking the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon. This was disclosed recently by the spokesperson for UNHCR’s West African office, Romain Desclous.

While speaking to the BBC French Africa service, Mr. Desclous disclosed that his organization had already registered 2,000 refugees within days and more than 3,000 others were waiting to be registered. He pointed out that the figure is expected to rise and that UNHCR is making preparations to receive about 40,000 persons, as many more are still trapped in the bushes between Nigeria and Cameroon since the borders have closed. “The UNHCR has proceeded with the registration of Cameroonians in Nigeria who are seeking security… We have registered 2,000 already and apart from these 2,000, we estimate that there are about 3,000 Cameroonian refugees in the state of Cross River,” Mr. Desclous disclosed.

So far, there has been no reaction from the government of Cameroon, but Anglophone activists around the world have been calling on the people and government of Nigeria to extend a hand of love to these refugees. Meanwhile, Governor Ayade of Cross River State, which is expected to host about 30,000 out of the projected 40,000 refugees, has promised to treat the Cameroonian refugees very well and has ensured their security.

The refugees are being registered and provided with basic necessities like blankets, cooking pots, shelter, and medications. The host community has also been strengthening the efforts of the UNHCR and the Cross River state government. The bands of refugees are made up of women, children, and especially men, who are the target of security officers in Cameroon.

This mass movement of people is coming on the heels of violence during mass protests recorded in Anglophone towns of Cameroon on September 22 and October 1. As reported by some civil society groups, security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing more than 100 persons. The violence continued even after October 1, as security forces broke into homes and arrested individuals indiscriminately. This has led to the mass movement of people and the desertion of entire villages.

To recall, the Anglophone crises in Cameroon began last October, when Anglophone teachers and lawyers downed their tools to protest against the use of the French language in English courts and schools. They protested against the persistent marginalization from the pro-Francophone government. From a demand for a two-state federal structure (Francophone Cameroon and Anglophone Cameroon), activists have now demanded a separate state for Anglophones called the Southern Cameroons or Ambazonia. The crisis has been exacerbated by the government’s intransigence to open real dialogue.

The crises have reached a stalemate and if care is not taken, may lead to an outbreak of war. Two former presidents of Nigeria (Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo) have castigated President Paul Biya’s government for its poor management of the conflict. With all domestic mediums exhausted unsuccessfully, it is now time for the international community to wage in and save Cameroon from another Rwanda-styled conflict.