News / Africa

Cameroon Struggles with Thousands of Nigerian Refugees

About a thousand Nigerian refugees are living at the refugee camp in Minawao about 130 km east of the border.  (Photo: Ntaryike Divine Jr. / VOA)
About a thousand Nigerian refugees are living at the refugee camp in Minawao about 130 km east of the border. (Photo: Ntaryike Divine Jr. / VOA)
Ntaryike Divine Jr.
Thousands of people have fled northeastern Nigeria since mid-May when the Nigerian military began an offensive against the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram. Neighboring countries like Cameroon have been confronted with a double challenge as they try to meet the needs of civilians fleeing violence, while also trying to prevent infiltration by Boko Haram militants.
 
Pastor Daouda Dilmas is one of thousands of Nigerians who have fled into northern Cameroon in the past four months.
 
He fled with his family from the Goza local government area of Borno State in early June. "We came here because of the Boko Haram attacks on us,” he said, adding that they had been calling on Nigerian authorities for help, but the intervention came too late.
 
"Because we had been reporting to them but they were unable to come as early as possible. That is the reason that we run for our lives," said Dilmas.
 
The pastor and his family are living at a refugee camp set up by the U.N. and Cameroon's government in Minawao, about 130 kilometers east of the border. However, most of the refugees are squatting in communities or staying in makeshift shelters in the bush.
 
It is difficult to know exactly how many people have arrived. U.N. agencies have counted between 3,000 and 8,000 refugees. Local government and civil society sources say that number is closer to 20,000 and that it is mostly women and children.
 
The Boko Haram insurgency has been raging in northern Nigeria since 2010. Thousands have been killed. The militant sect wants to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. The state launched a large-scale military offensive against Boko Haram in mid-May.
 
Security forces have restricted media access to the frontlines, and cell phone communications have been cut in much of the northeast during the offensive.
 
Many of the Nigerian refugees are living in tents or makeshift shelters in host communities. Photo: Ntaryike Divine Jr./VOA
Many of the Nigerian refugees are living in tents or makeshift shelters in host communities. Photo: Ntaryike Divine Jr./VOA
Living in fear

A VOA reporter visited refugees scattered throughout northern Cameroon in August. The refugees described having fled in great haste, leaving behind belongings and herds of cattle. Some said they decided to leave following threats and brutal attacks by Boko Haram militants. Some described waking up in the middle of the night to gunshots as soldiers battled militants. They said they fled soon after for fear of being caught in the crossfire. Many said that they feared the Nigerian military.
 
Shenaku Alimu said she fled her village of Hadwa after soldiers killed her husband.
 
She recounted how one evening in June, soldiers raided her village.

“They said they had come to arrest Boko Haram militants. My husband, who is Muslim, got scared and tried to run. They shot and killed him in front of me…  The authorities have failed to protect us and that is why I fled Nigeria. I am not keen to go back. I lost everything, including my husband," said Alimu.
 
Human rights organizations say that the Nigerian military's heavy-handed response to Boko Haram over the past three years has included abuses against civilians that have only fed the insurgency.
 
The Nigerian government denies such accusations.
 
There is concern that ongoing military action in Nigeria will push militants into Cameroon and Niger.
 
Cameroon has been on guard against possible spillover from the insurgency. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for kidnapping a French family of seven in northern Cameroon in February. The family was released two months later following negotiations. 
 
In August, the Nigerian military released a statement saying that Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, had been injured in battle and then snuck across the border into the Cameroonian town of Amitchide where he later died.
 
In June, Cameroon deployed part of its elite Rapid Intervention Battalion to reinforce security along its border with Nigeria.
 
Entry denied

Some refugees told VOA that Cameroonian security forces initially blocked them from crossing the border out of fear that they were Boko Haram.
 
Amadou Mbaino said he was not able to get into Cameroon until July. He is now living in a community school building in Mokolo town but remains one of the thousands of undocumented refugees in the country.
 
He said "when we were fleeing, security forces stopped us at the border and ordered us to go back. They said we could be Boko Haram militants and so we had to trek for several days to find crossings where there were no soldiers. As I speak, I am not at ease because there are frequent controls by gendarmes who want to send us back. But I cannot go back to hell."

The governor of the Far North region, which has the highest concentration of refugees, told VOA that refugees must start complying with immigration regulations or face the consequences.
 
Cameroonian border communities, like the village of Sangme, say it is a question of security.
 
Village chief Moussa Abdoulaye said "that is the problem. We do not know who is who among these people. Their presence here is causing us worries because we don't know if there are any Boko Haram members among them or whether Boko Haram would follow them to attack them here. We are taking measures to send back anyone with suspicious behavior."
 
Humanitarian agencies have been working to provide assistance to refugees, in particular in the Minawao refugee camp. However, there are concerns that the massive influx is straining the already limited resources of host communities. northern Cameroon is prone to food shortages and disease outbreaks during the rainy season.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: sone smith from: new york
September 07, 2013 10:52 AM
I hope the International Community will respond positively to this situation before is gets out of control.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid