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Cameroon Says Fight Over Water Leaves Many Dead or Wounded


FILE - A man leads his herd of cattle in Maroua, Cameroon.

Cameroonian officials say hundreds of people have fled its northern border with Chad after an ongoing conflict over water between cattle ranchers and fishermen killed 18 people and wounded 70. The wounded have been rushed to hospitals in Kousseri, a Cameroon border town and the neighboring Chadian capital, Ndjamena.

Mouhamadou Evele, a 54-year-old fisherman, says he is a victim of clashes between cattle ranchers and fishermen in Cameroon’s Logone and Chari division on the northern border with Chad.

Evele spoke through the messaging platform WhatsApp from the Kousseri government hospital where he says he has been receiving treatment from machete wounds for five days.

He says three men armed with bows and arrows and machetes attacked him while he was fishing in a river near Kousseri, a northern town on the border with Chad. He says he does not know the whereabouts of his three children, who were abducted from the fishing ground and taken away on a motorcycle by the attackers.

Evele said but for a deep wound on his right shoulder, he would have left the hospital to look for his three children. He said he was rushed to the hospital on another motorcycle by two people he did not identify but described as well-wishers.

Cameroon says Evele is one of 70 victims of bloody clashes between cattle ranchers and fishermen in Logone and Chari. The government says the clashes started in July with cattle ranchers attacking and beating up fishermen with sticks. Within the past week, though, the situation has degenerated into an armed conflict between fishermen and cattle ranchers.

Saturday, Cameroonian President Paul Biya sent a delegation led by Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of Cameroon's Far North region, to Kousseri. Bakari says the ranchers are angry because their cows, sheep and donkeys are falling into holes dug by fishermen to conserve water and lure their catch.

Bakari says 12 bodies were discovered in the conflict zone. More than 40 houses have been torched, dozens of cows killed, and food destroyed in farms and homes.

"We have been instructed by the hierarchy [Biya] to go in the field, to talk about peace," Bakari said. "To sensitize [educate] Mousgoum fishermen and Arab Choua cattle breeders [ranchers] to lay down their weapons, to revitalize vigilant committees [militias].”

Frequent conflicts occur between the Mousgoum fishermen and Arab Choua cattle ranchers over water from the Logone river separating Cameroon from Chad.

The Logone and Chari Division is part of the Lake Chad Basin. Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic, Niger and Benin, member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, say the lake's water resources have diminished by 70% within the past 50 years.

Cameroon says the advancing desert has pushed farmers, fishermen and cattle ranchers to settle along the Logone river for survival.

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