Cameroonian authorities say clashes between ranchers and fishers have left at least ten people dead and scores wounded Monday, forcing hundreds to flee into neighboring Chad.
The clashes in Cameroon’s north broke out over water scarcity, a problem that authorities have struggled to address.
Mousgoum and Arab Choua, community leaders in Cameroon’s northern border with Chad, said a bloody conflict erupted between cattle ranchers and fishers in Ouloumsa, a northern village on Monday. Cameroon government officials in Logone and Chari, an administrative unit called division across Cameroon’s northern border with Chad, said at least 10 people were killed and more than 20 wounded with 10 left in critical condition.
Math Mazra is a community leader in Logone and Chari.
He says he is pleading with the population of Logone and Chari to stop bloodshed and attacks on civilians who are not concerned with the fresh fisher cattle rancher conflicts that started on Monday. He says the conflict between cattle ranchers and fishers should not degenerate into an armed dispute between Mousgoum and Arab Choua communities.
Mazra said Mousgoum and Arab Choua community leaders have asked the Cameroon government to find lasting solutions to the conflict that is becoming a regular occurrence.
The central government in Yaounde has acknowledged the attack and says several hundred people escaped to Chad. Military officials say they have deployed troops to maintain peace in Logone and Chari.
The clashes happened four months after a similar conflict.
In August, Cameroonian officials said at least 11,000 civilians fled from Logone and Chari to Chad after a conflict over water between cattle ranchers and fishermen killed 40 people and wounded 70.
Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya, sent a delegation led by Bakari to Logone and Chari to negotiate an end to the crisis. Bakari said fishers agreed to stop digging holes ranchers said would kill their cows, sheep and donkeys. The fishers dig the holes to conserve water and lure their catch. Cattle ranchers also agreed not to take their cattle to areas reserved only for fishing.
Midjiyawa Bakari is the governor of Cameroon’s Far North region where Logone and Chari is located.
Bakari says Cameroon is giving subsidies to fishers to create community fishponds and reduce the number of people going to fish in areas where there are regular conflicts between cattle ranchers and fishermen. Bakari says Cameroon is educating cattle ranchers to practice new methods that reduce land destruction and depletion of natural resources. He says it is imperative for all cattle to returned to cattle ranches.
Augustine Njamnshi is a member of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, a coalition of civil society organizations that advocate for climate issues and environmental justice. Njamnshi says clashes over water resources will continue to increase and become complex in the Lake Chad Basin because water and other resources are diminishing while the number of people and animals that need water for survival is increasing.
“It is necessary for the government to educate the people to make judicious use of the resources and provide alternative means of livelihoods. They [government officials] need to explore new technologies like irrigation, water capturing and storage and make use of underground water reserves. That is the only way to go about it. When the population is made to be part of the decision making, it diffuses a lot of tension because water related conflicts are very, very complex,” Njamnshi notes.
The Lake Chad Basin Commission, an eight-member intergovernmental organization overseeing water and other resources in the Lake Chad region says the lake’s water resources have diminished by 70 percent within the past 50 years. However, the population depending on the lake for their livelihoods has increased from 3.5 million in 1960 to over 45 million inhabitants in 2020 according to the commission. Member countries include, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic, Niger and Benin.