Running within and without, where is home?

Conflict being a part of social reality has always produced far reaching consequences; amongst which we have the movement/migration of persons within and without their area of occupancy. “Migration according to the Oxford Advanced learner’s Dictionary is seen as the movement of large numbers of people, birds or animals from one place to another. It can also be considered as the movement of a person or group of people to settle in another place, often across a political or administrative boundary. This movement could be temporary or permanent, voluntary or force.” Within the context of the crisis in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon, we are seeing more of forced migration which has created a large number of internally displaced persons. As per forced migrations/movements, there are Internally Displaced Persons, Refugees, and Asylum seekers etc. Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) from the crisis in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon are our main focus.

The current conflict of diversity; “the Anglophone Crisis” as we have come to know it, has remained the centre stage in the genesis of events in the country and still stands as a one whose impact cannot be overemphasized. Going by the statistics of Amnesty International, the International Crisis Group, the UNHCR among others, the crisis has led to thousands of  houses being burnt, more than 3000 deaths, more than 680,000 displaced people in these two regions since 2016. A conflict which is far from being resolved, a one whose atrocities and violence are alarming and whose nature of management, questions the very essence of national unity and national integration in Cameroon. In all of this, the sad truth remains the misery and suffering of the populace; victims of the killings, kidnappings, torture and human rights violation. With these regions transformed into a war theatre, the impact has been the mass relocation of people escaping the violence in the two regions.

Analysing the impact of the Anglophone crisis in these two regions, the ramification on the internally displaced persons is significant. These displaced persons are spread in most neighbouring towns and countries bordering Cameroon. These towns include; Douala, Bafoussam, Dschang and Yaoundé harbouring a great majority of the internally displaced persons. These persons unfortunately are living under very difficult, degrading and inhuman conditions that are a call for urgent concern by Africa and the world at large. These persons have been denied their basic rights like the right to life, freedom of speech, movement and even the right to education. There is a need to look for safe havens for these migrants and to curb the possibility of witnessing a crisis with far reaching spillover effects. By and large the effects of the Anglophone Crisis combined with the immediate, short and long term consequences of a migrant crisis, caused by the violence in these two regions remain a principal concern.

Statistics from International Organisations like United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Cameroon has an estimated 321,886 IDPs in the Far North Region as a result of the Boko Haram activities and attacks in Cameroon. With regards to the IDPs in the North-West/ South-West Regions we have an estimated 679,393 persons as a result of the crisis while an estimated number of 437,000 are IDPs across other parts of the country. These figures are perceived  to be on the rise according to the findings of the International Crisis Group. In the May 2019 International Crisis Group report, the crisis is causing a major humanitarian crisis with approximately 530,000 IDPs currently registered in Cameroon.

With the complicated nature of the crisis and the difficulties involved, it is difficult to provide exact figures on the real number of the IDPs present in each of the major towns of Cameroon. Figures from different organisations differ but the bottom line remains unchanged, that is, we have thousands of Cameroonians from the two English speaking regions that are IDPs in different towns in the country. However, some grass root organisations are working towards getting estimates based on the different areas they cover. For Instance, according to Stretch and Touch the People (STOP), the West region of Cameroon which mostly has IDPs from the entire North West region and Lebialem for the South West region, has an estimate of about 30,000 IDPs. With regards to the case of Douala, it is believed to have an estimate of 80,000 IDPs suffering from the negative ramifications of the crisis. The swelling number of IDPs in Cameroon related to the Anglophone crisis albeit based on estimates, remains a call for concern as the effects and dangers surrounding it could be described as res ipsa loquitur.

The poem Home, by Warsan Shire comes to mind, especially the first two lines, “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”.

Article by, Kinang Derick

1An interview with the Founder of STOP which is a grass root Non Governmental Organisation located in Dschang a town located in the West region of Cameroon.
2An interview with a humanitarian worker resident in Douala and involved in the head counting and registration of IDPs in Douala.