Conf.795 Blog Post #3 – Cameroon
Cameroon: Refugees arriving in Cameroon fleeing Central African Republic.
Many of the new arrivals in eastern Cameroon say they fled from Bangui to escape clashes.
UNHCR office reports that the violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has sent thousands of people streaming into neighboring countries, while the International Criminal Court announced plans to open a preliminary investigation into alleged war crimes being committed amid the ongoing sectarian bloodshed.
Nearly 9,000 people – most Central Africans including nationals from Chad, Nigeria and Mali have fled CAR for neighboring Cameroon, raising the number to 20,000 refugees who have fled to Cameroon since fighting started,
: (1) Impact on ‘host country’ Cameroon – e.g. will the cultural diversity that this group brings to Cameroon be welcomed? (2) Impact on those who have not left CAR.
Complete story: Feb 8, 2014 http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47104&Cr=central+african+republic&Cr1=#.UvbVCWJdU1I
Dr. Sudha G. Rajput is the author of Internal Displacement and Conflict: The Kashmiri Pandits in Comparative Perspective (Routledge). Her 31-year career at the World Bank touched on multiple aspects of international development, working on thirteen countries of the former Soviet Union. Her co-authored book chapters appear in Scientific Explorations of Cause and Consequence across Social Contexts (Praeger) and in State, Society, and Minorities in Southeast Asia (Lexington Books). She writes for the Forced Migration Review. Her doctoral research has investigated issues of conflict-induced displacement in Kashmir, with a focus on societal and policy reform, leading her efforts to the development of a graduate course, Refugees and IDP Issues, drawing students from fields of conflict resolution, international development, humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding. She is a Senior Researcher at the Refugee Law Initiative, a U.K. based think-tank. She is a Consultant/Trainer for USAID, designing and conducting capacity building workshops in Khartoum, Sudan, promoting cross-border co-existence. As a Professional Lecturer, at George Washington University, she teaches at the Elliott School of International Affairs, where she brings multi-disciplinary approaches to her course on Refugee and Migrant Crisis. She is a trainer for the Forage Center for Peacebuilding Education, where during a 4-day humanitarian assistance simulation, she coaches students on systematic understanding of protracted displacements. She teaches at the University of Maryland Global Campus, delivering the MBA program for the military students. Her interests on post-conflict issues include her past travels to: Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Sudan, and Ukraine. Sudha’s blog on internal displacement can be found at www.internaldisplacement.info. Dr. Rajput lives in Washington, D.C. and can be reached at email@example.com
The impact on Cameroon will likely be a strain on the infrastructure in place to support an additional population. This will probably impact availability of jobs and educational programming the most. Overall, it’s likely that the cultural diversity will cause some initial cultural issues but long-term presence could lead to better integration overall and hopefully better relationships among larger groups of those populations.
Those who have not left CAR may feel abandoned by the refugee population and will probably encounter difficulties interacting with those that have achieved greater stability since their departure. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a good way to understand what could be achieved while refugees are not as concerned on their individual security, because they will be able to flourish in other ways over time.
The situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) has been deteriorating significantly over the last year, and the latest spat of sectarian violence has sent thousands of mostly Muslims fleeing for the safety not just into Cameroon, but also into DRC as well.
While the nearly 9,000 new refugees is a significant number, I think it’s important to keep in mind that Cameroon has been hosting over 90,000 refugees from CAR who started arriving in 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits. This large influx in a short period of time has resulted in refugees having to live in dismal conditions – many being hosted by poor local families, living in mosques and stadiums, while some are living on the streets. UNHCR is currently building a campsite, which they hope to start transferring refugees to next week.
I am not sure if anything can be done to stave off the fatigue and frustration of actually hosting, I am hopeful that because Cameroon is a culturally diverse country, which enjoys widespread religious freedom, that the diversity of the refugees will not be the cause of tensions with the host communities.
The circumstances for those who remain in CAR may be more perilous than those that have left. According to UNHCR, there are nearly a million displaced within CAR at this time. The rainy season will be setting in soon, which will not allow them to return for months. Almost half a million people are staying in makeshift camps and the international community is predicting a worsening humanitarian crisis as risk of cholera and other such outbreaks become heightened. Those who remain are also at risk of being targeted for violence because of perceived sympathies for the Seleka rebel group
Cameroon is already a troubled country. Divided into two lingual communities, Cameroon is already facing social, economical, and political instabilities. The regional conflict have also affected the country. Located east of Nigeria, Cameroon authorities had to intervene at the boarders because of several Boko Haram members had crossed boarder. Also, according to Voice of America and several European newspapers, “Refugees from the troubled Central African Republic have released two United Nations workers in Cameroon – taken hostage to protest a lack of needed aid. The refugees involved appear to be rebels – highlighting the growing crisis for the C.A.R.’s neighbors.”
As we can see, Cameroon has been struggling for years. The flow of CAR refugees will not only necessitate more infrastructures, it will also requires manpower to secure the refugee camps. It will necessitate more humanitarian aids, mainly due to the daily flow of refugees and governmental corruption. The Cameroonian government is known to be very corrupt. Culturally, the new refugees will enrich the already multicultural country. At long-therm, cultural issues might arise due to the fact that the English and French speakers are already culturally different.
Those who decided to remain in CAR will seen the situation getting worst and worst. They will be targeting and will have to chosen either stay in their country or leaving for overcrowded, famished camps. In many cases, they will judge those who fled and abandoned their home. Unfortunately, they will also have face medical, and health issues.
Cameroon, already one of the poorest countries in the world, is currently hosting over 100,000 refugees and growing as more people flee the fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR). Refugees from CAR are predominately women and children seeking safety from fighting between Seleka and anti-Balaka forces. Camps are limited and many refugees have to find shelter with host families or sleep in the streets. UNHCR is working to establish temporary camps and improve access to health care, water, and education with the goal of supporting voluntary repatriation in the near future.(1)
In January, refugees kidnapped two USAID workers to protest the refugee living conditions and demanding more relief aid. Although the workers were release after a few days, this incident highlights growing frustration and increasing risk for regional destabilization.(2)
1) 2014 UNHCR Country Operations Profile – Cameroon. (2014 February 9). Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=4a03e1926.
2) Moki Edward Kindzeka, “CAR Refugees Release UN Aid Workers in Cameroon,” Voice of America (January 7, 2014), http://www.voanews.com/content/car-refugees-release-un-aid-workers-in-cameroon/1824818.html accessed February 9, 2014.
1. The CAR political issue is very unfortunate. The exodus of the CAR refugees to Eastern Cameroun will put too much strain on the Cameroonian government which in the first instance does not have the resources to protect its people. There are cultural differences between the refugees and the hosts and depending on where the refugees are settled, the cultural differences will be a challenge. As a poor country, the host communities are not going to be very pleased with the refugees especially when they start receiving international assistance which will make them better than their hosts. There are no jobs in Cameroon and therefore, no employment for the refugees.
2. For those who remained in CAR, it will be a big challenge. Living under fear, loss of families and relations, loss of productive labor and income will all have a big impact on them
Cameroon hosts about 110,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in its eastern and northern regions, not only from the CAR, but also Chad and Nigeria. In October 2013, a UNHCR representative reported, “The condition of refugees in Cameroon is stable, principally thanks to the openness of the local populations and the authorities. Instead of providing camp sites for all refugees, most of these refugees are settled in villages with other Cameroonians and are involved in livelihood activities like farming and trading.” Like the CAR, Cameroon is made up of many ethnic groups as well as Christians and Muslims. But Cameroon has its own problems, and while there may not be clashes over culture, there will be likely be future conflict over jobs, food, access to resources, and housing — particularly as more CAR refugees enter the country. When it comes to protracted displacement, there is a tipping point (not enough capacity, strained resources) and the blame usually falls on the “outsiders.”
There has been some tension with the local population already. For example, in September 2013, hundreds of CAR refugees in Nandoungué left their camp and went to the nearby villages, “We are simply looking for a place where basic services are available. There is no water, housing, hospitals and schools in Nandoungué…the place was already saturated with refugees before our arrival so we had to look for a better place.” According to IRIN, this is due to the fact that some of the CAR refugees are from Bangui (capital, urban area) with “different socio-economic standards and expectations. Thus, I imagine the refugee-host tensions will be born out of these types of situations — CAR refugees leaving their camps and looking for better lives within the local communities.
In terms of those who stayed behind in the CAR, there will likely be much resentment of the refugees. The perception (and likely reality) is that the refugees are being taken care of and receiving aid while their fellow people suffer. There could also be conflict when some of the refugees return when it comes to reclaiming land and property. These new animosities are one component of the obstacles to/dilemma of return.
Sources: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=4a03e1926; http://www.irinnews.org/report/99026/refugee-influx-causes-unease-in-cameroon
Despite it instability, Cameroonians were very generous with CAR refugees. They provide them with food, water, and basic needs when they crossed the border. However this generosity won’t continue for long due to the scare of resources. The difficulty of having clean water and limited sanitation facilities for both refugees and host communities is one of serious challenges. Access to health care for sick and pregnant women is also a major problem for these refugees who are already weakened by malaria, the leading cause of mortality in the Central African Republic, according to the UN.
Cultural diversity in long run might be an issue but so far it is not a serious issue since Cameroon is culturally diverse. Cameroon is hosting CAR refugees for more than ten years, but if the situation continues to deteriorate, not only cultural but security and other issues would emerge.
The CARs who remained in CAR, either because they couldn’t leave or chose to stay, might judge their displaced fellows as betrayers who fled their county and their people.
They lost everything and still facing violence, sickness, and unemployment. Health and medical services are deteriorating very fast in the IDPs camps in CAR, according to the Red Cross.
The influx of refugees coming into Cameroon from CAR will no doubt shift the cultural environment of the host country, and unfortunately tensions around integrating peacefully is unavoidable in some areas. Given the high numbers of refugees arriving in Cameroon, the local population is frustrated with how things are turning out: the refugees are lacking basic needs (schools, water, basic facilities, etc…) and have started to leave their camps to ‘trespass’ into areas where the local population resides, uninvited. Of course, the refugees cannot wait around for these necessities to come to them, so they go out searching for their needs in order to survive. The sad truth is that the host country is unable to promptly cater to all the refugees. I read that in some communities, refugees have been able to peacefully integrate into the host communities, settling in villages and working. The intense fighting within CAR means those who have not left will suffer greatly on all levels, one of which is economic stability. According to the emergency coordinator for the International Organization of Migration, CAR is already reeling from the economic shock of Muslims departing. Many who have left are traders and shopkeepers who imported staples. They also ran the meat industry. “It’s going to have a massive effect on society here,” Cassani said. “Prices are going up. . . . It’s been extremely difficult to find beef in the capital.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/tens-of-thousands-of-muslims-flee-christian-militias-in-central-african-republic/2014/02/07/5a1adbb2-9032-11e3-84e1-27626c5ef5fb_story.html) The ripple effect of lack of traders and shopkeepers is the scarcity of food, leaving people hungry and feeling more vulnerable. They will feel betrayed by the traders, shopkeepers, and others who kept the economy up for leaving their country and leaving them behind in such dire conditions.
With Cameroon, being a poor nation itself, I feel the influx of refugees will exacerbate an already delicate relationship between host communities and the refugees. A shrinking of resources compounded with fear of the conflict following the refugee’s increases the likelihood of conflict between the two groups. According to the Garoui Boulai, residence in eastern Cameroon, “they were attacked over the weekend by ex-Seleka fighters who entered the border town from CAR territory. Residents told the media that the gunmen shot indiscriminately, forcing many in the town to flee. They said that the town came to a standstill until the Cameroon soldiers arrived.” Instances like this detrimentally effects how the host communities view refugee population, as nothing more but group that is reducing their resources and endangering their lives.
With respect to the people left behind, I would think resentment and anger will be the underlying views they would have towards the ones that left. Facing the onslaught of violence, these groups of people will have the daunting task of struggling to just survive at the same time harbor feelings of anger and jealousy towards those that left.
The situation in CAR is really severe, with the UN stating that since last March, nearly 2,000 have been killed., and almost 800,000 displaced. Close to a million displaced is a staggering number. While Cameroon has taken in many refugees, Cameroon itself is not a stable country. With a fractured and violent past, the wave of refugees from CAR into Cameroon threatens stability. There is also a fear that fighting will cross the border. Additionally, those left in CAR risk danger everyday. By staying in their country, when so many have fled, they will feel a sense of abandonment.
Cameroon is an interesting country. As Claudine mentioned, its political climate has always been fragile over the past two decades with major issues center its two lingual peoples. In all my travels, it has become one of the most unfriendly places to visit politically especially in a non-governmental capacity, although the people are very nice and warm. This presents an unfriendly situation for UNHCR’s management of this crisis as we can expect the number of refugees to increase significantly. The total number of refugees in Cameroon right now is a little over a hundred thousand. Cameroon is not really a poor country in the region, so for now the overflow of refugees won’t present an immediate domestic economic crisis. However, it will pose challenges and expose local Cameroonian governments and authorities as the international attention and humanitarian crisis intensify. The host nation is also going to receive a lot of assistance in helping to provide security and economic assistance to the refugees.
Staying behind in a conflict zone or not being able to leave is always debatable when it comes to the issue of motive(s). However, there are going to be short and long term impacts on those who stayed in CAR. They may become displaced over the coming months or could flee into Cameroon as fighting sadly escalates.