Thousands of Cameroonians fleeing Anglophone regions due to deadly clashes between soldiers and the so-called Ambazonian defence groups are now seeking refuge in towns and villages in the West region instead of joining the over 20,000 Anglophone Cameroonians residing in Nigeria as refugees. In the past two weeks the West region has received more new arrivals than Nigeria’s Cross River State where the UNHCR has set up camps for Cameroonian refugees.
Military crackdown on separatists, torching of houses in villages in the South West and North West region of Cameroon is far from over though government continues to preach peace and dialogue; virtues that have remained loud in words and low in action since October 2016. The villages hit the most include, Batibo, Belo, Kwakwa, Menji and Akwaya.
The change in destination of fleeing Anglophones, observers say, was caused by a recent media outing of presidential hopeful, Barrister Akere Muna who disclosed that Nigeria is no longer a safe haven for fleeing Cameroonians. Barrister Muna said the government of Cameroon is helping Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram terrorists and as such, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari feels indebted to President Paul Biya.
“Nigeria will not hesitate to arrest any Cameroonian on its territory and send back home on the request of our government,” he said, adding that President Biya only needs to give a name and Nigeria will fish the person out and hand him or her over to Cameroonian security forces.
To buttress his argument, Barrister Muna recalled the repatriation on January 5, 2018, of some 47 Anglophones including the President of the self-styled Interim Government of Ambazonia, Julius Ayuk Tambe and other members of his cabinet. The whereabouts of the extradited activists remain unknown five months after government announced their repatriation.
The repatriation of Minister Basile Atangana Kouna who fled to Nigeria after embezzling state funds equally lends credence to Barrister Muna’s assertion.
Besides forcible repatriation from Nigeria, it is worth noting that activists who return home risk heavy jail terms or physical elimination as suggested in the 2017 Human Rights report of the US Department of State published last month.
Meanwhile Anglophone Cameroonians leading the ongoing movement from the comfort of their abodes in Europe and America, the likes of Lucas Cho Ayaba, Chris Anu, Ebenezer Akangwa, Tapang Ivo Tanku Mark Bara, and Loke Monono whose father was shot dead in December last year may have one more thing to be worried about besides the fear of returning home.
This is the fact that government appears to have resorted to hunting down home-based family members of activists in the Diaspora. Such was the case with Mark Bara’s mother arrested, grilled and released in Buea recently.
In addition to huge human and economic losses recorded in the almost three-year long conflict, government is now faced with the burden of taking care of internally displaced citizens, who according to politicians like Enoh Meyomesse, did not seek refuge abroad because they believe they are innocent and patriotic.