Cameroon has offered huge consignments of food and mattresses to at least 3,000 displaced persons said to be in dire need on its eastern border with the Central African Republic. Most of the people, displaced by violence following December presidential elections in the CAR, say they lost everything and that ongoing unrest keeps them from returning home.
At least 700 displaced people from the Central African Republic turned out in Kentzou, an administrative unit on Cameroon's eastern border with the CAR, Friday to receive assistance from the host country. One day earlier, Cameroon said it had sent a delegation led by Territorial Administration Minister Paul Atanga Nji to eastern Cameroon to help those displaced by the CAR crisis.
Nji visited several border villages and administrative units, including Kentzou and Garoua-Boulai. Nji said he distributed food and humanitarian assistance from the government of Cameroon. He said Cameroon decided to assist displaced persons after local government officials said the Central Africans were living in poverty.
He said the government of Cameroon mobilized 17 trucks to transport and donate mattresses, blankets, buckets and food to at least 3,400 displaced people. He said President Paul Biya instructed him to tell the displaced persons to live in peace and respect Cameroon’s laws. He said Cameroon wants to know when the displaced will want to voluntarily return to the CAR.
The violence that sparked the exodus involves armed groups and has been ongoing since Austin-Archange Touadera was reelected president in December. Much of the trouble is centered on border areas. It is suspected that fleeing rebels are among the displaced persons.
Nji said Cameroon was delighted that the items will improve the living conditions of the displaced persons until they go home.
Donatien Barka, the mayor of Kentzou, however, said host communities have been reporting clashes with the displaced Central Africans and that the area is no longer secure.
Barka said between 2017 and 2020, some 32,000 people displaced by the fighting have sought refuge in Kentzou. He said the influx inundated the 28,000 inhabitants of Kentzou and that theft of food and cattle, and conflicts over lodging and farmlands were reported daily. He said Cameroon reinforced its military in Kentzou in January when rebels protesting the CAR leadership came to Kentzou illegally.
Barka said he did not have updated figures of the number of displaced people remaining in Kentzou because movement across the porous border is uncontrolled. He said when there is fighting in the CAR, people cross over to Cameroon. He said his wish is for the displaced persons to return to their country.
Martial Beti-Marace, the CAR's ambassador to Cameroon, says peace is gradually returning to the CAR and civilians who fled fighting should agree to voluntarily return to their country.
Speaking from the CAR's capital Bangui, he said democratic institutions are gradually being put in place after the December 27 elections in which a majority of CAR civilians chose Touadera as their president. He said a majority of civilians who fled bloody conflicts between government troops and rebels in the CAR have voluntarily returned and are living in peace in their towns and villages.
Beti-Marace said Cameroon and the CAR are both struggling to maintain a collective peace because a crisis in either country affects them both. He said Cameroon and the CAR are trying to convince displaced persons to return home and contribute to the development of their country.
Violence among armed groups since 2013 has forced close to a million Central Africans to flee to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.
Cameroon shares a 900-kilometer border with the CAR. Cameroon's Territorial Administration Ministry says Cameroon has taken in and is home to more 300,000 displaced Central Africans.
Source: Voice of America