The adverse effects of the ongoing crisis in Cameroon cannot be overemphasized. The risks posed by the unrest were formerly in the larger part limited to major actors in the conflict. However, the security situation has deteriorated and sprouted several branches of calamity for the citizens, one of which is internal displacement.
According to the UNHCR, “The Boko Haram insurgency has impacted Cameroon, with around 116,000 Nigerian refugees and over 321,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the north of the country.
For a country that has provided succor for IDPs coming from Nigeria to Kolofata in its Far North region, the inability of the Cameroonian government to promulgate peacemaking policies has subjected its citizen to living in constant fear of not only insurgent attacks but importantly misconduct by the security forces meant to protect them. Meanwhile, the authorities have responded to the insecurity especially in the Southern Cameroons with a brutal show of force.
Reprisal attacks by Cameroonian Armed Forces (CAF) have been launched in several ways, ranging from unsolicited raids, sporadic gunshots, assaults on residents, and forced interrogation of locals in the villages. However, CAF has revisited a new trend of arson attacks on houses thereby forcefully displacing poor inhabitants in communities of the Northwest and Southwest region.
In 2018, BBC analyzed several events where security forces set houses on fire, “footage recorded in late April 2018 shows a unit of at least 13 soldiers raiding and setting fire to a house in Azi, Muyenge and Koko Mbomo, villages in Cameroon’s Anglophone South-West region. Similar scenarios were recorded in May 2019 at Alachu community in Mankon. Equally, in 2020, BBC further reported arson attacks in Babubock, Eyandock in kupe Muanenguba, Ku Bome in Mbengwi, Mbiame in Bui, Mbenjom in Awing, Guzang in Batibo, Bali-Kumbat in Ngoketunjia, Buabua, and Kimbirivers for Bum, communities of the Northwest region.
Recent confrontations involving the military and separatist fighters have led to new burning issues in the anglophone region. At least four cases of arson perpetrated by the military have been recorded in October 2021.
On 5 October 2021, while the Prime Minister was on a peace mission at Bamenda in Mezam department, soldiers wrecked havoc setting several houses on fire in Luh villages located in Donga-Matung department, houses were equally razed down at Kikiakom in Bui department within the same period. Furthermore, on 12 and 14 October 2021, homes belonging to locals in Noni were torched by the military in a witch-hunt operation for separatist fighters. While the most recent arson strike occurred in Bui on Thursday, 21 October 2021. Sources confirm that several houses were set ablaze by security forces during an operation in Kumbo in the Northwest region.
Consequently, the population in these communities becomes displaced as their houses have been turned to ashes and those not directly affected by the burning are forced to desert the attack zones owing to fear of further attacks.
This situation among others is the burning issue facing the country. How do citizens survive the combined effect of Separatist activities and misconduct by those meant to protect them? One is tempted to ask if there are no other effective strategies that could be employed in dealing with insurgency whereby the security of the citizens will be paramount.
The internal displacement of citizens hampers growth and development and has a way of bouncing back on other regions of the country. Neighboring communities to deserted locations become choked up and new crises begin to arise.
Nevertheless, unlike other causes of displacement such as drought, flooding, earthquakes, and economic circumstances, the conflict in the region can be managed if the government intervenes appropriately. The military must maintain its code of conduct and ensure its operation causes minimal or no harm to the citizens, this will ensure a more cooperative and supportive environment for security operations and is a probable positive step in resolving the conflict raging in the region.