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The plight of internally displaced persons in the south west region of Cameroon: a case study of the kumba municipality

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This work investigates the socio-economic impact of the Anglophone crisis on internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kumba (Cameroon). The manifestations of physical movements seriously implicate the affected individuals. IDPs major problem is economic vulnerability.

They are unable to meet up with their basic requirements. They also have to cope with physical, social, socio-economic, mental and emotional problems which affect them psychologically.

The living condition of a majority of the IDPs are a great call for concern as some live in overcrowded houses and feeding becomes a problem to them, in the course of this crisis, the vulnerable group such as women have been raped leaving them with unwanted pregnancies, some have been killed, some burnt alive inside their houses.

The problem of IDPs if not adequately handled could jeopardise the sustainability of peace and development in the kumba municipality.

Most communities such as Meme sub-division which happens to be the centre of this work encounter a lot of challenges in accommodating IDPs and expanding basic infrastructures and this affects the budgets of local authorities and humanitarian agencies.

The questions one must ask with regards to this study are: what situation does the IDPs find themselves as a result of the on-going crisis?, what are the implication of the on-going crisis on the lives of IDPs in the south west region of Cameroon specifically kumba.

The main objective of my study is to examine the conditions the IDPs in the kumba municipality. I will use the qualitative research method.

The instrument for data collection was interviews where i gathered the information i needed and came out with my conclusion from the information gathered.

My  findings revealed that the crisis have a psychological effect on IDPs and also endangering the stability of the town.

Also recommendations were made to the government, NGOs and other Stakeholders which will be helpful not only to them but to the IDPs as it will help improve their living conditions.




1.1 Background of the Study

The current Anglophone crisis is an extension of the historical resistance to the alleged assimilation of the indigenous English speaking population.

It began with the unprovoked harassment of Anglophone lawyers engaged in peaceful protest matches in September 2016 to vent their grievances over the perceived marginalisation of the Anglophone common law practice in the country.

In October 2016, they went on strike, and in November the Anglophone teachers’ trade union also staged a solidarity strike to protest against the distortion confronting the educational system in the Anglophone regions[1]

Grievances by Anglophone Cameroon specifically lawyers and teachers have been conveyed in many ways, the lawyers and the teachers had been pushing with memorandums and strike calls, which basically received half-hearted attention or were ignored by the government.

In 2016, the English speaking lawyers went on  strike[2]. They protested against widespread marginalisation of the Anglophone Linguistic, Culture, educational and legal systems and calling for a return to Federal State. The strike further degenerated into violence, resulting to the deaths of several persons.

The Anglophone problem is seen as the feeling of marginalisation, assimilation, domination and the systematic destruction of the Anglo-Saxon culture, faced by people of today’s North West and South West regional ethnic origins[3].

In terms of manifestation, the marginalisation of Anglophones has been visible in all spheres of public life. In the political domain, it has been manifested in a history of exclusion from the most important government and official party positions with the feeling that Anglophones were only fit to play deputy to Francophone[4].

In the economic domain, it has entailed discrimination against Anglophones in employment within the state bureaucracy and corporations, the private corporate sector which is predominantly French – controlled or located in French speaking areas and inequalities in the distribution of public investments.

In November 2016, the Anglophone Teachers’ Trade Union staged a solidarity strike to protest against the distortions confronting the educational system in the Anglophone regions.[5]

The targeting of the University of Buea and National Polytechnic Bambui in November 2016 by military and other security agencies, culminating in the arrest and torture of students also aggravated the present crisis. Likewise, the arrest, forture and killing of some youths engaged in peaceful protest in Buea and Kumba by security agents.[6]

The grievances of the Anglophone Cameroon were coined as follows the Anglophone Common Law lawyers said they were appalled by the gradual phasing out of common law principles in Cameroon’s legislation, especially through the recent harmonization of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Organisation for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) Uniform Acts and the inter – African Conference on Insurance Markets (CIMA) code.

They feared that the same phenomenon would be observed in the civil code.

The call for the redeployment of French speaking teachers from Anglophone regions and maintained that the election and appointment of authorities in the Anglo – Saxon Universities of Bamenda and Buea should be in strict compliance with Anglo – Saxon norms.

The number of French speaking teachers in the Anglophone region is alarming

Preservation of the cherished legal and educational systems of Anglophone Cameroon. They also stated that lay private and professional schools were doing much to support the education section in Cameroon but received little or no subvention from government.

Given that they have similar issues, the teachers’ and the lawyers’ joined together to form the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) to dialogue with the government.

The CACSC remained implacable and refused to lift the call to strike, insisting on having a two state federation as the best way to guarantee their demands.

In addition, they called for civil disobedience and a shut-down of all economic activities in the two Anglophone regions.

As a result of this coalition between the CACSC and the government, the atmosphere became a tense one not conducive for learning and even for cohabitation due to the failed attempts to address the demands of the Anglophone population.

The Biya Regime responded to the CACSC with the arrest and detention of its leaders notably Agbor Balla lecturer at the university of Buea, Mancho Bibixy leader of the coffin protest in Bamenda, Fortem Neba lecturer also at the University of Buea , and Paul Ayah Abine Justice of the Supreme Court.[7]

Other leaders such as Bobga Harrmoy Mbuton, Wilfred Tassang and Elias Eyambe Ebai fled from Cameroon. The Biya regime further severed internet accesses in the two Anglophone dominated regions of North and South West Cameroon.

This measure which was interpreted by the Anglophone population as a redefinition of Cameroon territory escalated the grievances against Yaounde.

The crisis led to an unstable peace in the atmosphere and insecurity as some students were being shot and some kidnapped for going to school.

As a result, some people had to leave their home town to other towns in search of peace, security and others to seek education.

This is what became known as internal displacement. Persons or groups of persons were forced or obliged to flee or leave their homes or places of habitual residences as a results of or in order to avoid the effects of the crisis which had become an armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights and who have not crossed an international recognised border.

The recognition of internally displacement as a distinct area of study emerged from the late 1980’s due to the persistence of crisis in many parts of the world and became prominent on the international agendain the 1990’s.

The origins of the internal displacement regime are widely believed to have stemmed from the fireless and selfless efforts of a coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and individuals who lobbied, reported and pressured powerful governments and institutions to consider internal displacement not solely as a humanitarian but a human right issue that required new norms, structures and institutions to address for the dignity of human land.

The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has dramatically increased since the cold war outnumbering that of refugees.[8]

Over several months, violent clashes in Cameroon between the military and the armed separatist’s groups have driven thousands of Cameroonians into internal displacement. The displaced most of who are women and children face a grave humanitarian situation.

As of October 2018, the United Nations Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated there were about 437000 IDPs in Cameroon, 246000 of them from Southwest Region, 105000 in the Northwest Region and 86000 in the Littoral and West Regions.

The North West and South West regions of Cameroon are affected by a deep socio-political crisis resulting in civil disobedience, prolonged closure of some schools and the destruction of infrastructures.

Since the last quarter of 2018 confrontations between armed groups and security forces escalated solely, leading to a general insecurity context which is now forcing people to flee to safer regions of Cameroon as internally displaced persons.

Most of the IDPs came from areas such as Kumba, Muyuka, Ekona, Mile 16, Bomaka, Edili, Buea, Bamenda to places such as Yaounde, Douala, Ebolowa, Bafoussam, Dchang, Bertoua in search of Peace and security.

The security situation remains highly volatile in the Northwest and Southwest region of Cameroon.

The conflict has fundamentally changed the regions physical, economic and social landscape which at the onset looked much more hopeful Houses have been destroyed together with schools and hospital infrastructures where traces of bullets can be seen on the buildings.

The road from Ediki right up to Muyuka is very bushy and looks abandoned as a result of the conflict because inhabitants of that area have fled to other towns in search of security.

Along that road, we can find abandoned houses with holes which are traces of bullets on them and which grasses have even grown in some of the houses because it was abandoned by their inhabitants due to the constant gunshots in the area.

Pictures of the Ediki to Muyuka road will be seen subsequently. People found it fundamental and imperative to flee for fear of been shot or taken by a stray bullet.[9]

1.2. Statement of Problem

The displacement and manifestations of physical movement are associated with loss of property and this creates a situation in which all symptoms of poverty are manifested. The living conditions of a majority of the IDPs are a great call for concern as some live in overcrowded houses and feeding becomes a problem to them.

Schools and hospital infrastructures are been destroyed and abandoned. The phenomenon of displacement seriously implicates the affected individuals, shifts patterns and social roles, institutionalising poverty and damaging the social fabric of a given community.

The major problems of internally displaced persons are caused by economic vulnerability. Finding a job in their new places of residence is very difficult especially for single parents. A majority of them lack money to feed themselves and other dependents.

They are also unable to pay rents for housing highly dependent unemployed and also discriminated against because their presence leads to competition for jobs and also increase the burden on host communities and local authorities.

The primary sources of income of IDPs are support from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and salary from the government for state workers.

There has been noticeable loss of lives, destruction and burning of homes and property, work space and other infrastructures in several parts of Kumba, one of the epicentres of the Anglophone crisis. Areas such as the Ediki Muyuka road is been abandoned and we can find burned cars along that road and infrastructures which have been destroyed. In response to those traumatic experiences, IDPs have reacted in different ways.

Most of them have fled to other communities in search of peace and security; they have also had to cope with physical, socio-economic, mental and emotional problems that may have long lasting effects on their lives if not urgently attended to by the government, NGOs and other stakeholders in the on-going conflict.

The problem of internal displaced persons if not adequately handled could jeopardise the sustainability of peace and development in the Kumba municipality and by extension to Cameroon as a whole. Social development and economic stability have been negatively affected in the Meme Division (Kumba).

In the course of this crisis the vulnerable group such as the women have been raped leaving them with unwanted pregnancies, some have been killed, some burnt alive inside their houses, some kidnapped and being for turned by their kidnappers, this explains why the main contention in this study is to examine the psychological and mental torments that the IDPs have undergone as a result of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon.

The government, some NGOs and stakeholders have given humanitarian support such as distribution of some basic necessicities like buckets, matress, soap, reusable sanitary pads, wrappers but could not completely remedy their situation because these support is not consistent.

1.3. Research Questions

  1. what situation does the IDPs find themselves as a result of the on-going crisis
  2. what are the implications of the on-going crisis on the lives of IDPs in the Southwest Region of Cameroon specifically Kumba
  3. What are the needs of IDPs and how have those needs been addressed by NGOs, government in the Kumba municipality.

1.4. Research Objective

The main objective of my study is to examine the conditions, the plight the IDPs in the Kumba Municipality find themselves. The study specifically aims at:

  • Discussing the challenges and situation of the IDPs in the Kumba Municipality
  • Also, to examine the impact of the Anglophone crisis in the lives of IDPs in Kumba.
  • To examine what have been have been done to remedy the sufferings if IDPs and to evaluate how this have been effectively carried out.

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