8, December 2017
Violence in English-speaking areas of Cameroon over the last year is having a knock-on effect in neighboring Nigeria, where thousands of refugees are seeking sanctuary. Some are fleeing the unrest while others are suspected to be secessionists in favour of armed struggle, who could use the Nigerian side of the border as a base.
John Inaku, head of the Cross River state emergency management agency in southeast Nigeria, said over 28 000 people have arrived from western Cameroon since October. “But many of them have not been registered yet and people are still coming in,” he told AFP.
Most have fled across the border on foot through the bush since the start of an increased crackdown by authorities in Yaounde. Cameroon was divided between French and British colonial rulers before independence in 1960 and English-speakers account for some 20 % of the population of 23 million.
They have long protested against what they perceive to be a bias towards their French-speaking compatriots. In recent weeks, growing numbers have joined the ranks of the secessionists, some of whom are openly advocating armed struggle for an independent state.
The security situation has worsened significantly since the authorities have cracked down on pro-independence demonstrations.Ten soldiers and police officers, as well as several civilians, have been killed since October 1, when separatists symbolically declared an independent state of “Ambazonia”.
The recent violence blamed on small, well-organised groups has been concentrated in forested and mountainous border areas. Only two roads link Cameroon and Nigeria.