The government of Cameroon is trying to negotiate an end to a crisis in the northern part of the country that triggered fighting between people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency and villagers who have hosted them for the past three years. But host communities say their resources have been stretched thin.
An uneasy calm reigns in Wack, a village in the north, following last week’s clashes that left several people dead and 15 wounded, destroyed property, and killed cattle.
Sixty-four-year old Jifbi Haman, leader of a community of internally displaced persons, said the conflict erupted when members of the host community beat their wives and chased them from farms they have occupied since 2015.
He said their wives, already suffering the most from Boko Haram atrocities, are still not finding peace in their host communities. He said they are exploited and sexually harassed because they are vulnerable.
Among the wounded is 42-year old Seidou Habiba, who said she escaped from her village in July after her family was targeted three times by Boko Haram fighters.
She was saved by Cameroon’s military.
Habiba said since war drove her from her northern village of Mozogo, she has not been able to find peace and she has no means of survival. She said all that she is asking for is a means to raise domestic animals or a farm to grow crops.
The village of Wack has received more than 700 internally displaced people since 2015 when fighting between Cameroon’s military and Boko Haram spiked on the border with Nigeria.
Governor of the region, Kildadi Taguieke Boukar, visited the area Thursday in hopes of resolving the conflict between villagers and the IDPs.
He declared the conflict a provocation by IDPs who occupied more land than they were given by their hosts.
He said the recent bloody conflict was sparked by the refusal of internally displaced persons to obey instructions from traditional rulers not to illegally occupy host community farms, cattle ranches and land reserves. Boukar said he has strongly instructed the IDPs to respect their hosts and for the host communities to learn to live in solidarity with the people displaced by Boko Haram.
The United Nations said Boko Haram fighting has affected food security in parts of Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger — a major reason for the conflict between host communities and refugees.
Cameroon’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said two million people in the country are at risk of food insecurity70 percent of them on its northern border with Nigeria.
Raphael Bah is a Cameroon Red Cross official in the north. He said more funding is needed to assist host communities and refugees to prevent further conflict.
He said the first and most important thing they have done for now to calm the conflict is providing 15,000 people with food aid. He said the second thing they will do to stop dependency on aid is to hand out planting seeds to host communities and IDPs to increase their production and to fight hunger and famine.
Boko Haram has displaced nearly a quarter million Cameroonians through violence that began when the Nigerian Islamist group began using Cameroon for bases.
Cameroon says is has only received one third of the $690 million in aid required this year to meet the needs of displaced people and host communities.