Ahead of the celebration of Christmas, Cameroon’s President has offered material aid to internally displaced persons who fled the armed conflict in the country’s Anglophone regions. However, nothing has been said about Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria who escaped from the same conflict.
On Monday December 21, the country’s Interior Minister Paul Atanga Nji gave goods such as rice, soap, oil, mattresses and other items to some internally displaced families in the country’s capital Yaoundé. He announced that those in other regions will receive their share in the coming days.
President Paul Biya’s offer to the IDPs costs a little over $1 million. Of this amount, nothing has been programmed to provide aid for Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria who have been living under horrendous conditions for about three years now.
The UN estimates that over half a million people are internally displaced in Cameroon, with about sixty thousand others living as refugees in neighbouring Nigeria.
They were forced to flee their areas, because of continuous fighting between state soldiers and Anglophone separatist fighters in the North West and South West regions. Since they left home, life has not been easy for most of them.
Cameroonian refugees and the spate of exclusion
This is not the first time refugees in Nigeria are left out from receiving relief packages from the state. The government launched a humanitarian assistance plan in 2018, to help those displaced and affected by the armed conflict. However, Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria did not benefit from it, even though they were supposed to.
Cameroon’s Prime Minister at the time, Philemon Yang said in part: “this action will include assistance and visits to show compassion to Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria.”
Government, through the interior minister, rather paid more attention to internally displaced persons. The materials distributed under the humanitarian assistance plan were worth over $23 million.
So far, no government minister from Cameroon is known to have visited the refugees in Nigeria to assess their situation. The most recent visit by a Cameroonian official was in November this year, when the country’s Consul in Clabar, Nigeria, visited some refugees in Akwa-Ibom State.
The consul gave aid to 300 people in that state. Nigeria, however, hosts a total of about 60,000 Cameroonian refugees.
Mr. Onana Patrice “distributed humanitarian aid kits to 300 Cameroonian refugees in Akwa-Ibom State (Uyo, Eket, Oron, Ikot Ekpene, etc) as part of a special gift from the Head of State, His Excellency Paul Biya, to Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria…” according to Cameroon’s Foreign Ministry.
The festive season is very well on course. While some internally displaced persons in Cameroon will celebrate Christmas and New Year with the gifts received from the state, the circumstances under which refugees in Nigeria will celebrate remain highly uncertain.