Refugees fleeing CAR violence struggle in Cameroon

Hundreds of thousands of people have found safe haven in Cameroon but have limited access to food, water and healthcare.

a woman and her child nap in Bombe Bakari, Cameroon. The day before, from 6 PM to midnight, their village, Issi, has been taken over by the armed group “Siriri”. The newly arrived refugees report having been threatened, attached to trees, robbed money and belongings. They hid in the forest for the night and walked to the border when the sun rose.


In April, the quietness of the Mambere-Kadei prefecture in the southwest of the Central African Republic (CAR) was disrupted when fighting erupted between the United Nations peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSCA, and members of the Siriri armed group.

A Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed. Villages were also attacked by the “Siriri” group, whose name means “peace” in Sango.

According to Gabriel Gaba, who fled to neighbouring Cameroon in search of safety, like many others, the group’s fighters “take things, attack and hit people, and threaten to kill.”

An approximately 250,000 Central Africans refugees have sought shelter in the neighbouring country in recent years, living in villages or in camps, the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) says.

The first ones left to escape recurrent attacks and kidnappings by bandits who also stole their cattle and money. Then, from 2013 to 2015, more fled the sectarian violence that erupted after the ousting of President Francois Bozize from the rebel coalition Selaka.

Amid an increase in violence since 2016, and with 80 percent of the CAR’s territory held by armed groups fighting for the land and resources, the return of more than 568,000 refugees from countries such as Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad is unlikely.

At the same time, donors are gradually withdrawing their support for the CAR refugees in Cameroon, with UNHCR having received only about 20 percent from the required funding.

While Cameroon remains a safe haven for CAR refugees, it faces two security crises itself – Boko Haram in the Far North and the unrest in parts of the English-speaking South West and North West regions.

Last year, the Norwegian Refugee Council said the conflict in CAR is the world’s most neglected displacement crisis.

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