Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the UN refugee agency UNHCR will soon sign an agreement for the return of over 278,000 Central Africans who fled sectarian violence that left thousands dead between 2013 and 2015.
“The tripartite agreement between Cameroon, the Central African Republic and UNHCR is scheduled to be signed sometime soon,” UNHCR’s representative in Cameroon, Kouassi Lazare Etien disclosed to NewsWatch newspaper in Yaounde recently.
While waiting for the signing of the tripartite agreement, Cameroon and UNHCR have begun working together to improve living conditions of both host population and refugees in the East, Adamawa and North regions through a support plan. The plan would aid municipalities hosting refugees in the regions. It will also be hepful to a Steering Committee in charge of coordination and monitoring of development interventions in localities hosting Central African refugees in the East, Adamawa and North regions.
The UNHCR representative said the support plan is an inclusive coordinating platform bringing together government, humanitarian, development partners and financial institutions which will facilitate the mobilization of coordinated and strategic investments in the municipalities that shelter refugees.
“It is a real assembly of concrete answers that will allow the transition between humanitarian response and development,” Kouassi Lazare Etien said.
CAR descended into turmoil in March 2013 following the overthrow of leader Francois Bozize by Seleka rebels, which triggered the country’s worst crisis since its independence from France in 1960.
According to statistics from the UNHCR, there were 278,136 central African refugees in Cameroon as of April this year. Of the number, 259,145 are found in rural areas of the border regions of the East, Adamawa and North and 18,991 in the urban areas of Yaounde and Douala.
The Mayor of Garoua Boulai in the East region of the country, Yaffo Ndoe Esther said the influx of CAR refugees to the municipality has ushered in so many problems.
“We have conflicts, we do not have enough classrooms for refugees and our children, our hospital facilities are not enough to contain the population and refugees from the Central African Republic. But with the support plan launched, I think much will now be done to ameliorate the living conditions of the refugees and the population of our municipality,” the mayor said.
Besides Central Africans, Cameroon also hosts some 93,422 Nigerian refugees in the Far North region of which 62,829 have been registered in the Minawao camp.
In addition to refugees, there are 223,642 Internally Displaced Persons in the Far North region, according to the UNHCR protection monitoring flash updates of March 2017.
Meanwhile, food shortages in northern part of the country are raising tensions between local communities and Nigerian refugees displaced by the Boko Haram conflict.