Lake Chad Basin Faces Continuing Threats

By: Adam King
Impunity Watch News Report, Africa

Site for Internally Displaced People in Mellia, Chad. Photo Courtesy of United Nations.

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – The Lake Chad Basin, which is considered one of the worst conflict zones in Africa, faces multiple challenges to regional security. The basin is surrounded by four countries: Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. The lake itself struggles with ecological challenges in the form of drought and dwindling water supplies. According to the United Nations, the ecological effects are playing a role in the proliferation of protracted conflict:

“The impact of the drying lake is causing tensions among communities around Lake Chad. There are repeated conflicts among nationals of different countries over control of the remaining water. Cameroonians and Nigerians in Darak village, for example, constantly fight over the water. Nigerians claim to be the first settlers in the village, while Cameroonians invoke nationalistic sentiments, since the village is within Cameroonian territory. Fishermen also want farmers and herdsmen to cease diverting lake water to their farmlands and livestock.”

The conflict over resources gives rise to more instability through the interstate crime. Boko Haram, for example, continues to be a challenge to continued stability, “[w]hile the efforts of the Governments in Africa’s Lake Chad Basin have diminished Boko Haram’s combat capacity in the region, the terrorist group has changed its tactics, increasing the use of suicide attacks.”

Boko Haram has been accused of perpetrating egregious acts against citizens of multiple states in the region,

“[T]he group had shifted its tactics in the wake of these efforts, and some 130 attacks attributed to Boko Haram in the four affected countries – Nigeria, followed by Cameroon, Niger and Chad – in June and July resulted in 284 civilian fatalities, a significant increase compared to 146 attacks and 107 civilian fatalities in April and May.”

The presence of Boko Haram in the region is but one of many factors that continue to drive the violence. According to Jeffrey Feltman, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, “[p]overty, weak state authority, insecurity and climate change explain this situation, with women and girls being the first victims.”

From ecological disaster to insurgent violence, those who inhabit the region are facing a humanitarian crisis of large proportions. According to the USAID, some 8.5 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. Disease also plays a factor as cholera and hepatitis further complicates the plight of the local inhabitants.

The severity of the situation prompted a meeting of the UN Security Council to develop an adequate assessment of the situation,

“As Council members took the floor, delegates expressed serious concern over those challenges, while many also welcomed the strong and coordinated response of the Multinational Joint Task Force. Several speakers outlined their Governments’ responses to the multiple crises in the Lake Chad Basin, urging donors to bolster their financial, logistical and technical support to the affected States.”

While the crisis continues to worsen, Samantha Newport, from the UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, offers a positive perspective on the aid and support of the international community working to mitigate the severity of the problems faced,

“The international system has rapidly scaled up and saved millions of lives. We reached two million people with food assistance every month and have provided hundreds of thousands of children with life-saving nutritional support.”

For more information, please see:

United Nations Meetings Coverage — ‘Terrorism, Other Security Threats Diverting Scarce Funds from ‘Staggering’ Lake Chad Basin Humanitarian Crisis, Political Affairs Chief Tells Security a Council’ — 13 September 2017

The Premium Times — ‘UN Humanitarian Aid Interventions Save Millions of Lives in North East’– Official’ — 13 September 2017

UN News Centre — ‘Stronger peacebuilding efforts needed to tackle Boko Haram, end Lake Chad Basin crisis, Security Council told’ — 13 September 2017

USAID — ‘Lake Chad Basin – Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #23, Fiscal Year (FY) 2017’ — 31 August 2017

United Nations —  ‘Africa’s Vanishing Lake Chad’ — April 2012

Cameroon Forcing Refugees to Return to Nigeria

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

YAOUNDE, Cameroon– Word is spreading that Cameroon is returning refugees to Nigeria despite the fact the country is still facing conflict with Boko Haram.  UNHCR and other international organizations that work to protect refugees are deeply concerned by Cameroon’s actions.  According to reports 2600 refugees have been forcefully returned to Nigeria from Cameroon.

Refugees at a camp in Cameroon. (Photo Courtesy of UNHCR)

UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch detailed a specific situation where Cameroon soliders forced refugees out of the country.  “UNHCR teams have heard and documented accounts about Cameroonian troops returning refugees against their will – without allowing them time to collect their belongings. In one incident on March 4, some 26 men, and 27 women and children, were sent back from the Cameroonian border town of Amtide, in Kolofata district, where they had sought refuge, according to UNHCR monitoring teams in the border regions.”  UNHCR has acknowledged Cameroon’s generosity in accepting 85,000 refugees but is calling upon Cameroon to be responsible for its obligations under international law.

Boko Haram has killed 15,000 and displaced 2 million in Nigeria.  While a regional coalition has been able to push back Boko Haram they have been successful in being more active in the the Lake Chad area.  Boko Haram is also not only an issue for Nigeria, but Cameroon.  200,000 Cameroonian’s have left their homes because they fear Boko Haram’s violence may spread.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – Boko Haram crisis: Cameroon ‘forcing Nigeria refugees home’ – 21 March 2017

news 24 – Cameroon expelled 2 600 Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram: UN – 21 March 2017

Thomson Reuters Foundation – Cameroon forcing thousands of refugees to return to Boko Haram-hit Nigeria – UN – 21 March 2017

UNHCR – UNHCR concerned about return of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon – 21 March 2017

Cameroon Blocks Out Internet in Some Parts of the Country

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

YAOUNDE, Cameroon– Cameroon has blocked internet access in the North West and South West parts of the country.  These parts of the country have been home to anti government protests in the past few weeks.  Many feel that the blockages are unnecessary and counterproductive.

Demonstrators in Bamenda

Anti government protests in Bamenda. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)

For many, the blockages are believed to target protesters, so they are not able to use social media. Some people with mobile cell phones have also received threatening text messages stating that if they post inaccurate information online they will be subject to excessive fines and even jail time.  Cell phone providers haven’t been helpful, replying to customer service complaints that there are other forms of communication available to those who have had the internet blocked.

Because the South West region of Cameroon is a major technology center in the region, some companies have been forced to relocate workers to other parts of the country in order to continue work.  While internet blockages have been common for the past 12 months, it is the blockages in the North West and South West, which are mainly English speaking, that have caused protests.  These protests have been happening since the beginning of the year and Cameroonians only become more frustrated by the lack of access.  Everyone from businesses to activists have been affected by this blackout.

For more information, please see:

BBC Africa – Why has Cameroon blocked the internet? – 8 February 2017 

Eyewitness News – Cameroon Torn By Protests Over Internet Blackout – 8 February 2017

Os News – Internet Shutdown Hits Businesses in Cameroon – 8 February 2017 

Quartz Africa – Cameroon has shut down the internet in its English-speaking regions – 23 January 2017