Displacement & MigrationNews

Chad, Cameroon Begin Talks On Repatriation Of Cameroonian Refugees

Although the refugees are still afraid of being attacked upon their return, the administrators have assured them of safety.

Discussions began on Thursday, Sept. 16, between Cameroonian and Chadian authorities as well as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on the voluntary repatriation of over 12,000 Cameroonian refugees who fled to Chad during communal clashes between the Mousgoum and Arab Choa communities in Logone Birni of the Far North region of Cameroon early last month.

Humanitarian officials and administrative authorities from the two countries Thursday exchanged views with the Cameroonian refugee community in Oundouma, a border locality situated on the banks of River Logone where 12,579 Cameroonian refugees were being hosted.

So far, more than 4,000 of the refugees have voluntarily returned to Cameroon leaving a total of 8,000 still in Chad.

Ndongo Ndongo Lazare, the head of the Cameroonian delegation who is the prefect of Logone et Chari division, reassured the Cameroonian refugees that calm has returned to Logone Birni sub division where the clashes took place.

“We are here today to reassure you that you can return to your homes and live in security and tranquility. Cameroon has taken the necessary sanitary and feeding dispositions so our compatriots can return in serenity to their localities,” Ndongo declared.

Mahaman Limane Cherif, the leader of the Madjako community in Cameroon, thanked the Chadian authorities for welcoming the Cameroonian refugees in their midst and reassured his compatriots that there are no problems in their locality now.

“Let us return to our homes and recommence on new bases,”  Cherif said.

Iris Blom, the Assistant Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cameroon said the return of the Cameroonian refugees must be on a voluntary basis.

“Everybody must express the wish to return and resume his/her life in his country of origin. It is a process that is based on a legal context,” the UNHCR official said.

Atrounga Matheiu, the representative of the refugees, on his part posed some conditions before their return to Cameroon, declaring that “We work in the bush and the enemy is armed and hides in bushy areas in order to kill us. It is necessary that the state of Cameroon takes things into its hands otherwise a sentiment of fear would return.”

Gayang Souare, the Governor of Chad’s province of Chari-Baguirmi, who was the head of the Chadian delegation said the fears of the refugees were legitimate and reassured them that calm has effectively returned to where the clashes took place.

“We must accompany you so that you return to your homes by giving you true information because I am in regular contact with the Governor of the Far North (region of Cameroon) who has assured me of the dispositions taken to ensure the security of his compatriots,” Governor Souare declared.

“Chad is a brother nation and nobody is chasing you away. You can remain here for as long as you like but we are at ease when we are in our own homes,” the Prefect of Logone et Chari said.

Clashes between the Mousgoum and Arab Choa communities in Logone Birni on Aug. 10, 2021 led to the displacement of more than 12,000 Cameroonians from their homes, most of whom headed to the neighbouring Chadian border locality of Oundouma, situated some twenty kilometres to the southwest of Koundoul which is fifteen kilometres from N’Djamena the capital, in the division of Loug Chari, of Chari Baguirmi province.

Since Aug. 11, 2021, a total of 12, 579 Cameroonian refugees who fled from the clashes have been hosted in Oundouma.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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