MSF Denies Accusation It Supports Separatist Fighters In Cameroon

MSF has been working in Cameroon for over 35 years, and in the Northwest and Southwest regions since 2018 but faces allegations of arming rebels.

The international humanitarian organisation Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) – Doctors Without Borders –  says accusations by the Cameroon government that it supports separatist fighters in the Northwest Region were not true.

MSF said in a statement issued on Tuesday, July 5, 2021, that it “categorically rejects the allegations of having provided support for separatist fighters in the Northwest.”

“We affirm as an absolute that we have never facilitated the transport of arms, ammunition or armed combatants, and have never provided logistical or financial support to any of the parties to the ongoing crisis.”

“In Cameroon as everywhere else in the world, we operate in the strictest respect of our charter, which requires us to act in a framework of total independence, neutrality, and impartiality and to apply a policy of zero tolerance for the presence of weapons in the structures and vehicles we support and maintain.”

The organisation argued that for months, it has engaged continually with Cameroonian authorities to find a solution to the suspension of its activities in the Northwest.

“We have taken every available opportunity to provide transparency and clarity on all the allegations that have been issued, and to demonstrate a total absence of collusion with any armed group or party to the ongoing crisis,” the statement continued.

The humanitarian organisation revealed that during its discussions with authorities, it identified areas for improvement in their level of communication with Cameroonian authorities and shared their deep concerns on the difficulties and serious incidents they have faced from both the armed forces of the state and non-state armed groups in the Northwest and Southwest regions.

“In particular we disclosed serious violations of humanitarian principles, including harassment, death threats, ambulances being fired upon, carjackings, excessive delays at checkpoints while transporting critically ill patients, and even the murder of a community health worker in the Southwest.”

“In Cameroon, as everywhere else in the world, Doctors Without Borders’ teams are in contact with the armed forces of the state, and non-state armed groups. This is to ensure the safety of our teams and patients and to guarantee access to care. Maintaining contact with these actors cannot and must not be equated with collusion.”

“The allegations recently published by certain media organizations put both our patients and our staff in serious and immediate danger. Medical staff supporting access to healthcare have faced serious incidents with armed actors – incidents fuelled by these allegations. We, therefore, call for vigilance and accountability when issuing public statements and reports.”

“In view of our ongoing dialogue and total transparency with Cameroonian authorities, we demand the cessation of defamatory allegations against our organisation.”

In the statement, the organisation reiterated its call, as expressed in its press release of June 22, that the suspension of its activities be lifted in the North-West in view of its impact on local communities.

“In Cameroon, as in other countries around the world, MSF teams will continue striving to provide essential care to those most in need: to those suffering the effects of armed conflict and violence, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. We will provide this assistance irrespective of race, religion, creed, or political convictions.” 

MSF has been working in Cameroon for over 35 years, and in the Northwest and Southwest regions since 2018.

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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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