As many Southern Cameroonians continue to forcefully run away into Nigeria, it might have been an easy ride for some. At least using the Trans African Highway that passes through Nigeria. Others had foreseen danger and decided to relocate before the situation escalated on September 22 2017.
Many others were forced to leave their homes for fear of arrest and killing as recounted by the Refugees. A majority of them were compelled to a long walk to safety in Nigeria and especially in the Cross River State, given their different untold stories.
There are clear indications that the influx of displaced Southern Cameroonians intensified after October 1 when the Federal Republic of Ambazonia declared its independence. Akwaya and Eyumojock Divisions in the Southern Cameroons remain the most hit with as many as 196 displaced families in some cases.
He looked worried this November 5 2017 after leaving one of the camps in Abokim, in the Etung Local Government Area to the council premises in Ikom.
Lawson Nganga, could not hide his feelings when he was not offered relief from the Nigerian Commission for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. He is one of the yet to be registered refugees. He took time to explain how he spent almost one month in the Maromba Forest.
“It was one afternoon after September 22. Soldiers of the Cameroonian army attacked Maromba II village in Kumba, Meme Division and were beating people and ransacking households. The youths were targeted,” recalled the 35 year old cocoa farmer. “The only option was for about 12 of us to leave for the Maromba Forest where we spent some four days. We had to make our way to Mamfe.
From there, we trekked to Nigeria. We found ourselves being beaten by rain in the forest. We were living mainly on food crops like cocoyams and plantains we roasted while on the journey. Some villagers in areas where we passed through also gave us assistance. We trekked for days and arrived with nothing,” he explained.
According to Assam Ekuri Assam, the brutality of the soldiers was inexplicable. “I was forced to abandon my home opposite Apolo Bar around Eyomojock subdivision gendarmerie brigade. It was on October 4 2017.
“Soldiers just got into my home, kicked the pot from the fireside on which my wife was cooking. They threatened to arrest me and everyone. We were not feeling safe anymore as they continued to harass my family.I had to leave with my pregnant wife and three children who are 10, 8 and six years respectively. The journey too was not an easy one. I carried my last child on my back, held the others two by hand. We were on foot for almost six hours and reached the Sanakang, a border village.
From there we took a boat to Nigeria. At some stage my children were. My wife may give birth very soon –she is 8 months pregnant and it is a difficult situation for me. Where they sleep and eat is another story,” he narrated. Assam like many other families undertook the journey. Statistics from humanitarian organisations on ground shows that some 140 families from Akwaya were displaced from Akwaya alone.
In one of the camps in Ajasso, Etung LGA, hosting some of the refugees, mostly children and women, the story of the baby who lived on biscuits for three days days is on every lip.
Mme Elizabeth Ntui said her husband was being hunted down by security forces in Mamfe town for what she claimed is his believe and support to the Ambazonia Republic. Her husband had fled since after September 22 and there were threats on her family.
“The soldiers kept coming to our house at Ndebaya village in Eyumojok demanding the whereabouts of my husband. There were several gunshots to a point where one of my daughters had convulsion. We felt insecure and had to move into a nearby bush. I and my three kids survived on biscuits until we reached Ekok in Cameroon. Soldiers arrested us and we had to explain that we were traveling to Nigeria to visit my father in law before we were freed. We then used a boat from Cameroon to border to Nsang, a neighbouring town in Nigeria. It was a difficult experience but we are happy we arrived Nigeria,” she said. Elizabeth N. is living in a house now transformed into a camp. The area is host to about 35 children. They were separated from their parents.
In the case of Southern Cameroonians who fled from Akwaya, the walk lasted several hours. From Akwaya main town they were forced to move to a border area called Kalamo in Cameroon. Their entry point into Nigeria after almost 5 hours of walk through a foot path is Kigol, a village just under the Obudu Ranch.
The altitude of the ranch is like the journey to hut 1 on Buea Mountain. There were several stories of families who could not trace their loved ones. As at October 15, we were informed by local authorities that 86 households had been affected.
“We were living in Akwaya main town. Soldiers came in on October 1 and killed my husband Omenge Areta. They destroyed our house and we were forced to join others to move. I had to take my four children and leave to Kigol in Nigeria, passing through forests and rivers,”recounted Omange Charity who burst into tears as she explained that her children were finding it difficult to have food. This was on October 30 2017.
There are several other dreadful stories of another woman whose baby was swept away by a river as she crossed into Nigeria. We were informed by local community leaders that she has been weeping and isolating herself.
Concordant sources also told us that security forces prevented many people who wanted to engage in the long walk to Nigeria from Southern Cameroons. These forceful displacement has caused a lot of health problems to Southern Cameroonians while in Nigeria. This is subject of the next report.
By Solomon Amabo, Cross River State, Nigeria.