While the plight of refugees and the internally displaced from the conflict in Cameroon’s North West and South West Regions is adding to the many burdens of an already impoverished population, the situation is grimmer than meets the eye.
Cameroon has been fighting Ambazonia armed groups in its Anglophone regions for the last three years.
The armed groups seek to create a breakaway state called Ambazonia.
The conflict has killed nearly a hundred thousand people accordıng to open sources.
Cameroon’s Anglophone regions face a serious humanitarian crisis, with over 650,000 internally displaced, and 1.8 million relying on humanitarian aid including 1.4 million people who lack reliable access to food.
The central African country has witnessed running gun battles in its English-speaking regions, leading to what the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council describes as a humanitarian emergency.
Government forces and rebel forces bear responsibility for untold atrocities in the area including unlawful killings, abductions, harassment, extortion, and other abuses as supplies and property have been looted and destroyed.
The economic life of the regions is hard hit, its development dragged into ruins.
In theory, the two restive regions are the backbone of Cameroon’s economy: a wealth of commodities such as oil, diamonds and gold, and good agricultural conditions.
87-year-old President Paul Biya’s handling of the crisis that started from a mere teachers’ and lawyers’ protest has now soiled the economic outlook of the regions and the nation as a whole.
In the North West and South West Regions, businesses are shutting down and unemployment is shooting up even as government claims everything is under control. The hitherto chronic underdevelopment in the Anglophone regions has only now worsened with existing infrastructure lying in ruins.
Schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and telecommunication networks have been destroyed as fighting intensifies with no end in sight.
Cameroon’s oil wells are in the Ndian Division of the South West Region and the central African country’s lone refinery is lodged in one of the crisis hit regions. Last year, four production units at the facility went up in flames, further casting doubts over Cameroon’s economic outlook in the days ahead.
Banana, palm oil, coffee and cocoa are key economic mainstays of the country’s two English-speaking regions. Seventy-five percent of Cameroon’s Arabica coffee comes from the Anglophone North West.
Exports of Banana by the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, only resumed last month after over twenty months of dormancy as workers were kidnapped, maimed and others killed. This forced the company to fold up. Exports of crops have nosedived by at least 50 percent according to estimates from Cameroon’s employers’ group GICAM as labour force escapes the unrest.
The Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), the country’s second biggest employer of labour after the state has been forced to downsize its operations. Less than 50 percent of its plantations and factories are operational.
Not only CDC employees are faced with the threat of attacks, vandalised premises, torched workers’ housing and stolen vehicles, many companies have had to fold up as the crisis digs in.
The same story is told of Pamol Plantations plc, a state-owned agro-industrial company that is operating in Ndian Division. Its plantations have been abandoned for the most part and installations vandalised.
Private business owners and their installations have also been badly attacked by the warring factions. Businessmen have been kidnapped and their goods burnt. Along the Buea-Kumba Road alone, you can count hundreds of vehicles set ablaze by the rebel forces.
The Human is Right NGO, based in Buea in the country’s Southwest, suggests that at the heart of the nascent insurgency, unemployment has soared to 70 percent in the agricultural sector.
As movement gets difficult because of roadblocks and fighting, roads and bridges have been cut. Communication has been further hampered by the destruction of electricity installations, water supply networks and telecommunication facilities.
The lot of the masses in Cameroon’s North West and South West Regions has been further worsened by the COVID-19 outbreak, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Although Cameroon has rolled out a plan to reconstruct and development the conflict-prone regions, pundits say only a return to peace can guarantee sustainable recovery of the economy of the North West and South West.
Mimi Mefo Info