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Cameroonians Escaping Boko Haram Terrorist Group get rejected by their communities, face several forms of violence after returning home

Sali Bobo, a Cameroon-based rights advocate, says even those lucky enough to have escaped the militants find that peace remains frustratingly elusive

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Refugees. Image source: VOA

Hundreds of Cameroonians living in northern Nigeria, near territory controlled by the Boko Haram terrorist group, are escaping atrocities and returning to their villages of birth with the hope of finding peace. Rights groups, however, say the returnees are rejected by their communities and face several forms of violence.

One hundred returnees who recently arrived at the northern Cameroon border village of Zamai, where people such as Zenabou Abu, 40, talk of the lengthy treks required to find peace and stability.

Abu, who escaped the Sambisa forest stronghold of Boko Haram along the Cameroon-Nigeria border, walked for three weeks — with her eight children in two — to get here. It was upon arriving that she saw her husband for the first time in four years, and finally learned from old friends that her parents had departed Zamai 36 years ago, when she was a kid getting settled in Sambisa with cattle ranchers.

At Zamai’s joint Cameroonian-UN operated resettlement camp, Houli Bernadette attends to pregnant and sick returnees. One of them, a 15-year-old girl, had been forced to marry a Boko Haram member.

“She was asked to stop school and forced to get married to a Boko Haram agent when she was 14,” says Bernadette “She says the girl’s husband is wanted by law enforcement authorities for selling stolen cattle and handing the money to Boko Haram fighters.”

UN: 25,000 killed, 2.5 million displaced

Since Boko Haram began launching attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger three years ago, the group has destroyed villages and killed residents, especially men who refused to join them. According to United Nations estimates, some 25,000 have been killed and more that 2.5 million have been displaced.

Sali Bobo, a Cameroon-based rights advocate, says even those lucky enough to have escaped the militants find that peace remains frustratingly elusive.

“They are deeply traumatized because one day they saw foreigners arrive in their villages and slaughter their husbands and male children,” he says. “Memories of the horror keep coming to their minds, especially when they see people they have never seen before. They’re scared and find it very difficult to communicate.”

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Beyond being perceived as outsiders, Bobo adds, new arrivals are forced to compete with locals for limited resources. Displaced women and girls, who are extremely poor if not homeless, frequently suffer sexual harassment and sometimes rape, he says.

“The returnees, who are mainly women and children, [are ordered] to obey the people of Zamai village who have agreed to host them,” said Ibrahim Hamaoua, Zamai’s traditional ruler of Zamai, explaining that conflicts over food and water erupt regularly.

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“Within the past two months, hundreds of returnees have complained of hunger and thirst,” he added. “The villagers are not happy because they themselves have not had enough to eat and drink.”

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In February, the United Nations called on the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria to ensure that areas purportedly liberated from Boko Haram forces are truly safe for people returning home. (VOA)

 

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UNHRC Chief Michele Bachelet: India’s Lockdown Has Implementation Challenges

UN Human Rights chief criticises India's quarantine measures

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Michele Bachelet
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, on Thursday criticised the quarantine measures put in place in the country, saying they stigmatise people. IANS

BY ARUL LOUIS

While India is fighting to stop the spread of Covid-19, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, on Thursday criticised the quarantine measures put in place in the country, saying they stigmatise people.

She “expressed regret at the measures that have the effect of stigmatising sections of society, including migrants, such as the practice in some states of stamping hands of those quarantined in their homes, reportedly to ensure that they stay home, and sticking notices outside the homes of people quarantined,” the statement said.

She added, “It is important to weigh such measures against the right to privacy and avoid measures that would unduly stigmatise people within the community, who may already be vulnerable due to their social status or other factors.” She has been silent on other places which use electronic monitoring of those under quarantine. Bachelet also had strong criticism for the impact of the lockdown on migrant workers.

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“She was distressed by the plight of millions of internal migrants affected by the sudden announcement of a lockdown,” according to a statement released by her office in Geneva.

The statement said, “Without the ability to sustain themselves in urban centres and in light of the almost complete shutdown of public transportation, hundreds of thousands of migrant men, women and children were forced to walk hundreds of kilometres trying to reach their villages and home states. Some have died making the journey.”

Michele Bachelet
Michele Bachelet had strong criticism for the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on migrant workers. Pixabay

“Supreme Court of India’s subsequent instruction on March 31 to ensure that migrants are provided enough food, water, beds and supplies as well as psychosocial counselling in shelters that should be run by volunteers instead of security forces, and that they should be treated in a humane manner,” the statement said.

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It quoted her as saying, “The Supreme Court’s order and its implementation will go a long way to ensuring the safety and rights of these vulnerable migrants. Many of these people’s lives have been suddenly uprooted by the lockdown, placing them in very precarious situations.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric highlighted Bachelet’s statement at his daily briefing on Thursday.

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Bachelet, however, acknowledged, that

“the lockdown in India represents a massive logistical and implementation challenge given the population size and its density and we all hope the spread of the virus can be checked.”

She added, “It is nonetheless important to ensure that measures in response to Covid-19 are neither applied in a discriminatory manner nor exacerbate existing inequalities and vulnerabilities.” (IANS)