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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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UN Wildfire Conference To Focus On Ecological Connectivity

The theme of the UN wildlife conference will be 'Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home'

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UN wildfire conference will focus on ecological connectivity. Pixabay

The theme of a major UN wildlife conference dedicated to migratory species in India early next year will be ‘Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home’, it was announced in Bonn on Tuesday.

Under this theme, governments, scientists, conservation groups and wildlife experts will gather at the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS COP13) due to take place in Gandhinagar in Gujarat from February 15 to 22.

The theme was announced by CMS Acting Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel and Inspector General of Forest at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Soumitra Dasgupta during COP13 preparatory meetings currently underway in Bonn.

Throughout their life cycles and migration ranges, migratory animals depend on a functioning network of connected habitats across countries and continents to breed, feed and rest.

The COP13 theme highlights the importance of ecological connectivity to better protect migratory wildlife and their habitats.

Ecological connectivity is the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain life on earth.

The loss and fragmentation of habitat are the key threats to migratory animals across the world. They are also considered to be the greatest threats to biodiversity worldwide with climate change exacerbating these effects.

UN Wildfire Conference
This UN conference will focus on migratory species. Pixabay

In a world that faces a continuous decline in biodiversity with migratory animals being a key component, ecological connectivity is essential to halt and reverse this trend.

The CMS has called for the concept of connectivity to be integrated into the new Global Biodiversity Framework, which will be adopted at the end of next year in China.

Fraenkel said: “The CMS COP13 is expected to be a milestone for future conservation policy. To save nature in an increasingly fragmented world, the core concept of connectivity needs to be incorporated in global conservation efforts and should be embedded in the new deal for nature.”

Dasgupta said the CMS COP13 would be an important opportunity for India to showcase and demonstrate its leading work and commitment to global wildlife conservation.

“We look forward to welcoming the international delegates to India and to working with them to make the planet a more hospitable place for both migratory animals and people.”

The human footprint has left lasting marks on the planet. Roads, railways, fences and urbanization are increasingly cutting through landscapes and dividing nature.

They interrupt the web of life and prevent migratory animals from completing their essential journeys.

Nevertheless, the world is expected to invest around $90 tn in infrastructure in the next 15 years alone, resulting in more new roads and railways. These obstacles to migration interrupt the natural life cycle of migratory wildlife and pose a lethal danger.

The UN global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services, released by IPBES in May, documented the dramatic decline of biodiversity in all parts of the world.

Without increased action, over 1 million species could face extinction in our lifetimes.

As environmental changes grow, countries around the world need to save and restore natural connections across land and water. These connections enhance resilience to environmental changes such as climate change and support nature and people.

UN conventions
The UN convention is the only convention that conserves migratory species and their habitats across national boundaries. Pixabay

The CMS brings countries together to shape transboundary policies that ensure the long-term survival of migratory animals across countries and continents.

It is the only convention that conserves migratory species and their habitats across national boundaries.

To be successful, large-scale conservation must consider entire migration systems and the functioning of the migration process itself. The geographic scope goes beyond protected areas or sites subject to other conservation measures, to include an ecological network of areas important for the survival of species.

Preserving large landscapes and seascapes affects many people and requires international collaboration. There is a rapidly growing community of organizations working on large-scale conservation initiatives in landscapes and seascapes built on connectivity.

They connect people and nature across cultures, jurisdictions, and geography.

Also Read- Number of Indians Studying in the U.S. Surpassed 2 Lakh

The Convention on Migratory Species is working closely with governments, international organizations, conservation groups, and wildlife experts to ensure that connectivity. Conservation will be a central part of future global conservation policy and that the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes will continue to sustain life on earth for generations to come. (IANS)