Bakinjaw, a village of less than 6,000 people in Akwaya Subdivision, in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, now hosts an overwhelming 7,000 refugees from neighbouring Nigeria, says Chief Agwa Linus Tarongwe of Bakinjaw.
The displacements have been caused by recent clashes between herders and farmers in Nigeria’s southeastern State of Benue, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon, HE Lawal Bappah, told journalists at a recent press briefing in Buea.
At the press conference, Chief Agwa Linus said 7,811 refugees have so far crossed into Bakinjaw and other Akwaya villages that border Benue State in Nigeria.
He said his village is overwhelmed by the population influx, and it is challenging for them to manage such an unexpected number of people.
“It has not been a very easy moment for me. For my nine years of being a traditional ruler, this is one of the highest challenges I have had in life… This is quite challenging, to host a community that overwhelms my own population. The population of Bakinjaw is not up to 6,000… But suddenly you get up in the morning you see more than 7,000 people. We never had any refugee camp so when I got on the ground, it was quite an emotional moment for me,” he said during a press interview.
The Nigerian Government recently offered foodstuffs to the refugees, among the items; rice, beans, sugar, milk, indomie noodles as well as medications.
HE Lawal Bappah said the relief materials will make life more comfortable for the displaced population.
“Bakinjaw is a border community close to Nigeria. So from time to time when there are issues, Nigerians run away to safer places. And at the same time when Bakinjaw is too hot sometimes even the Cameroonians move across to Nigeria. So it’s something that will not cease forever. But with these relief materials, they will go a long way to make their stay there much more comfortable,” he said.
He also thanked the villages in Akwaya for their hospitality towards his displaced countrymen.
Lawal Bappah enjoined Nigerians who have fled into Akwaya to “continue to live peacefully with their host communities and try to be law-abiding”.
Herder-farmer clashes have been recurrent in Benue State for years now. Data from Nextier Violent Conflict Database, a Nigerian organisation that monitors and documents conflicts, indicates that 98 people died from the conflict between November 2022 and April 2023.
The Government of former President Muhammadu Buhari has been blamed for being indifferent amid the scaling violence.
Back in Akwaya, the local population is still bearing the brunt of a six-year separatist conflict facing Cameroon’s English-speaking Regions.
Humanitarian groups have reported that more than 6,000 civilians have died since the conflict broke out in 2017.