Humanitarian crises and the management of Refugees in Central Africa (A case study of Cameroon.)
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Humanitarian crises and the management of Refugees in Central Africa (A case study of Cameroon.)



This article is a vivid study of the phenomenon, conditions and socio -economic situations of Refugees in Cameroon. With field interviews and in-depth research , the article It explores the causes of ...

This article is a vivid study of the phenomenon, conditions and socio -economic situations of Refugees in Cameroon. With field interviews and in-depth research , the article It explores the causes of the refugee problem in Cameroon, dis into their living conditions and makes recommendations to Government, policy makers and international stakeholders for the improvement of the refugee treatments and better management of refugee crises in Cameroon and Africa.



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Humanitarian crises and the management of Refugees in Central Africa (A case study of Cameroon.) Document Transcript

  • 1. Mbuli Rene: Mphil in international RelationsContact: Tel: +237 75 18 18 00Paper submitted at the World conference of humanitarian Studies in February2009 in Groningen (Netherlands).Humanitarian crises and the management of Refugees in CentralAfrica (A case study of Cameroon.)IntroductionThe phenomenon of refugees and displaced persons has been part andparcel of humankind’s history from ages and the movement hasconstituted one of mankind’s greatest social challenges to manage.Conflicts, natural or man-made disasters as well as persecutions ofpolitical, socio-cultural and religious order have been the major causes ofhuman movements within and across boundaries. Since the end of thecold war and the new world order with monopoly replacing bipolarity, thenumber of refugees and displaced persons have increased atexponential rate due primarily to the changes in the security trend. TheAfrican continent has witnessed more of intrastate violence in the postCold war period than the classical interstate conflicts and the civilianfaction has been the most affected group during such political events.With the outbreak of violence, uncountable numbers of vulnerablepersons have had the tendency to move towards politically calm andpeaceful countries to seek refuge. The central Africa region commonlydescribed as a “hotbed “of fratricidal tensions has witnessed a greateroccurrence of the refugee phenomenon in the continent. Failed states,dictatorship, mismanagement and unequal distribution of funds, socialinjustice intense desire for democratic succession and power sharing aswell as the proliferation of small arms and lights weapons across porous
  • 2. borders inter alia are reasons that have contributed to the persistence ofsuch “new conflicts” in the region. Cameroon as state within the regionenjoys “relative” peace and stability which many have considered to be agreat blessing. This calm environment has transformed the country to themajor pole of attraction for refugees and displaced persons circulating inthe region. The socio economic and political problems that haveaccompanied refugee outflows and displacements which public opinionhave considered as a dysfunctional issue has made many to viewCameroon’s peace rather than a curse. Against this backdrop, thecentral interrogation in this paper is: What impacts and challenges(“dysfunctionality”) have the Cameroon government faced due to refugeeinflux in the country and how the “dysfunctionality” can be converted intoan asset. Other questions the paper shall address would be to knowwhat contributions the refugees have brought on the development ofCameroon. What are the difficulties and challenges refugees inCameroon face in integrating the society? What are the consequences ofnon-integration of refugees in Cameroon? The paper ends with somerecommendations or measures to facilitate the integration of refugees inthe Cameroonian society. The rationale in this paper is that if refugeesand displaced persons are not just a burden or source of security andinstability (dysfunctionality) as popular opinion holds, but that if wellmanaged, they could bring plausible socio-economic and politicalcontribution to their host country. The objectives therefore will be tomake concrete assessments on the above questions.Conceptual frameworkWithin this research, principal concepts used include the followings:Humanitarian crises and refugee.
  • 3. A humanitarian crisis has been defined as an event or series ofevents which represent a critical threat to the health, safety orwellbeing of a community or other large group of people, usuallyover a wide area.1 This paper defines it as a situation of socialanarchy and suffering marked by depreciation in the standard ofliving to the point of threatening human life and wellbeing in a givenenvironment. The common determinant of a humanitarian crisis inthe context of this paper would be the presence of refugees anddisplaced persons.Refugee.The convention relating to the status of Refugees (1951) underarticle 1b defines a refugee as: any person who, owing to a wellfounded fear of being persecutated for reasons of race, nationality,membership of a particular social group or political opinion is outside ofthe country of his/her nationality and is unable or owing to such fear isunwilling to avail the protection of that country.2In 1969 the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) adopted aconvention which defines a term of refugee beyond the 1951convention and the 1967 protocol on refugees. It coined thedefinition to fit the context of the African reality. In article 1 of theconvention, a refugee is defined as: every person who, owing toexternal aggression, occupation foreign domination or events seriouslydisturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of originor nationality, is compelled to leave his place of habitual residence inorder to seek refuge in another place outside his country of origin ornationality.3All persons under such conditions have the full rights to seekrefuge in any other politically stable country while waiting forsituations in their home countries to get better. There is therefore amajor difference between a refugee and a migrant. Normal
  • 4. migrants move across boundaries “voluntary” in search of bettereconomic standard; meanwhile refugees are forced to movebecause of threat for their life.Short presentation of CameroonThe republic of Cameroon is situated in the central Africa region.4She is commonly known as Africa in miniature because of hercultural and geographical diversity. The political history ofCameroon like many others African countries was marked bybloody struggles for independence. This was one of the toughestand most fierce moments of her history. The Union des populationsdu Cameroun (UPC) a political party led by its charismatic leaderRuben Um Nyobe waged a hostile resistance to Frenchcolonialism and advocated immediate independence forCameroon. The party translated its disgruntlement through violentriots and killings called “Maquis”. Thousands of Cameroonians losttheir lives during the period of “Maquis” that began in the earlier1950s and only ended in January 1971 with the arrest andexecution of its last surviving leader Ernest Ouandie. In 1960however the political evolution led to the independence of FrenchCameroon meanwhile southern Cameroon (British part ofCameroon) voted to join the francophone section in 1961 to formthe federal republic of Cameroon. It took the status of the republic ifCameroon in 19845The violence that marked Cameroon‘s independence helped toshape the political attitudes of many Cameroonians. The cravingfor peace has greatly contributed in making Cameroon the relativepeaceful country it is today. Despite the differences Cameroon hadwith some of her neighbours such as Nigeria over the Bakassi
  • 5. peninsular or with equatorial Guinea over an island at the mouth of the Ntem river, peace still prevailed and Cameroon remained politically and socially stable. Nonetheless the peace that was hailed by many as blessing has been a pull factor for many African fleeing wars and violence in their countries into Cameroon, well known for her hospitality. Cameroon occupies the place of choice for many refugees and displaced persons from the wider central African ECCAS region 6 and this has become a call for concern. Some Statistics on Refugees in CameroonIntrastate conflicts that hit countries in Africa have caused massive anduncountable numbers of refugees and displaced persons in the centralAfrica region. Cameroon, an adherent to both international (Geneva1951 and 1967) and continental (OAU) conventions and protocols onrefugees has hosted thousands of refugees and displaced persons.Cameron hosted approximately 60,000 refugees from differentcountries such as Democratic Republic of Congo(D RC), Rwanda,Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Sudan,Liberia and Nigeria; with the highest group hailing from Chad numberingabout 200,000 during the violence of may 1980, and to about 40,000persons in 1990,(Nkonlack,2003:15)7. Following the 2007 statistics 8there were around 20 to 30,000 Chadian refugees in CameroonThough many left for Chad when things calmed down , recent clashesbetween rebels and government troops of Idriss Deby in February 2008saw more than 58,000 Chadian refugees fleeing from N’djamena intoneighbouring Kousseri9 town in Cameroon with over 30,000 livingwithout shelter. Today many have left Kousseri and are resettled inMaltam and others in Mandana (all towns of north Cameroon). Many
  • 6. who have extended families in Cameroon have moved to urban areas.According to a United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees –UNHCH (2008) press release on 14 February there are only about 5,000 10refugees left in Kousseri region. Jacques Franquin, the Representativeof UNHCR in Cameroon revealed that Nigerians who fled ethnic clashessince 2001 and settled in the Adamawa and north west11 region ofCameroon numbered close to 17,000, though many left in April 2005following the joint Cameroon /Nigeria /UNHCR voluntary repatriation of10,000 Nigerians.12 In 2007 there were just about 3,000 Nigeriansrefugees left after the repatriation. Those from the Central AfricaRepublic mostly “mbororos” who fled the fighting and attacks from theircountry since 2005 numbered approximately 26,00013 However, theirnumber has reduced drastically as many returned home after the relativepeace that prevailed in their country. Those present in Cameroon settledmainly in the eastern region of Cameroon, predominantly aroundKenzou, Bertoua, Garoua Boulai and Batouri. Following the June 2005urban refugees statistics, there were close To, 10.000 refugees living inthe capital city Yaoundé and 5 000 in the economic capital Douala(Tadjon, 2003).14 Today, the number of urban refugees has risen to15.318 due mainly to the continuous search for better survivalopportunities and the desire to meet with extended families living in theurban zones. According to the December 2008 UNHCR Cameroonstatistics, there are in total 82, 776 refugees and 2 759 asylum seekersin Cameroon; 62,919 settled in the Eastern and Adamawa regions, alongthe CAR border. There are 2,871 Nigerian refugees in the Banyo area(Adamawa region), meanwhile the recent violence of February 2008 inChad caused the movement of 4,236 Chadian refugees into the Northregion of Cameroon15.
  • 7. French-speaking (since most countries in the region are French-speaking). There is from the statistics of persons of concern to UNHCRin urban areas in Cameroon on table I below, it can be deduced that themajority of refugees have hailed from the Central African region withChad Republic toping the charts. This is explained mainly by thepersistent domestic violence that has trapped the region since the end ofthe Cold war. The recurrence of violence in Chad, DR Congo and theCentral African Republic (CAR) particularly hold this analysis true. Thehigh influx towards Cameroon has been almost spontaneous and naturalbecause she is first and foremost politically stable; a neighbouring state(Chad and the CAR, Congo) and seemingly a rise in refugee influx inCameroon compared to the past. From an analytic viewpoint, thestatistics which have moved from 60 000 refugees in the 1980s and 90sto 82, 776 in 2008 points a serious and growing domestic insecurityproblem in the Central African region. It seems like the region’s elites(leaders) are retrograding politically when other nations (democracies ofthe North) are moving forward. With such violence at a time of globaleconomic meltdown, it is doubted if most of the countries in the regionwould achieve the Millennium development goals (MDGs) se for 2015(this of course is another debate).TABLE 1:STATISTICS OF PERSONS OF CONCERN TO UNHCR PRESENT INTHE URBAN AREAS OF CAMEROON
  • 9. GABON 6 0 6CAMBODIA 6 0 6UGANDA 5 2 7MAURITANIA 5 2 7GHANA 4 0 4NIGERIA 3 2 5OTHER 7 106 113NATIONALITIESTOTAL 12 559 2 759 15 318Source: UNHCR December 2008 refugee statistic reportHistoricising the “dysfunctionality” of refugee influx on CameroonThe Central African region has known uncountable moments of turmoil,civil wars and strife. Since the end of the Cold war, there has beengrowing global shift from state to human agenda and many statesmenhave been called upon to give considerable concern for the security ofindividuals and persons be it nationals or foreigners within their nationalfrontiers.As earlier mentioned, one of the reasons that attracted thousands ofrefugees into Cameroon was the relative peace that reigned in thecountry; Cameroon has always demonstrated great hospitality towardsrefugees and displaced persons fleeing from wars and violence. Thoughrefugees are generally victims of violence and insecurity such as rape,coercion, intimidation, and many other criminal activities (recruitment of
  • 10. children into rebel militia, and kidnapping young girls for forcedmarriages) while in the camps: they are almost unanimously consideredby many observers as a threat to the security (political and socio-economic) of the local population and to the nation as a whole. Thereexist substantial historical evidences to demonstrate Cameroon’s sharesof victimisation from refugee influx. These shall be analysed moving fromnational and diplomatic insecurity to human insecurity perspectives.History has shown that during an emergency, it is not all who flood theborders of neutral countries in search of safety and shelter who are truly“persons in distress”. Some armed militia-men sometimes manage totrick their ways into foreign countries under the refugee cover and laterbecome trouble-setters. Cameroon’s national security was threatened inthe period following the Rwanda based in Arusha, escaped and soughtrefuge in Cameroon. Following serious alert and search, BicamumpakaClément Jérome (ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs), Mugiraneza Prosper(ex-Minister of Public Works and Professional Development) andMugenzi Justin (ex-Minister of Commerce) were arrested by theCameroon government, kept in arbitrary detention at a criminal brigadein Yaounde before being sent to the International Penal Tribunal forRwanda in Arusha for judgement (Amayena, 1999)16. If we recall theviolence which Hutu Rwandan interahamwé refugees exported to the DRCongo after the genocide, it could be concluded that the presence ofthese three individuals on Cameroon soil constituted a serious factor ofdestabilisation and threat to national security.Moreover, refugees and displaced persons have been a factor ofdiplomatic instability between Cameroon and her neighbour EquatorialGuinea. The dictatorial rule of Macias
  • 11. Nugema in Equatorial Guinea in the late 1960s and early 1970s led tothe mass migration of over 30,000 Equatorial Guineans into Cameroon.Amongst these persons who fled persecution from their country intoCameroon were rebel forces who man, geld to penetrate the territorywith their weapons unperceived; facilitated by the porosity of the bordersin the Central African region. Cameroon in the long run was transformedby the rebel forces of two principal opposition parties present in theterritory – MOLIFUGE and OLGE17 – into a ground for launching counterattacks against Nguema’s regime between 1975 and 1977. FromCameroon, they attacked areas like Afangui and Ntumadzap inEquatorial Guinea (Koufan and Tchudjing, 2001)18. These activities haddiplomatic effects as they strained relations between Cameroon andEquatorial Guinea, despite efforts by the Cameroon government of stopthe attacks (for example by expulsing the recalcitrant refugees). Thegovernment of Equatorial Guinea continuously accused Cameroon ofsupporting the subversion. Relations only normalised with the completeexpulsion of identified recalcitrant and dangerous elements amongst therefugees. Such individuals and activities were very detrimental for adeveloping country like Cameroon which strove to achieve its ownnational interests while keeping to its continental commitments of non-interference in states’ internal affairs and maintaining cordial relationswith neighbouring countries.Human insecurity was also an impact of the influx suffered by Cameroon.During the Chadian refugee influx in 1980, the population in Kousserirose from the normal 10,000 person to between 200 to 230 000inhabitants, meaning that the refugee population in that area aloneexceeded 200 000 people (Bandolo, 1980)19. Faced with the increasingnumber of refugees who crossed the River Chari into Cameroon, Samuel
  • 12. Eboa, the then Secretary of state at the presidency and head of theNational rescue Committee for refugees, complained about theinsufficiencies in the aid package to the government from foreign donorsand other international bodies. Health wise, there was an increase inepidemic diseases, measles, cholera and typhoid fever in the region anda great shortage in vaccines and medicines in general.Hospitals were full to capacity and the local inhabitants of Kousseri werehighly affected by epidemic (Ndembiyembe, 1980)20. A similar situationoccurred during this last influx in February 2008.Access to food was very difficult. There was increased competition overthe scarce resources – food, water, land – between the refugees and thelocal population that was ill prepared to face such a challenge but simplyplaced before a fait accompli. This increased hunger and poverty in theKousseri area as commodities such as rice, sugar, millet, corn fish, andmeat became scarce. In the begriming, the first wave of refugees whoarrived was accommodated by the local population in their houses in allhospitality knowing the conflict would be short lived.But as the conflict persisted, the rising number of new arrivals became adisturbance and source of conflict between the two groups.In addition, the conflict in Chad was directly felt in Northern Cameroon.Stray bullets and bomb shells that landed at the Kousseri hospital fromN’djamena caused the death of 4 persons and left 8 people wounded aswell as immeasurable material damages (Bandolo, 1980)21.There were also reported cases of banditry and refugee aggression onsome local population as well as on some police officials. Someaggression cases occurred mostly during the process of food distributionin camps. With the rise in criminal acts, the government was forced to
  • 13. beef up her police in the stations in Kousseri and also put up a landedmilitary group in case of any subversion. During the recent influx ofFebruary 2008 for example, there was a reported strike manifestationcarried out by the refugees molested both UNHCR personnel, thedivisional officer of the Pitoa locality (found in the North) and wrestledwith gendarmes and the forces of law and order who were sent to calmthe situation. After seizing and destroying UNHCR and seven militaryvehicles, the situation only got better after four days of seriousnegotiation. In the end, three gendarmes (amongst whom the brigadecommander of locality of Garoua – in the North of Cameroon) and tworefugees were seriously wounded. According to the head of the Chadianrefugee community in Yaoundé, one Chadian refugee lost his life in theclash22.The burden of refugees on CameroonIn the early years of independence, when the economies of Africancountries where growing exponentially and there were limited numbers ofrefugees and displaced persons; the spirit of African hospitality was at itstop. Many refugees enjoyed a wide range of facilities and considerationin their host countries. But with the economic crises that hit many Africancountries and the increased number of refugee influx into neutralcountries, the perception by the local population and authorities that wasmasked in the past due to better living conditions was unveiled andbegan taking a new shift. Hospitality was now being replaced bydisgruntlement. Many began perceiving the high presence of refugeesand displaced persons as a socio-economic burden on their government,citizens and the country as a whole.Any host country haven signed or ratified any of the internationalinstruments on refugees has the primary obligation to cater for the
  • 14. refugees on her territory. Cameroon has always tried to live up to theexpectation of their international engagements. The government as wellas its citizens has always been first on the scene whenever such eventsoccurred. During the 1980 events in Chad for example which saw thedisplacement of 230 000 refugees into Kousseri in Cameroon, thegovernment prepared a vast land where the various refugee camps werebuilt. Moreover, the government made available large quantities of foodsuch as: rice, sugar, millet, maize, oil, fish and meat as well asemergency medical packages for the refugees while waiting forinternational assistance. The Ministry of Health of Cameroon madeavailable a stock of medicines to the tune of 3,6 million FCFA (close to5 500 euros) following the 2008 Chadian refugee influx into Cameroon23.The continuous provision of such resources proved very costly for thegovernment as refugees kept flooding in an unexpectedly rate.The government at some point had to send appeals for support evenfrom some philanthropic members of her society. Assistance brought bythe Cameroonian public in February has been equally remarkable asmany opened their doors to provide shelter and food to many refugeeswho had no living space in the camps, churches and public schools(3 000 lived at the college d’Enseignement Technique et Industriel deKousseri (CETIK), the majority being women and children)24.The government in the past as well as recently has had to mobilise itssecurity forces to ensure the safety of the refugees from any attack(Chad rebel militias for example) in the camps and to maintain generallaw and order in the area. Elements of the General Delegation forNational Security and the National Gendarmerie were all placed instrategic positions for emergency action. Other experts/specialists werealso mobilised to ensure the registration and identification of all displaced
  • 15. persons, ensuring that they separate real refugees from normal migrants.The services of all these specialists and professionals have been verycostly for the government. Another perceptible burden on Cameroon hasbeen the destruction of her ecosystem by the activities of refugees. Forexample, the felling of trees for cooking energy or for commercialpurposes (the sale of charcoal) contributes to environmentaldegradation.The socio – economic and political contribution of refugeepresence in CameroonMany onlookers, policy-makers, scholars and general public opinionhave almost unanimously settled for the fact that refugees are a greatburden to the host country; failing Completely to look at the other side ofthe coin. The non-negligible but almost ignored part played by refugeesin the development of Cameroon is caused amongst other factors by theabsence of research or study either by the government or UNHCR on theissue. This paper tries to turn the camera on the possible and perceptiblecontribution these refugees have brought and are still bringing to theCameroon social, economic, political and diplomatic domains.Direct social contributionSocially, evidence exists to show the valuable contribution or refuges inthe nation’s building. Amongst the many displaced persons who entered
  • 16. Cameroon during the various turbulent moments were literate andilliterate, skilled and unskilled refugees from the academia have taken anactive part in the education of many young Cameroonians. Doctors,professors and ordinary teachers who managed to integrate themselvesin the society have greatly helped in the training of future administratorsand leaders of Cameroon. Unleashing their knowledge and expertise fora pittance just to eke a mini mum living, refugees have all brought theirlittle contribution to the edifice. There are many examples such asSalvador, a Burundian refugees teaching in a college in Dchang(Western region of Cameroon); Domitil Nieligka Marie, a PHD studentfrom the Rwanda teaching Bio- chemistry on part- time basis at theuniversity of Yaoundé I; Mr Bizimana Jean Baptist, a Rwandan lecturerwho introduced the Banking Department at the professional Institute inYaoundé- Siantou Supérieur where many young Cameroonians wheretrained on accounting, banking and finance and who today occupy goodpositions in both private and state – owned banking institutions.25 Mr.Bunane Charles also from Rwanda, former lecturer ; and worker at theNational Tourism Office in Rwanda before the genocide presently giveslectures at the professional institute – Ndi Samba Supérieur in Yaoundé.He does this cumulatively with his post Director of the institute. He hastrained many Cameroonians who today find themselves in the civilservice.26 Cameroon has benefited immensely from this “braincirculation”.Besides the academia, some work as interpreters, pastor and medicaldoctors and all help in one way or the other in shaping the moral andhealth of Cameroon society. Health wise, some of the health centreswhich some groups, philanthropists or international organizations builtand equip with staff, medicines and drugs for the refugees are not
  • 17. entirely consumed by the refugees alone. It goes way to benefit even thelocal population who enjoy from such high quality treatments for theimprovement of their health condition. An example in point is the CentreMedico- Social Henry Dunant (a gift from the Japanese government) setup under the Cameroon Red Cross based in Yaoundé.Direct Economic contributionThe vast majority of refugees present in Cameroon are unskilled. Despitetheir status, their economic contribution is in no way small. Many drivenby their enthusiasm and desire to cut the umbilical cord liking them todependency have chosen to carry out small and income generatingactivities. Many refugees cultivate different kinds of crops which benefiteven the local Cameroonian population. Rwandans are best known fortheir “push fullness” and prosperity as revealed by the head of theChadian refugee’s community in Yaoundé. They are the community thathas succeeded to fully integrate the Cameroonian society. They ownprovision stores, and sell local food to Cameroonians. Many Ivorianrefugees have also joined the informal sector. They are involved in smalltrades like selling cooked food in restaurants and owning provisionstores, while others are into craftwork, sculpture and sewing/ in order torun these activities, they have to buy the needed raw materials. Morethan 90% of Rwandan refugees in Cameroon are into petty trade andbusiness while a few are into sector of services (education, medicine,accounting and mechanic).27 The wealthier refugees engage in export-import trade, they for example buy loin materials and jewelries fromCotonu or Dubai to sell in Cameroon. For this, they have to pay custom
  • 18. duties at the ports and borders to state officials, and the money entersstate coffers as well.28 Since a very small percent of refugees² send backmoney to their home countries (probably due to continuous insecurityand/or dysfunction in the system), these economic activities contribute toincrease liquidity and money circulation into the economy. Many paytaxes to the urban councils Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education andFinance and to market officials which go straight into government coffers.Wholesalers who run provision stores for example pay taxes such as: • Trading License tax (patente in French) which varies depending on the size of the business. • Lease (Droit de Baile). Paid to the Urban Council yearly, this tax varies between 35- 50 000CFA francs (Cameroonian currency). It was initially suppose to be paid by landlords. It represents 10% of the business structure. Mathematically, the formula is: Rent x 20 =Lease 10 • The Sanitation tax paid yearly to the Ministry of Health which range between 15 to 25 000CFA francs. • Medical certificate which on paper is 9 000 CFA francs is being paid on the field at 25,000 CFA francs. This money is paid every six months to the council officials which is sent to the ministry of health. • Another market tax which cost 10,000 CFA francs is paid every 3 months to the Urban Council.Based on the above statistics, if there are 1381 Rwanda refugees inurban areas in Cameroon for example, with 90% into trade and pettybusiness, haven lived in Cameroon since 1994 after the genocide (14years); then paying the sanitation tax only, 690 refugees (half totalRwandan refugees in urban areas) running provision stores alone in 14years have produced 241,500,000 (Two hundred and forty one million,five hundred thousand) CFA francs. If the other taxes were to be
  • 19. included in this calculation (for Rwandan refugees alone runningbusinesses), it will be discovered that refugees in the Urban areas inparticular and in Cameroon in general contribute enormously to thecounty’s economic growth.The presence of refugees increases the demand for goods and services.Though many have seen their presence as an inconvenience because ofthe food shortage it creates; economically, the phenomenon isadvantageous since it increases the economy by pushing both thegovernment and the entrepreneurs to create more infrastructures andjobs that will increase the production or manufacturing of such neededfoods. The benefit comes in more because refugees consume less thanthey produce (goods and services). These activities and businessesundertaken by refugees have a fiscal effect on the economy. Apart fromtrade and petty businesses, thousands of skilled refugees are simplelabourers who dig trenches, work farms for pay, work in buildingconstructions (building large edifices such as government ministries orbig commercial enterprises, industries, hotels, school), house helps, etc.These refugees who most often are preferred by their employersbecause their services are less costly than those offered byCameroonian citizens; help in no small way in providing the buildingblock in the advancement of development infrastructure and activities ofthe country.Indirect Economic ContributionBesides the direct implication of refugees, their presence also bringsindirect advantages to the government. The very presence of the
  • 20. UNHCR office in Cameroon, highly staffed by Cameroonians has helpedto reduce unemployment for Cameroonians. According to the 2008statistics, UNHCR has recruited close to 35 Cameroonians- 21 inYaoundé office; 7 in the Bertoua office and 7 in the Garoua office.29Recently in November 2008, some 6 more job vacancies were beingannounced. More, as paid workers these Cameroonians pay taxes to thestate.Moreover, processing the refugees documents (refugees cards, visasetc) demand the direct implication of both the Ministry of ExternalRelation, the General Delegation for National Security and the frontierpolice. These services are done freely for refugees but UNHCR pay forthem indirectly to the government. It is similar in the health and educationsector where refugees receive treatments freely in most hospitals suchas Police Hospitals, Centre Pasteur, Djoungolo Hospital all based inYaoundé. Some of these hospitals are state owned and UNHCR paysthe cost of the treatments. It also pays school fees of most registeredrefugee children studying in schools, colleges and state universities.30 Asrevealed by Jacques Franquin, the UNHCR Representative inCameroon, more than 910 pupils in the primary, 156 student from thesecondary and higher education benefited from scholarship andbursaries from UNHCR in 2003 (Nkonlak, 2003).31 These fees when paidrepresent much money for the economy. Despite the lack of statistics onrefugee contribution, this paper holds that if all the above evidences areput together for analysis by economic specialists, the results would beaffirmative on the fact that the presence of refugees has valuablecontributed to the growth and development of Cameroon.Political Contribution
  • 21. Politically, the presence of refugees in Cameroon denotes some level ofstability and peace in the country. Hosting and protecting refugees helpsto boost the image of Cameroon in the face of the internationalcommunity. Cameroon is therefore seen as complying and fulfilling herengagement taken at the UN financial bodies such as the World Bankand IMF.Diplomatically, Cameroon’s hospitality towards refugees and displacespersons in the region has also helped to increase and strengthendiplomatic ties with the home governments of the different refugeecommunities in Cameroon. Countries such as Chad, Central AfricanRepublic and DR Congo for example refrain from any political actionsthat may jeopardize the relationship. Thus, maintaining friendship tiesbecomes a form of manifesting gratitude for Cameroon’s actions towardstheir displaced citizens.Some Obstacles or Difficulties Related to the Integration ofRefugees in the Cameroon SocietyThere are a couple of hindrances or difficulties refugees face in theCameroon society. These are cause by the identity factor, society andinstitutional shortcomings. The points listed below are not exhaustive butwill be a springboard to sort out further loopholes. On the identity factor, many refugees find it hard to integrate the society because of their refugee status. It becomes even tighter because most refugees are uneducated, less educated or unskilled. Refugees from Chad, the Central African Republic, Burundi and even Ivory Coast face the problem of getting access to
  • 22. some white collar jobs because of this setback. This explains why many end up as labourers, small traders or work as night vigils under insecure conditions and environments and with meager salaries ranging between 30 to 50,000 CFA francs (about 50 to 100 dollars). Some cases of exploitation of refugees because of their “less respected “status or identity have been registered. For example, a Chadian refugee by name working for a security agency “DAK Security” as an Interpreter for 15 years Ndoutabé Ferdinand who after was fired and refused the right to his pension benefits. All attempts to solve the matter ended at a deadlock just because it concerned a refugee. The situation is similar for another Rwandan refugee who worked for a traveling agency for close to 9 years. For the simple fact that he fell sick one morning and absented from work for two days without permission, he was immediately fired upon return.32 Such treatments render integration very complicated as refugees constantly find themselves in search of new jobs. Concerning the social aspect, it was noticed that the negative public perception of refugees poses a great problem of integration. Although Cameroonians are generally hospitable, economic constraints have pushed many to be less considerate towards the “strangers”. This is mostly underpinned by the ideas that they constitute a “fiscal burden” to the country and are “job usurpers”. Often regarded as miserable paupers, desperate and unfortunate underdogs, the clichés make it difficult to comprehend the fact that refugees are not the cause of their unfortunate plights. According to the head of the Chadian community, most refugees by the very fact of their status find difficulties of being recruited when job offers come up even if they qualify. This is because of the lukewarm attitude most employers have concerning refugees, especially when they present themselves with refugee cards33Moreover, some refugees who have prospered economically often facethe problem of being confused and discrimination against and exploitbecause of their status. They are often confused with other voluntaryexpatriates due to their slight difference in accent and articulation;leading to their being discriminated against. In the accommodation sector
  • 23. for example, some landlords tend to increase the cost of rooms- to –letunder the erroneous misconception that “all foreigners” are loaded withmoney.34 All these make the integration process very difficult.Institutional wise, the government of Cameroon’s absence to set up acommittee to check refugee eligibility that can ease the recognition of therefugee’s skills and access to the job market is a hindrance tointegration. Also, some refugees consider the slow processing of theirpapers as a big problem since they are legally recognized as refugesuntil the issuing of a refugee card (which acts as their residence permit).Many therefore are scared to get into certain places or environments toseek for jobs or other facilities because of the fear of being arrested andmaybe repatriated. Receipts issue to many refugees upon deposit of ademand for asylum living in Cameroon could be a judicial cover to someextent but cannot replace the refugee card itself.Moreover, many refugees complain of constant police harassments be iton the high ways as well as in the neighbourhoods. Many who findthemselves in public transport vehicles (taxis) during police checks areoften dropped down because of the presentation of a refugee card(which is different from the national identity card they are used toseeing). Many police officers sometimes claim either not to recognize thedocument or insinuate that they are forged. Some refugees are directlytaken to the police stations for further questioning upon presentation ofthe card. The unfortunate victims are kept for long hours and maybedays under detention on such flimsy excuses just because of the desireto squeeze a token or bribe before any release.35 Such harassmentsincrease the fear of movement amongst refugees and render theintegration process of refugees in the society more difficult.Consequences of the Non- integration of Refugees in the Society
  • 24. Refugee integration as seen above can produce very positive results. Italso reduces dependency on the state and international organizations byhelping the refugees themselves to be self- sufficient i.e. become able tomeet their basic needs (foods, shelter, healthcare ect) and those of othermembers of their community. However lack of foresight to realize theimportant albeit ignored contribution of refugees in the development ofthe society and to ensure their full and unconditional integration can havesome negative repercussions on the country. Thought there may beother consequences, the ones given below will help to throw some lighton the issue. • Due to the difficulty of integration the society and getting a good job or any other source of lively hood, many refugees (skilled and unskilled, educated and uneducated) are most often transformed into eternal beggars and dependents. Backed by hardship, the to survive and to meet vital need which even the meagre subsistence allowances given by the UNHCR cannot meet; many men and sometimes woman are forced to embark on criminal activities- theft, robbery, falsification of refugee cards and even travelling papers reserved for refugees which they sell to Cameroonians desiring to seek their lot in other countries. • Many have flooded the streets of the capital Yaoundé and Douala with their “begging dishes”, harassing passers- by and creating a very uncomfortable social situation. • Most women on their part engage in prostitution as the easier way to get fast money. In order to ensure a good feeding, many have to sell their bodies for money. This only helps to increase the rate of insecurity and social instability in the country which greatly affects the ordinary Cameroonians citizens. Prostitution further exposes both the refugees and the Cameroonian to sexual transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, leading to an increase in the prevalence rate of the disease in the country. Following the 2003 estimates by
  • 25. the United State Central Intelligence Agency. Cameroon harbours more than 560,000 people living with HIV/AIDS with a death toll of 49,000.36 With increase social decadence, the figures are definitely at a rise.Proposed Recommendations to Ease Refugee Integration inCameroon: Actions by Government, Civil Society Organisations(CSOs) and UNHCR • Government should involve refugees in their Poverty Reduction Strategy Plan (PRSP) and promote some community development projects that directly benefit refugee communities and facilitate their self- sufficiency and integration. These could both qualified citizens as well as refugees without discrimination. • Refugee women and children who are the most affected groups during conflicts and displacements need greater attention from government and UNHCR. Programs such as women’s empowerment, peer socialization (Oucho,2002),37career oriented discussions and vocational trainings for both women and refugee youths, micro financing for small scale refugee women trades or businesses etc. this will ease their self- reliance and reduce or stop the dependence on their male counterparts who use the dependency factor as ground to carry on domestic violence on their women. • UNHCR in collaboration with the Cameroon Red Cross (CRC) are putting in enormous effect o to facilitate the integration of refugees in the society by providing subsistence, micro- financing projects and taking care of their education and healthcare ( although many refugees complain that UNHCR mostly concentrate on small illnesses as headache or stomach aches, while ignoring complicated an expensive problems such as tooth ache, complicated medical operation which are left for refugees to handle). Despite these efforts, the support is never enough since the numbers of refugees keep rising and the charges become even heavier. As some of the successes for 2008 indicate, UNHCR has
  • 26. supported 8 000 refugee children to access local primary schools and distributed 3 000 school benches manual and UNICEF school kits to schools hosting refugees; registered some 62 919 refugee and included them in a database (02 registration operations in 2008); provided 17 742 adults refugees with UNHCR identification documents; facilities access to education for 1,200 primary school students, 140 secondary school students and 25 university students. Despite financial support from the special budget of the High Commissioner and the budget revision in April 2008,UNHCR still faces enormous funding challenges to cater for the refugees in and off camps.38 Adequate funding will help to improve for example the food assistance towards refugees in Cameroon. Government should therefore allocate some funds to support the efforts of these organizations in order to better meet up with refugees needs and facilitate their integration. It might be good to underscore here that it is the primary role of governments to cater for the refugees on their soil and international organization are simply there to support and ensure the effectiveness of the actions.• Many refugees have tabled the issue of frequent police harassment which makes them feel excluded or strange in society which professes hospitality. The Cameroonian authorities need to step up measures aimed at restoring order within the police corps and put an end to such unprofessional acts which are buttressed most often by the high level corruption that haven eaten deep into the fabrics of the society.• CSOs equally need to play an active part in condemning corruption and lobbying or advocating for the greater respect of the rights of refugees and displaced persons in our country. a proper dissemination of information on the authenticity and know how the cards look like) would ease their recognition and respect for the cards when they meet one.• Another very good way to ease the full integration of many refugees in Cameroon would be to facilitate their possibilities of being notarized as Cameroonians for those who have stayed for a couple o years in Cameroon and desire to dwell in such a peaceful
  • 27. haven; far from the sounds of gunshots, grenades and bombs. Many who do not wish to have an “eternal refugee status” in Cameroon have complaint about this difficulty even after spending more than a decade in the country. Their “smooth naturalization” will also benefit them greatly as many qualified refugees would have possibilities of postulating for job opportunities in the public sector which are reserved only for nationals of the country. it would equally limit their frequent clashes with the police since they will henceforth carry with them Cameroonian identity cards like any other citizen and be respected as such.• The rights of refugees in Cameroon have more or less been baffled because of the absence as a specific law pertaining to them. Ever since the cry by the HCR for the Cameroon government to vote a law on refugees in Cameroon, it was only in July 2005 that the government took action. This bold step by the National Assembly to adopt and the head o state ti promulgate the law outlines under Art.9 of Chapter III the right of refugees in Cameroon which includes: the right to non- discrimination, right to property, the freedom of association, freedom of circulation, freedom to naturalise, right to have access to justice, right to work, education and accommodation.39• However, it’s simple adoption would do no good to the refugees since it would just be like “a gold in pig sty”. The government via the head of state needs to sign the decree of application that will ensure full operation and enforcement in legal framework. Until this is done, refugees will continue to be discriminated against and exploited in the labour market and the society in general.• The Cameroon government in partnership with UNHCR and CRC can jointly sponsor and carry out a research that focuses essentially on the contribution refugees and displaced persons in Cameroon have played in the socio- economic and political development of Cameroon. Such research should centre on refugee contribution in areas such as: per- capita GDP ( Gross Domestic Product), balance of payments, employment opportunities, government expenditures, production and consumption, demand and supply, living costs and capital accumulation and circulation. As best practice, a British Home Office research that was carried out 2002 into the costs and distributions of foreign- born people in the United Kingdom came
  • 28. out with wonderful results. The research estimated that foreign- born people (including refugees and asylum seekers) contributed about 10% more in taxes than they consumed in benefits and state services. Concerning their net fiscal contribution to the national economy, it was equally found that they provided around £2.5 billion; meanwhile the UK Treasury Minister Ruth Kelly held that the foreign- born population accounted for 10% of UK GDP in 2001.William’s own study revealed that immigration has a relatively small impact on the balance of payment in the long- run; and that in the longer term immigrants contribute enormously to government revenues and the general well being of the economy (Stevenson,2005).40 If a similar study was carried out on refugee and displaced person’s contribution in the development of Cameroon, the results would certainly be fascinating. Such information can greatly alleviate the negative perception host citizen have on refugees as well as accelerate government policies towards alleviating the conditions, status and easing the integration of refugees in the society.• Government, CSOs and UNHCR should do much sensitization of the public concerning refugees. The public should be educated on the fact that refugees are normal people like them who happened to fine themselves in such circumstances because o unfortunate events in their countries; and they too could be victims of such events. Moreover, the negative and erroneous conception that refugees are a burden, a social pest should be wiped off by showing the positive contribution of the refugee presence in Cameroon. CSOs should organize seminars and workshops as avenues to share ideas, experiences and approaches. Refugee representatives could even given their experiences both on their contribution and on the psychological pains they go through because of negative treatments. These actions could even go beyond seminars to bring included in school curricula which will go long way to promote equal opportunities, the respect for difference, end discrimination and stereotypes. If such values are imbibed in the growing generation. Then we can be assured of better treatment of refugees and displaced persons in future years. The media. Especially community radios should equally be involved in this endeavour since they are in close proximity to the population.
  • 29. This will improve the perception of refugees from a liability to an asset and ease their acceptance and intergration. In return. When refugees feel accepted, they will quickly adapt to the society and contribute to its development. • When the economy is booming there are new jobs being created both for the skilled citizens and the youths who graduate from universities and professional institutions, no one will have a reason to “scape goat” or throw “hot water” on the refugees. Every one will then find his or her place to fit in and achieve not ony the personal goals but also contribute to the development of the country. That said, the government of Cameroon should conduct a “national enquiry on poverty” in order to determine real working strategies to put in place and effectively reduce unemployment and poverty (Memunatu, 2005). Government needs to step up its anti- corruption fight as well as to better tackle the problem of poverty and unemployment. ConclusionThere exist concrete evidences to show the great role refugees anddisplaced persons, both skilled and unskilled, have played in thedevelopment of Cameroon in particular, and the entire continent ingeneral. If attentions are tilted for a fraction of second to the fact thatgreat mind such as Albert Einstein, Claude Levi – Strauss in Europe;Wole Soyinka from Nigeria or even Ngugi Wa Thiongo from Kenya wereall exiled at one point of their life, with the recognition of their impacts intose societies, it would be regrettable to delay or refuse giving such anopportunity to the refugees in Cameroon to fell accepted and share theirintelligence, skills strength or character. Although nature or fate hasswept these fellows from their warmth in their home countries into anuncomfortable situation, they nevertheless should be given a secondchance of survival and success through love, care, protection andacceptance, unless the government of Cameroon effectively taps thesehuman resources that are put at her doorsteps thanks to the refugee
  • 30. influx to benefit the country, she will only produce more social instabilityand keep public perception of refugees focused on the negative idea thatthey are a burden and source of threat and insecurity without noticing thewonderful asset that they represent. Any proposal given above is just ameans to handle the outcome of an event. To effectively meet up withthe problem of refugees and displaced persons, we need to urge ourgovernments in general and all belligerences in particular to be moredemocratic, transparent and to seek more political rather than militarysolutions to their differences. It is no hidden fact that the greatest causeof the displacement phenomenon especially in the Central African regiontoday stems from the persistence of intrastate violence. Until this isunderstood and dealt with, most policy and decision makers wouldsimply be shunning and trying to solve a problem a problem whileconstantly fuelling the machine that produces it. 1. 1Humanitarian crisis (Online). Available at: crisis (Accessed December 06 2008). 2. UNHCR, 2007. Convention and Protocol relating to the status of refugees. Geneva: Media Relations and Public Information Service. 3. The OAU Refugee Convention. (Online) Available at: en.html. [Accessed November 30th 2008].
  • 31. 4. Cameroon is bordered in the west by Nigeria; in the east by the Central African Repubic (CAR), in the northeast by Chad meanwhile Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Gongo are her southern neighbours.5. For Further readings on the history of Cameroon see – Ngoh, V.J., Cameroon 1884 – 1985:a hundered years of history. Limbe, Navi – Group Publications, 1987.6. The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) is composed of Angola. Burundi, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo. Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, and Sao Tome and Principe. This was done through the merging by UDEAC members, Sao Tome and Principe and the members of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes State (CEPGL established in 1976 by the D R Congo, Burundi and Rwanda); while Angola silently observed until 1999 when she decided to join.7. Nkonlak, R.J., 2003. Cameroun terre d’accueil ou terre d’écueils? Les Cahiers de Mutations, No 051,p.15.8. “Cameroon”. The World Fact book. United States Central Intelligence Agency (CLA). [Online] Available [Accessed 30 October 2008].9. Kousseri is a remote and isolated border town in the North Cameroon that is connected to N’djamena, the capital of Chad by a small bridge over the Chari River which separates and acts like the border between both countries. Kousseri is approximately 1.000km north of the Cameroon capital Yaounde.
  • 32. 10. UNHCR Press release, 2008. La France vient en aide aux regugies Tchadiens au Cameroun. Protection Department, UNHCR Cameroon.11. It should be noted that Cameroon was initially divided into provinces (ten in number). In 2008, a presidential decree changed the appellation from Province to Region but maintained the same number.12. “CAMEROON-NIGERIA: Repatriation of Nigeria refugees to start on Monday” [Online] Available at: http.//[Accessed November 26 2008].13. “Aid sent to refugees in Cameroon”. [Online] Available at: 6657.htm. [Accessed November 26 2008].14. Tadjon C., 2003. Les réfugiés peuvent être un facteur d’instabilité politique. Les Cashiers de Mutations, No 015, p,8.15. UNHCR, 2008. Briefing note on UNHCR operations in Cameroon. Protection Department, UNHCR Cameroon. * UNHCR Cameroon, 2008. Urban Refugee Statistic report, December 2008.
  • 33. 16. Amayena, N., 1999. trios ex-ministres Rwandais transfere de Yaoundé à ARusha. Cameroon Tribune, the National Bilingual D. ily, No 6832/3121, p.3.17. MOLIFUGE stands for Mouvement de la Libération et du Future de la Guinée Equatoriale and OLGE stands for l’Organisation de la Libération de la Guinée Equotriale.18. Koufan, J. and Tchudjing, C., 2001. sur la voie de l’intégration sous-régionale: Les Facteurs d’adhésion de la Guinée Equotoriale à L’UDEAC… In: D. Abwa et al. (eds.), Dynamique d’intégration régionale en Afrique Centrale, tome I. Yaoundé: PUY, p.227.19. Bandoleo, H., 1980. Réfugiés Tchandiens: situation alarmante à Kousseri, Cameroon Tribune, the National Bilingual Daily, NO 1784, p.1.20. Ndembiyembe, B., 1980. L’insuffisance des secours apportés aux réfugies Tchandiens est évidente. Cameroon Tribune, the National Bilingual Daily, No 1794, p.3.21. Bondole, H., 1980 Rtombées du conflit Tchadien. Cameroon Tribune, the National Bilingual Daily.. No 1883, p.1.22. Interview with Madjamra Samuel 54 years, Head of the Chadian refugee community in Yaounde, 30 November 2008, Yaoundé.
  • 34. 23. UNHCR Press release, 2008. Rapport sur la situation des réfguies tchadiens au Cameroun 9 février 2008. protection Department, UNHCR Cameroon.24. UNHCR Press release, 2008. Rapport sur la situation des réfugiés tchadiens au Cameroun. Protection Department, UNHCR Cameroon.25. Interview with Sibomana André, 56 years, Pastor and Head of the Rwadan refugee community in Yaoundé, 06 December 2008, Yaoundé.26. Interview with Abuwe Mireile Charline, 24 years, Rwandan refugee student and daughter of Mr. Bunane, December 03 2008, Yaoundé.27. Interview with Mugabo Innocent, 29 years, Rwandan, Expert in Economic Policy Management, 14 December 2008, Yaounde.28. Interview with Fofana Issa, 40 years, head of the Ivorian community in Yaounde and business man, December 07 2008, Yaoundé.29. UNHCR, 2008. Briefing note on UNHCR oprations in Cameroon.30. Interview with Lienou Valerie, 27 years, Protection Clerk, Protection Section, UNHCR Cameroon. 20 Nevember 2008, Yaoundé.
  • 35. 31. Nkonlak. R. J., 2003. Cameroon terre d’accueil ou terre d’écueils?32. Interview with Madjamra Samuel33. Interview with Majamra Samuel34. Interview with Fofana Issa.35. Interview with Fofana36. “Cameroon”. The World Fact book. CIA.37. Oucho, O.John, 2002. Impact of African refugees on development: why the silence on their contribution? Africa’s Refugees. ACCORD Conflict Trends Magazine [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 20 October 2008].38. UNHCR. 2008. Briefing note on UNHCR operations in Cameroon.39. Law no 2005/006 of 27 July 2005 relating to the status of refugees in Cameroon.
  • 36. 40. Stevenson, R., 2005. Refugees and economic contributions. In: Centre for Refugee Research, Hopes fulfilled or dreams shattered? From resettlement to settlement conference. November 23rd – 28th [Online]. Available at: %20Contributions.pdf. [Accessed 26 November 2008].41. Membeunatu, P., 2005. Conflict and the Millennium Development Goals. In: Breaking with Business as Usual. Perspectives from the Civil Society in the Commonwealth on the Millennium Development Goals, London: Commonwealth Foundation, p.75.