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As many as 50,000 seeking refuge in Chad after fleeing fierce clashes between herders, farmers and fishermen in Cameroon’s Logone-Chari

15 December 2021
Reading time: 5 minutes

It is estimated that as many as 50,000 residents have fled to Chad since violent clashes between herders, farmers and fishermen first broke out in Logone-Chari in Cameroon’s Far North region on Sunday, December 5.

The clashes – between fishermen and farmers of the Mousgoum and Massa communities and ethnic Arab Choa herders – began in Ouloumsa. But the fighting over water scarcity, which has been ongoing, escalated and spread to villages and communities along Cameroon’s northern border with Chad.

On Wednesday, December 8, fierce fighting broke out in the Cameroonian city of Kousseri. By that time thousands of residents from the villages, towns and communities had already started fleeing to Chad’s  capital, N’Djamena, which is few kilometres across the Chari and Logone rivers that mark the border with Cameroon.

A traditional leader told Reuters the violence began when a herder wanted to bring his cattle to the banks of a river but was prevented by farmers and fishermen.

Fighting later erupted in the city of Kousseri where the cattle market was destroyed

The exact number of those killed and wounded was not known.

A woman refugee in Chad, Zara Ndgouni, said: “The violent clashes were horrific. The conflicting parties could hardly recognise their enemies and were just attacking everyone. We first fled to Kousseri, but it was even worse there so we fled to Chad where we were welcomed.”

She said: “Alhamdulillah, we thank the Chadian government for the hospitality. We are still alive but we are in dire need of almost everything. We do not have covers to protect ourselves and our children from the cold. We don’t have mats and tents to shelter.

“We could not bring anything from home because there was no time and we were forced by the fighting to flee. We are innocent, but many of us have lost their loved ones. Many of our houses are burnt down. We lost all our belongings. We came here five days ago; we are hungry, no food, nothing. We don’t have mats; we sleep on the bare floor.”

Ndgouni said many of the displaced people “have not eaten for these five days. We ask the government to consider our call and help us.”

Moussa Faki Mahamat, the president of the Commission of the African Union, said at a session at the United Nations Security Council on December 9 that “the deterioration of climatic conditions, rainfall deficits and subsequent droughts have contributed to exacerbate social and intercommunity tension due to the contraction of living resources, water and pastures, in particular”.

“The massive emergence of youth, a human result of the population explosion, is worryingly increasing the excessive pressure on natural resources,” he said. “The scarcity of resources, the scarcity of water and agro-food resources, in particular, feeds intercommunity conflicts.”

Moussa Ousman, a journalist in Kousseri said the communal clash had displaced more than 50,000 and claimed more than 100 lives in less than a week.

‘’At the moment, the situation has improved a bit in Kousseri – some people can be seen moving in the street, few bikes have resumed work but most of the business places, including the Kousseri main market are still closed. More than 26 shops and many houses and vehicles have been burnt down to ashes,’’ he said.

Ousman said defence and security forces had been deployed to all the strategic places in the Lagone-et-Chari capital to ensure security of property and to protect those still in the town. A number of people had been arrested for questioning.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said friction in the region had been exacerbated by “the climate crisis which was worsening tension in the region as water resources dwindle”.

“In recent decades, the surface of Lake Chad – of which the Logone River is a main tributary – has decreased by as much as 95%,” the agency said. “Fishermen and farmers have dug vast trenches to retain the remaining river water so they can fish and cultivate crops. But the muddy trenches are trapping and sometimes killing cattle belonging to the herders, sparking tension and fighting.”

The UNHCR said in a statement that although the violence had broken out in the border village of Ouloumsa on Sunday in a dispute between herders, fishermen and farmers over dwindling water resources, it then spread to neighbouring villages, at least 10 of which had been burnt to the ground.

It said 80% of the latest displaced people were women – including many who were pregnant – and  and children. They had found refuge in N’Djamena and villages along Chad’s bank of the Logone River.

Bakari Mijinyawa, the governor of the Far North region, had arrived at Kousseri to talk to representatives of the conflicting parties in an effort to reconcile relations between those involved.

A first outbreak of intercommunal violence occurred in August, displacing 23,000 people, 8,500 of whom had remained in Chad, according to the UNHCR.

About the author

Aisha Sd Jamal