The case for addressing ongoing conflicts : If not now, When?

By Jaff Bamenjo (Coordinator RELUFA) and Enjema Esunge (Communications Officer RELUFA)

The world is currently ridden with several armed conflicts. These conflicts have caused the loss of many lives and displacement of the population in search of safety. In Cameroon, the “Anglophone Crisis” which started as a protest against perceived marginalisation morphed into an armed struggle in 2017. Roughly over 6,000 people have been killed and over a million have fled their homes to other cities within Cameroon or other countries across the globe. The same situation applies to the February 24, 2022, Russian invasion of Ukraine that has triggered a refugee crisis, as more than 8 million Ukrainians have fled the conflict from their homeland, and many have been killed. Although several other conflicts are ongoing around the world, we limit this analysis to the impact of the conflict in Anglophone regions of Cameroon and Russian invasion of Ukraine has added to the suffering of the affected population in these and other regions of Cameroon. Both Ukraine and Russia are key exporters of wheat and fertilizer to many African countries. Disruptions to the flow of goods from these two countries are driving up food prices and shortages in Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, and many African countries.

The Internal Displacement Challenge in Cameroon

Internally displaced persons affected by the conflict in Cameroon have been enduring a huge burden of the conflict in many ways. People who have escaped to the cities like Douala and Yaoundé are particularly suffering due to the current inflationary spiral and the associated high cost of living. Displaced persons are the collateral damage in the devasting armed struggle as many have lost all their savings and investments and now endure hardship. Conflicts are a major systemic cause of hunger and poverty and hence RELUFA has been monitoring and advocating for an end to the conflicts in Cameroon and around the world. The conflict in the Northwest and Southwest Anglophone Regions of Cameroon is preventing ordinary people in Cameroon from meeting their basic food needs.

Local food access challenge for IDPs and ordinary citizens

Obili, a popular neighbourhood in Cameroon’s capital city of Yaoundé, is the sales point for Nkah Ngu Loveline, a 42-year-old petty food stuff trader who originates from Bali- Nyonga in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. Loveline for over the past 10 years specialized in selling what she calls Bambalang fish (smoked tilapia from Bambalang village) and tapioca, also known locally as “garri.”, a stable food consumed in most homes in Cameroon. But since the start of the armed conflict in the anglophone regions of Cameroon where she mostly gets the garri and the Bambalang fish, it has been very tough for her unlike previously before the conflict. According to Loveline, her business is not progressing as it once did since all items, she sells are now extremely expensive because of the ongoing conflict.  Many people according to Loveline prefer to buy Bambalang fish since it tastes good and is very nutritional.

Loveline in front of her food stall

Unfortunately, most of the fisher men or farmers in the Northwest and Southwest regions have left the villages and are now internally displaced persons in other locations and only very few of them are left to cultivate cassava for garri production or do the fishing. This has significantly decreased agricultural productivity and fishing activities thus exponentially raising the prices. This has not only affected IDPs but has affected all ordinary Cameroonians.

The current problem according to Loveline is not only that farmers have fled the villages but the high price of fertilizer since last year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine is another major handicap. Russia was the main exporter of fertilizer to Cameroon.

Initially, farmers could purchase a 20 kg bag of fertilizer for $25 (15.000 FCFA), but today, the price has increased threefold to about   $83 (50000 FCFAF).  This exponential increase in the price of fertilizer is beyond reach to many local farmers and has equally affected local food production.  Loveline says she now pays $17 (10.000 FCFAF) for a bag of garri that she previously purchased for just $3 (2000FCFA). The increase in fuel prices in Cameroon since February 2023 has also increased the transportation cost of goods from the villages to the market thus adding to the stress on food consumers. 

 Resolve ongoing conflicts.

The above story is just one in a thousand stories of how ordinary people are suffering because of conflicts.  Unfortunately, the world seems to only pay lip service in resolving ongoing conflicts. Russia with its many nuclear weapons, U.S. and other member states’ military equipment cannot provide solutions to the current challenges. Dialogue is the only sustainable way to stop this unnecessary bloodbath going on in different parts of the world. The time to engage such dialogue is now. The more, the world waits, the more it prolongs the suffering of ordinary people. We may sometimes feel helpless because no one seems to listen, but our strength is anchored on many people around the world who still have empathy and power and still care about the plight of others. Through our collective voices to all those in United Nations, governments, congress, or senates around the world, something can still be done to end the current spiral of violence in Cameroon, Ukraine, and everywhere in the world.  Let us continue to advocate for peace in all circumstances.

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