Congress: Addressing the Crisis in Cameroon

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SEATTLE, Washington — On February 17, 2021, in an effort led by Maryland senator, Chris Van Hollen, more than 40 members of Congress submitted an appeal to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and President Joe Biden on behalf of Cameroonians residing in the United States. The letter requests an 18-month Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Cameroonians by reason of the crisis in Cameroon and the human rights abuses continuing to unfold in the country.

No Way Back

After protests against cultural marginalization began in 2016 in Cameroon’s Anglophone region, the government has responded with armed conflict, torture, killings and torching local villages. Potential U.S. deportations would push vulnerable individuals into dangerous situations.

Cameroonian soldiers have been accused of committing atrocities across the country. Furthermore, an influx of refugees and the COVID-19 outbreak has contributed to the present state of 6.2 million Cameroonians in need. Such challenges pose a threat to long-term recovery and demonstrate the precariousness of the homeland of those who are at risk of deportation in the United States.

An Invisible War

The letter brought forth by Congress has nevertheless evoked an obligation to discuss the dire state of Cameroon as the ongoing crisis seems to go practically unnoticed by much of the world. With widespread violence costing more than 3,500 lives and 1.8 million displacements within the country, Cameroon is regarded as the world’s most neglected displacement crisis today. Separatist fighters and government forces have imposed stay-at-home orders, not in fear of the virus that has plagued the world, but rather, the violent consequences of the civil war. Most schools and businesses shut down since the start of the conflict in fear of massacres and kidnappings. This has caused pervasive impoverishment in the country.

Who is Helping Cameroon?

There are a number of organizations working to improve the conditions of the country. Three notable acts, in particular, will have a direct effect on the state of Cameroon.

The World Bank has recently provided $45 million to aid COVID-19 recovery efforts, in addition to improving the dire state of education in Cameroon. The World Bank stated that it would continue to improve access to education and help with the educational consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also address forced displacements and the refugee crisis.

UNICEF submitted an appeal to increase funding for its humanitarian work in the region as it cites the need to address the consequences of the conflict. The organization intends to scale up its operations to improve its delivery in hard-to-reach areas. It aims to provide measles vaccinations and improved water and sanitation, among a number of other essential services.

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has spoken out against attacks that were recently carried out in Cameroon. In the statement, Guterres urged Cameroonian authorities to take immediate action and bring justice to those who have been affected.

Domestic and International Protection

While Cameroonians in the United States have a chance to avoid conflict through this Congressional act, one cannot say the same for those residing in the war-torn region. To address the crisis in Cameroon and give people a fighting chance at survival, humanitarian efforts need to increase.

Alessandra Parker 
Photo: Flickr

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