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UN censures ‘heinous attacks’ in Lake Chad Basin

Conflict over many years has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in north-east Cameroon.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Conflict over many years has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in north-east Cameroon.

UN censures ‘heinous attacks’ in Lake Chad Basin

Peace and Security

The Secretary-General strongly condemned “heinous attacks” against civilians in the Lake Chad Basin, a UN spokesperson said on Monday.

“The attacks led to the killing and abduction of many civilians, including women, children and displaced people who had fled violence”, Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement, referring to assaults in the Lac Province of Chad and the Far North Region of Cameroon on 31 July and 2 August, respectively. 

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News reports pinned responsibility for this most recent aggression in the troubled region on Boko Haram jihadists.

Mr. Haq spelled out that “those responsible for these atrocities must be held accountable”. 

“International human rights law and international humanitarian law must be fully respected and all civilians in Cameroon and Chad must be protected”, he stressed on behalf of the UN chief.

In conclusion, the spokesperson upheld the UN’s “steadfast” support to the countries of the Lake Chad Basin in their efforts “to overcome the scourge of terrorism, and address the security, political, humanitarian and socio-economic challenges in the region”.

Internally displaced targeted

In separate coverage on Tuesday morning, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) expressed outrage over an “unprovoked and brutal attack” on 800 internally displaced people (IDPs) in a makeshift camp in Cameroon’s Far North region.

“At least 18 people were killed and 11 injured in the incident during the early hours of Sunday 2 August”, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch told journalists at a regular press briefing in Geneva.

While some of the wounded were evacuated to Mokolo district hospital, an hour’s drive from Nguetchewe, another 1,500 people, including terrified residents of the hosting village, fled to the nearby town of Mozogo for safety.

“UNHCR is deploying an emergency mission to assess the situation and evaluate the protection and health needs of those affected, Mr. Baloch updated.

Spiraling situation

This attack follows a significant rise in violent incidents in Cameroon’s Far-North Region in July, including looting and kidnapping by Boko Haram and other armed groups active in the region.

The Far North region, tucked between Nigeria’s Borno and Adamawa states and Lake Chad, currently hosts 321,886 IDPs and 115,000 Nigerian refugees.

The UNHCR spokesperson called this incident “a sad reminder of the intensity and brutality of the violence in the wider the Lake Chad Basin region that has forced more than three million people to flee”.

“UNHCR calls on all actors to respect the civilian and humanitarian character of IDP camps, and to respond promptly to the urgent needs of people who have fled violence and suffered multiple displacements”, concluded the UN refugee agency’s spokesperson.

UNHCR calls on all actors to respect the civilian and humanitarian character of IDP camp -- UNHCR

Children in crosshairs

Meanwhile,  the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) condemned the attack on civilians in Nguetchewe, while expressing its deepest condolences to the victims’ families. 

According to preliminary reports, 10 children lost their lives in the assault that also injured five .

UNICEF cited estimates in saying that that since January 2017, attacks in the Far North Region of Cameroon may have slaughtered more than 150 children.

The UN agency underscored that  the “unacceptable” violence against children is “a grave violation of child rights”.

“All efforts should be made to ensure that children are protected,” said Jacques Boyer, UNICEF Representative to Cameroon. “We once again strongly urge all parties involved in crises in Cameroon to do everything in their power to make sure children live and grow in an environment free from threats of any kind.”