Family flees war in Ukraine, cheats death back home

BY Cynthia Akum

A Cameroonian family that fled the war in Ukraine has cheated death back home in Douala, Cameroon.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, civilians attempted to flee the country. The borders of Poland, Hungary, and Romania became oversubscribed quickly, leaving days-long queues of people trying to escape the warzone.

Among those queuing were those of Ukrainian descent, but also a large number of African students, families, and professionals.

Most of those who left Ukraine stayed in Germany, France, Poland and other EU countries sharing the border with Ukraine after gaining a few months of protected status. As the war prolonged, most foreigners in Ukraine returned to their countries of origin as is the case with the victims in this report.

A woman whose name we got as Fabiola, aged 29, and her 2 daughters who miraculously escaped the war in Ukraine to resettle in Cameroon almost got killed by unknown men.

The incident occurred on Saturday, 18 March 2023 shortly after the family of girls stepped out of their lodge in the early hours of the night.

The neighborhood of Ancienne Route Bonaberi, Douala has recorded multiple attacks in the past year alone, but a violent assault on a woman and children is on a whole new scale of hostility.

Fabiola and her two beautiful daughters

Eyewitnesses report seeing two men on board a motorbike around the vicinity of the incident. The men apparently waited for the victims for hours.

Loud screaming was heard as Fabiola tried to fight back to protect her children.

The aggressors took off on their bike as the screaming was loud and attracted a potential mob.

This attack from men of the underworld left the two babies with minor injuries and their mother in an unconscious state.

They were rushed to a nearby clinic while the police came in and opened an investigation.

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was home to over 85000 foreign students. Ukraine has been one of the most popular destinations for Cameroonian students seeking further education. After the invasion last year, most foreign students and families have returned to their home countries for safety reasons.

Unfortunately, some families like that of Fabiola weren’t so lucky after all.

Cameroon is facing multiple security threats. In the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon, over 10,000 civilians have died as state forces battle separatist militias. Thousands of people have fled this area into neighboring Nigeria beyond.

Experts warn that Cameroon is on the verge of backsliding to ‘fragile state’ status, as conflict between Anglophone separatists and government forces increasingly affecting civilians.

The Anglophone conflict began in late 2016 when government security forces used lethal force to put down peaceful marches by members of the country’s English-speaking minority.

Worsening violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions is taking an increasingly heavy toll on civilians, with renewed attacks against schools and a spate of incidents involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and extrajudicial killings documented in recent months.

These attacks are the latest escalation in the nearly five-year conflict between government security forces and armed separatists which has displaced more than 700,000 civilians and forced another 63,800 across the border to Nigeria, according to a United Nations report this week.

Overall, the UN estimates three million of the four million people in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest have been impacted.

Since January 2021, separatists have been accused of abducting a local physician, burning down public infrastructure, such as markets and post offices, and killing at least five civilians, according to media reports and NGOs.

On February 13, suspected separatists killed three traditional village leaders and kidnapped 30 civilians.

In the same timeframe, separatists have also carried out at least 27 attacks involving IEDs in 13 towns across the two regions, more than all previous years of the conflict combined, according to UN reports and ACLED data.

The thousands of anglophones who have fled to the francophone regions also pose a security problem. Security sources indicate that organised crime has increased in the francophone regions, for the most part fueled by anglophone IDPs.

In the Far North Region of Cameroon Boko Haram remains a threat as well as famine.

In the North and Adamawa regions, kidnappings and organized crime are the order of the day. In the East Region, rebels from the Central African Republic are giving trouble to civilians.

While 90-year-old president Paul Biya struggles to keep Yaounde safe to perpetuate his 41-year rule, the economic capital, Douala is suffocating under insecurity. A militia known locally as “Les microbes”, usually armed with knives, cutlasses, blades, sticks, and other deadly objects, is known to storm neighborhoods in a large group attacking anyone they meet on their way, destroying and looting properties. Even security officers are not spared.

Many are those who consider Cameroon a time bomb.

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