Almost 8 000 Cameroon refugees fled to eastern and southern Nigeria over the past two weeks, the UN refugee agency said, as violence flared between security forces and separatist insurgents.
The spike in refugees, coming in the run-up to last weekend’s general elections, brings the total number of Cameroonians who fled to 60 000, the UN agency said.
Conflict between Cameroon’s army and English-speaking militias seeking to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia began after government cracked down on peaceful protesters complaining of being marginalised by the French-speaking majority.
The insurgency forced half a million people to flee their homes and presented President Paul Biya with his biggest challenge since he took power nearly 40 years ago.
The UN refugee agency “expects further arrivals as refugees inform more people are in remote border areas and on their way to Nigeria,” Thursday’s statement said.
“Refugees reported fleeing violence and some arrived with gunshot wounds,” it said. “According to new arrivals, most come from areas near the border and trekked across savannah and forests to reach Nigeria.”
In December, Cameroon’s parliament granted special status to two English-speaking regions to calm the conflict, but the separatists maintain only independence would satisfy them.