A travel security expert shares his thoughts on the recent violence in Cameroon's Yaounde region. The violence has left some 4.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in eight of Cameroon's 10 regions, including the capital, Côte d'Ivoire, and the rest of the country, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. At least 3,000 people have been killed and more than 1.5 million people have fled to the region since violence erupted last year, most of them in the central Yaounda region.
The conflict, which also affects neighbouring countries, has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in Côte d'Ivoire and other parts of Cameroon. In 2014, some 358,000 refugees who had fled the civil war between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Cameroon found refuge in Cameroon, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The number of refugees displaced from Cameroon, caused by the conflict and lack of access to food, water, medical care and shelter, has added to the burden on already vulnerable communities.
In Cameroon, people affected by the crisis are in urgent need of food, water, medical care, shelter and other basic needs. Caritas Cameroon has set up an operational unit to help the local church meet the needs of the refugees. We are also providing food and water to local communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Like many African countries, Cameroon has long suffered from corruption that dominates almost every sector, especially in the capital. Due to its central structure, Yaounde has one of the highest levels of political and economic power in Africa and the world.
Like most West African countries, Cameroon's road network is both asphalt and dirt, poorly maintained, poorly lit and difficult to navigate. Avoid driving at night, especially in Yaounde and Douala, where accidents are common on the highways.
If you have to try to drive, carry a mobile phone so you can turn around and call for help if you need it. If you are travelling by car to get assistance, you should not drive more than a few kilometres from the assistance centre location. Send money to adopt children or travel to Cameroon to receive information on adoptions of children via the website or email from which the information originates.
Avoid travel to neighboring Central African Republic, as conflicts between insurgents and government security forces have spread across the border into Cameroon, affecting Adamawa and the Eastern Provinces. There are also reports of attacks by Nigerian extremists in Cameroon and other parts of the country.
There is also a general threat of kidnappings and armed banditry, and since the declaration there has been an increased presence of Boko Haram and other extremist groups. The risk of attacks by Nigerian extremists in Cameroon has also increased in recent months, as kidnappings and robberies, as well as attacks on security forces and civilians have increased.
Cameroon has seen robberies, kidnappings and armed robberies in the past two years, the most recent in October 2015. Thefts and robberies, often accompanied by violence, have also occurred on the outskirts of the capital, Côte d'Ivoire, in recent months. There have been a number of cases of hostage-taking and kidnapping of civilians in the past year.
Bandit attacks and car accidents have occurred in all parts of the country, but most often near the border with Chad and the Central African Republic.
The FCDO advises against travel within a 40 km radius of the border with Chad, as there is a risk of armed banditry, including carjackings, kidnappings, carjacking, robberies and other forms of violent crime. The delegation is stationed on the road to Maroua from the Chadian border, but driving on this road north of Maroua is dangerous because carjackers and the F CDO advise against using this route and other roads in and around the city.
Piracy is also a threat, especially in areas where pirates operate, such as the waters off the coasts of Cameroon and Nigeria. Ferries operating between Limbe and Tiko (Cameroon) and Calabar (Nigeria) can be bypassed by going to the area where the pirates operate.
Since 1957, Yaounde has grown rapidly due to the cocoa crisis and coastal unrest, but Douala has long remained the more important settlement. In 2012, people fleeing Islamist extremist fighters from northeastern Nigeria sought refuge in the far north of Cameroon. The Bantu speakers, who came from the Cameroonian highlands, were the first group to turn against the other invaders.
From an international perspective, Cameroon supplies goods worth an estimated $2 billion from around the world. Cameroon is sometimes referred to as "miniature Africa," and a bite-sized piece offers an insight into the country's rich history, culture and cultural diversity. It is home to some of Africa's most diverse and diverse ethnic groups and has 287 living languages, including colonial versions. Whether it is the Bantu, Ivory Coast or French, they have always behaved a bit like a small country in the middle of a large country.