Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The United Nations has blamed a Cameroon version of an old style US Wild West Range War over control of water and territory on climate change.
Climate change fuels violence and mass displacement in Cameroon
10 December 2021Climate and Environment
A flare-up in intercommunal fighting in northern Cameroon has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes and brought a halt to aid operations there, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday.
The development is just the latest episode in the difficult relationship between the region’s herders, fishermen and farmers, who have seen the waters and tributaries of Lake Chad shrink dramatically, because of climate change-induced drought.
In Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov explained that clashes had broken out in recent days in the village of Ouloumsa, following a dispute over dwindling water resources.
The violence then spread to neighbouring villages, leaving 10 villages burned to the ground.
“UNHCR is deeply concerned by renewed intercommunal clashes that erupted this week in Cameroon’s Far North region, displacing thousands inside the country and forcing more than 30,000 people to flee to neighbouring Chad,” Mr. Cheshirkov said. “Since Sunday 5 December, at least 22 people have been killed and 30 others seriously injured during several days of ongoing fighting.”
Fighting then erupted three days later, on 8 December, in the Cameroonian city of Kousseri, a commercial hub with 200,000 inhabitants, according to UNHCR.
In addition to the destruction of the cattle market, Mr. Cheshirkov noted that “at least 10,000 people fled Kousseri to Chad’s capital, N’djamena…only a few kilometres across the Chari and Logone rivers, which mark the border with Cameroon”.
…Read more: https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/12/1107622
This is beyond ridiculous. Climate change didn’t cause the range war in Cameroon, any more than it caused the range wars in the Wild West.
In Cameroon, as in the Wild West, different groups of people who thought their access to the water and land took precedence couldn’t settle their dispute with words, so they resorted to violence. The cowboys won the first round, burning villages, then the displaced farmers retaliated by destroying a cattle market in the Cameroonian city of Kousseri.
The long drought people are experiencing is not unusual in a region which has known long droughts ever since records began. Lake Chad has also experienced severe over use due to a rapidly rising population and the current drought, leading to dramatic shrinkage of the lake.
Overall rainfall has increased in the Sahel region since the 1970s – the Sahel, which includes Lake Chad, is one of the regions where NASA has noticed dramatic greening since satellite measurements began. But obviously this overall increase in rainfall has not been enough to help locals in their current predicament. NASA also noticed evidence of land degradation in pastoral regions, which was not caused by rainfall.
In Cameroon there is a large diversity of backgrounds, including long standing tribal feuds and religious hostility between different faiths – just as there was in the Wild West, between Indians, cowboys and farmers.
Cameroon isn’t exactly the same as the Wild West. In the Wild West many disputes were settled relatively peacefully, in court, which helped quell some of the violence. I doubt a similar institution which is more or less respected by most parties exists in Cameroon.
Nobody needs to invoke climate change to understand the problems people in Cameroon are facing.
For the United Nations to try to exploit conflicts which have likely continued on and off for decades if not centuries, and a local climate which is measurably improving in terms of overall rainfall, to push their climate doomsday agenda, in my opinion is cynical and unhelpful.