More than 30,000 people in northern Cameroon have fled to Chad after the violence at the weekend that killed at least 22 people, the United Nations’ refugee agency has said.
Violence broke out in the border village of Ouloumsa on Sunday in a dispute between herders, fishermen and farmers over dwindling water resources, the UNHCR said in a statement on Friday issued from Geneva.
It then spread to neighbouring villages, 10 of which have been burned to the ground.
The clashes have displaced thousands in the country, “forcing more than 30,000 people to flee to neighbouring Chad”, the UNHCR said.
“At least 22 people have been killed and 30 others seriously injured during several days of ongoing fighting.”
The violence is unfolding in Logone-Chari in Cameroon’s Far North Region – the tongue of land that lies between Nigeria to the west and Chad to the east.
The UN figures for those seeking refuge, and the death toll, are far higher than numbers given on Wednesday by other sources.
The Chadian Red Cross had said there were at least 3,000 refugees, although the number was likely to grow, while the Cameroonian authorities said at least four had died.
Almost 80 percent of the new arrivals are women, many of them pregnant, and children, the UNHCR said.
They have found refuge in the Chadian capital N’Djamena and villages along Chad’s bank of the Logone River.
The UNHCR said at least 10,000 have fled to N’Djamena from Kousseri, a town of 200,000 people whose cattle market was destroyed in the fighting.
Chad’s military government leader Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno on Wednesday issued a statement to say the situation was “worrying” and appealed to international donors to help the arrivals.
A bout of fighting between herders and fishermen in August led to 45 deaths and an influx of at least 10,000 people into Chad.
As in the latest incident, the fighting began over management and access to water, the Cameroonian authorities say.
Violent conflict between ethnic groups is relatively rare in Cameroon compared with Chad and Nigeria, where fighting over resources between semi-nomadic herders and sedentary farmers is frequent.
Cameroonian officials say two of the parties in the conflict are fishermen of the Musgum community and ethnic Arab Choa cattlemen.