According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, violent clashes over increasingly limited water in Africa have erupted in northern Cameroon, forcing more than 30,000 people to escape to neighbouring Chad.
Following an outburst of violence in August that resulted in 45 murders and prompted 23,000 Cameroonians to flee their homes, 22 people have been murdered and 30 more critically injured in fighting between fishermen and farmers since Sunday.
According to the United Nations, the fundamental reason is a severe drop in water levels in Lake Chad, which has lost 90 percent of its surface area owing to misuse and climate change since 1963.
‘The water body is no longer sufficient to fulfil the needs of the population who want water to carry out their everyday activities,’ Benjamin Tonga of CIVICUS, a worldwide coalition of civil society groups based in South Africa, told Yahoo News.
Due to decreasing water resources, competition for what is left has erupted.
‘The confrontation between herders and fishermen began in August, and it’s all about resource sharing, particularly water,’ Xavier Bourgois, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cameroon, told Yahoo News.
‘Fishermen dig trenches to perform fish farming in that particular location of Cameroon. Because there is a scarcity of water in this area, the buffaloes are naturally drawn to the water, which is provided by the fishermen’s massive holes. That marked the start of the fight.’
The herders grow buffalo and cattle, and their livestock can die if they are enticed to the muddy, water-filled ditches. As a result, enraged herders have attacked farmers in an attempt to punish them for digging the trenches and prevent them from digging fresh ones, leading to retaliation.
As a result of the conflict that erupted, tens of thousands of Cameroonians were forced to flee their homes.
‘It ended up becoming extremely aggressive,’ Bourgois continued. ‘Both communities began to set fire to the villages. As a result, of course, citizens began to leave.’