A three-week lockdown on Cameroon's two Anglophone regions is in effect. Thousands have fled the troubled regions, some permanently to Francophone provinces.
Rebels fighting for the independence of Cameroon's two Anglophone regions called the lockdown to protest against the life sentences handed down to ten of their leaders last week.
Schools and shops are closed. There is no public transport. Hospitals and health clinics run by humanitarian organisations will remain open throughout the three weeks.
This, like previous lockdowns, has caused thousands of civilians to flee. Some permanently, especially those who have the financial means to put down roots elsewhere.
“It's ironic that we professional Anglophones are starting new lives in the Francophone regions,” says Chantal (not her real name), who left her home town of Bamenda a year ago for a job in the Francophone Western region.
The push to secede began in 2016 after a government crackdown in the Northwest and Southwest English-speaking regions of the predominantly Francophone country.
Anglophones were angered that Francophone teachers and lawyers were being brought to their regions to work and teach.
Kindness of strangers
The professional classes in the cities of Bamenda and Buea have been hard hit, with many established businesses and organisations relocating to Francophone regions.
“The marginalisation and discrimination is still very much alive and visible in Cameroon,” laments Chantal and adds, “On the other hand there is so much solidarity from some Francophones who understand the crisis and how difficult it is for people to leave their homes.”
The UN estimates that 1.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the Anglophone crisis.
“The security situation makes it difficult for people to move around, and for humanitarian organisations to access people in need,” explains James Nunan, director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Cameroon.
There are no official figures of how many people have fled. What is certain is that a significant proportion of them are professionals, causing a brain drain from Anglophone to Francophone regions.