By Antem Anthony (Download pdf)
Examining Conflict-induced Migration within the CEMAC Zone
Founded on the 16th of March 1994, in N’Djamena, Chad, with the mission to promote harmonious development of the Member States within the framework of a true common market, the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) states regroups 6 countries amongst which we can site Cameroon, Gabon, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea as members. To further meet up with its collective objectives, the CEMAC Treaty was revised in 2008 with mission to promote peace and the harmonious development of its member states, within the framework of establishing an economic union and a monetary union.
Cross-border migration has been an age-old phenomenon across Africa and an uncontrollable issue, with complex humanitarian consequences within the CEMAC region. Prolonged conflicts in most countries such as Cameroon, Chad, and Central Africa Republic equally plagued by terrorist activities, violent extremist groups, inter-communal conflicts have contributed to amplify conflict-induced migration of persons across boundaries. The nature and causes of migration have metamorphosed over the years under different genres and appellations from voluntary to forced migration, all stirred by the desire to exploit new economic opportunities, ensure safety and security of persons, establish family reunions and associate one’s self to new cultures, as a result of its high rate of recurrence. There is no universally accepted definition for migration, but according to the International Organization for Migration, it is defined as the movement of a person or a group of persons, either across an international border or within a state. It is a population movement, encompassing any kind of movement of people, whatever its length, composition and causes, it includes migration of refugees, displaced persons, economic migrants and people moving for other purposes, including family reunification. (IOM, 2015). Cross-border migration is a topic that has returned to the forefront of policy discussions in Africa and across the world today, notably due to the fact that sovereign states are becoming more self-centered on their national interests, citizens of host nations increasingly display xenophobic tendencies, less receptive to foreigners and more secure across their territorial boundaries due to a plethora of reasons to be envisaged below.
This aura of self-security of states has complexified the status of migrants and aggravated humanitarian concerns within the zone, thereby raising several questions like: How can Conflict-Induced migration be better controlled amongst states within the region? Are states being responsible enough to limit cases of forced migration or could citizens be too excessive in demands? Hence, this paper aims to examine the causes of conflict-induced migration in the CEMAC zone, and to explore strategies which could be used to better prevent and address its root causes. More specifically, this paper in two distinctive parts, will examine the nature and effects of conflict-induced migration, by laying emphasis on specific cases within the CEMAC region (I) and further table recommendations on how the phenomenon can be controlled within the sub-region.
The Nature and Effects of Conflict-Induced Migration Within the CEMAC Region
In the CEMAC Region, the complex humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad basin triggered by the Boko Haram insurgency, the Anglophone crisis in the North-West and South-West (NWSW) regions of Cameroon, the political crisis marked by electoral disputes, coup d’états and rebellion in Central African Republic (CAR), have had a direct impact on peace and stability of these countries, leading to forced migration of people internally and across borders to neighboring countries. As of 30th September 2022, over 2 million people were displaced within Cameroon, as internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees or returnees. (OCHA, 2022). The country counts almost 1 million IDPs and about 548,000 returnees, mainly in the NWSW and Far North regions. Also, Cameroon is hosting over 481,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including about 352,000 refugees from CAR. (OCHA, 2022). Cameroon, despite the current socio-political instability in the country, remains the preferred destination of many refugees and asylum seekers in the CEMAC zone. Almost 33,936 people have equally been displaced to Chad, migrating across the Chari River to reach the outskirts of the Chadian capital N’Djamena, and most of whom presently reside in the Kalambari refugee camp. As of 31st October, 2022, CAR has displaced 505,059 internally; and 124,491 to Chad. They are mostly located in the Eastern, Adamawa and North regions of Cameroon, and in camps and villages across Salamat, Moyen-Chari, Mandoul and Logone Oriental regions in southern Chad (UNHCR,2022). In October 2022, the government of Equatorial Guinea embarked on a mass deportation of people living illegally in its territory, due to increased insecurity caused by the influx of about 30,000 economic migrants within the past three years. As a result, some Cameroonians were arrested, detained and several hundred deported. The same government of Equatorial Guinea further planned to deport 7,000 Cameroonians in all by the end of the year 2022. (VOA, 2022) It is worth noting that these migrant tendencies are not without effects.
Conflict-Induced migration has far-reaching effects on the migrants and the host communities many amongst which include:
- Vulnerability of migrants to aggravated effects of climate change, infectious diseases, insecurity and hunger;
- Forced migrants tend to be subdued to anti-immigration and xenophobic sentiments in host countries;
- Astute poverty;
- Sexual and gender-based violence;
- Overpopulation which further leads to insufficiency of natural resources and social amenities;
- Border porosity which paves a way for cross-border crimes and terrorism, presenting a security risk for the migrants and host communities (ACSS, 2021)
Mitigating the Causes and Effects of Conflict-Induced Migration Within the CEMAC Region
What measures has CEMAC adopted thus far?
In 2012, ECCAS established a Regional consultative process on migration called The Migration Dialogue for Central African States (MIDCAS), as part of the African Economic Community, with the objective of promoting the common interests of ECCAS member states to facilitate consultations and intra-regional cooperation on migration issues within the ECCAS region as well as with other AU regional economic communities (AU RECs). It has 10 member states and aims to develop a common position on migration among ECCAS Member States; promote experience and information sharing; identify priority issues on technical cooperation, capacity building and data collection. (IOM, 2023). It focuses on the following thematic areas; assist voluntary return and reintegration, combatting human trafficking and migrant smuggling, Irregular migration and mixed migration flows, Labor migration, ethical recruitment and brain drain, Migrant integration, protection of migrants’ rights. (IOM, 2023)
Mindful of the mechanism put in place by ECCAS member states, a lot, however, still needs to be done to alleviate Conflict-Induced migration or mitigate its effects. Bearing therefore in mind the nature and effects of conflict-induced migration in the aforementioned CEMAC countries, it is imperative to examine the responsibility of states and individuals, each being actors of international law and primary victims of this reoccurring practice, in mitigating causes of conflict-induced migration.
Firstly, governments need to intentionally address the root causes of violent conflicts in the CEMAC sub-region. It has been established by states, International Organizations and individuals that, armed conflicts, either caused by unconstitutional change of government, poor governance and economic discrepancies, are primary sources of forced migration. It is the utmost responsibility of states to create peaceful and progressive societies, void of armed conflict and civil agitations. State leaders must guarantee respect for the rule of law, consciously exercise good governance and effective public administration.
Equally, states need to adopt a holistic approach in improving border governance through collaborative policies and legislations where applicable, and defining a common operational procedure for border control authorities.
In the same light, states must improve sensitization of foreigners on immigration policies and define the status of immigrants to limit clandestine immigration and non-compliance of immigrants to local policies of host states.
Intergovernmental cooperation can be prioritized in addressing root causes of armed conflict through alternative modes of dispute resolution such as mediation, diplomacy and negotiations. Humanitarian effects of forced migration can equally be addressed through intergovernmental cooperation, by providing relief to refugees and facilitating socio-economic insertion.
This paper had as objective to examine the nature and effects of conflict-induced migration within the CEMAC zone and further map out strategies worth implementing by states to alleviate migration and its effects. Bearing in mind that conflicts in Africa are quite complex due to their multifaceted nature, difficult to resolve and prone to creating unresolvable humanitarian crisis such as forced migrations, it is recommended for states to devise inclusive strategies, which will help control the nature and rate of migration which will in turn contribute in resolving growing humanitarian crisis, xenophobic attacks and civilian deportations all triggered by clandestine migration.