Ex separatist fighters and asylum seekers who fled to Nigeria have voluntarily returned to Cameroon and were received by government authorities.

YAOUNDE, CAMEROON – A chartered plane from the Nigerian city of Lagos arrived at the Yaounde international airport late Tuesday,

December 31, 2019, with 87 Cameroonian asylum-seekers and former separatists fighters on board.

It was an opportunity for them to return home on this date, not to begin a new year outside but at home.

The group of the first to return to Cameroon is dominated by women and children who ran from the trouble regions during the battle between

the government troops and separatist fighters.

The authorities of Cameroon say they returned voluntarily under an agreement reached with Nigeria and that before the end of February

2020, at least 700 asylum seekers and ex separatist fighters are expected to return to Cameroon.

One of the victims, Marie Nash, 29, who fled the English-speaking southwestern town of Mamfe two years ago when fighting first broke out

but returned amid renewed talk of peace.

“Because of the war, I have experienced a lot of things,” she said.  “I just thank God because they want to bring peace to Cameroon, and I

am very happy for that.  I want everybody to come back so that we should not fight again.  Let us make peace.”

Return of ex-fighters

Among the returnees are former separatist fighters like Success Nkongho, who led an armed group before fleeing to Nigeria in October.

According to Success Nkongho, he returned to Cameroon after the government showed efforts to address the conflict, including October’s

national dialogue.

“Prior to the national dialogue, I was invited though I did not come there,” he said. “Today I am here with other combatants (ex fighters) and

refugees, asylum seekers.  We have come home, and we wish to say please kindly give us another chance.”

Former rebel Leonard Nyambere popularly called “General Nyambere,” said he is still in touch with separatists who want to surrender but do

not trust authorities’ offer of reintegration.

“Some of us (the fighters) think that the government wants to trick us or to kill us,” he said.  “That is why most of our brothers are still in the

forest.  My friends and my brothers understand that the Cameroon of yesterday is not the Cameroon of today.  Everything cannot be solved

by the gun.”

On social media, other separatist fighters and other separatist supporters describe Nyambere and Nkongho as sell-outs to Cameroon’s

government and call for their capture.

The former rebels will have to enter rehabilitation and reintegration programs before being released.

Despite the risk and ongoing conflict, the government of Cameroon is still urging the asylum-seekers in Nigeria and other countries to return

to their homes in the English-speaking, western regions.

Cameroon Territorial Administration Minister Paul Atanga Nji said there is peace in areas where they have been distributing aid, with no

attacks from separatist fighters.

“It is a clear indication that there is no humanitarian crisis in Cameroon,” he said. “I think about 5,000 families have gone back to the

northwest and the southwest regions of Cameroon, which is a clear indication that everything is coming back to normalcy”, said Atanga Nji


But the returnees are staying with relatives in Yaoundé and say they are reluctant to go home until all fighting ends and authorities

reconstruct villages and towns destroyed in the conflict.

The Special Status

In December, Cameroon’s parliament gave special status for the English-speaking regions in a further effort to halt the conflict.

The special status creates more elected, local leader positions for the two English-speaking regions.  It also cedes some powers to elected

mayors, such as the authority to recruit hospital staff and teachers.

Unrest erupted in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions in 2016 after teachers and lawyers protested discrimination by the country’s French-

speaking majority.  Cameroon’s military cracked down hard as separatists took up arms.

The United Nations says the conflict has left at least 3,000 people dead, displaced half a million, and led tens of thousands to flee to neighboring


Many international communities and organizations have reacted and proposed several solutions to resolve the ongoing Anglophone crisis.