Dhaka, Bangladesh
On Cameroon & Nigeria, UN Hides Behind UNHCR Statement

On Cameroon & Nigeria, UN Hides Behind UNHCR Statement

By Matthew Russell Lee

(From yesterday's issue) UN told Inner City Press no meeting was scheduled. After Guterres' envoy Francois Lounceny Fall equated secessionists with extremists, Inner City Press was informed that ten officials of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia declared on October 1 including Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe have been grabbed and disappeared -- while in Nigeria. On January 29, Inner City Press again asked Guterres spokesman about the detainees, and this time deputy spokesman Farhan Haq replied that the UN and Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed, a former Nigerian environment minister in Abuja at the time of the detentions, had made inquiries. Less than an hour later, Inner City Press was sent Cameroon's announcement that Ayuk Tabe and more than forty others have been transferred to Yaounde. A day after Inner City Press asked the UN in writing, Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric still had no answer at noon on January 30, except to wait for a UNHCR press release. Earlier on January 30, Inner City Press put the question to Amina J. Mohammed how did not answer, video here. Inner City Press on January 29 wrote to UNHCR's most senior spokespeople in Geneva, and those in Nigeria, "this is a Press request for comment and information regarding the reported refoulement / "repatriation" to Cameroon of Ayuk Tabe and more than 40 others to Yaounde, from Nigeria.UNHCR has said, in "Nigeria: Update on the Cameroon Arrivals, Issue #5 (24 January 2018)" that "For others still in detention, including the leadership of the pro-independence group, the government has agreed to grant UNHCR access for the determination of their status. The government has further reassured UNHCR that those detained would not be returned to Cameroon." Now Cameroon Minister Bakary says they are back in Yaounde (attached). On deadline, as a matter of urgency given the context, this is a request for comment and explanation and action. Please confirm receipt." On January 30 from Abuja, UNHCR's Senior External Relations Officer Elizabeth Mpimbaza replied, "Dear Mr. Lee, Thank you for your email. UNHCR has seen the statement. The government gave UNHCR access to some of asylum seekers last week and we are seeking explanations through official channels." This interim response was followed, from Geneva, by an assignment of Inner City Press' question to the same UNHCR spokesperson who partially responded when a UNHCR staffer called for "harder repression" by Biya in Cameroon, still never fully explained by UNHCR. We will have more on this as soon as possible. Watch this site. Much earlier, still without substantive answer nine hours later, Inner City Press wrote to Guterres' spokesmen and deputy: "Today at the noon briefing, along with the confirmation that the Secretary General met with Omar al Bashir, Inner City Press' weeks-old question about what the UN has done about those detained in Abuja was belatedly responded to, with the statement that the UN including the Deputy Secretary General had made inquiries. Soon after the noon briefing I became aware of a document in which the Cameroon Minister of Information says that Ayuk Tabe and more than 40 others have been transferred - or refouled -- to Cameroon, see [here]. This is a formal request for comment on the legality of this transfer, separately on the political advisability of this transfer given UN envoy Fall's call for inclusive dialogue, and for all specifics of what the UN actually did about these detentions. On deadline, please confirm receipt." Receipt has been confirmed, and Inner City Press has presented to the UN what UNHCR said, about no sending back to Cameroon. Watch this site. On January 25 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here Inner City Press: statistics of people that have fled Cameroon and Nigeria because of-- Spokesman [cutting in]: Yeah, UNHCR has. Question: …because of the crackdown. Now local groups… aid groups in Nigeria said that, in fact, the number is three times what the UN's reported. It's 43,000, not what the UN reported. And they're saying that the UN is incorrectly only counting those who come through, like, on roads or on buses… Spokesman: I mean, I… we'll check with our UNHCR colleagues. They can obviously only count where they are, and I think they try to be as many places as possible, but we'll go back to UNHCR… Inner City Press: What is the UN actually doing to try to… I'm wondering, like, Mr. {Francois Lounceny} Fall, has he gone… has he spoken to Paul Biya? Has anyone done anything on the underlying conflict? Spokesman: Our contacts are continuing, and our efforts are continuing. Thank you." No thanks. On January 22, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: Since the Deputy Secretary-General was there, this controversy has been ongoing of leaders of southern Cameroons or Ambazonia being held in Nigeria. And it's said today they were brought to court charged with running camps. When she was there, did she learn anything about this? Did she have any communications? Because it's creating quite a…Spokesman: "I understand. As soon as I have something, I will share it with you." Then nothing, including when Inner City Press though still restricted put the question to Amina J. Mohammed, Vine video here. On January 19, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I heard the Secretary-General when he said today that of course, he's worried about any situation where people could die, so I wanted to ask you again about the situation in the Anglophone areas of Cameroon. There are now reports that military gunship helicopters have fired at farmers, saying that they are fighters, and there's a whole town that was burned down. 6,000 people have fled across the border into Nigeria, so what exactly is the UN doing in that situation? Spokesman: Well, you know, we're following the situation, and our colleagues at UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] have said today that the number of people fleeing the English-speaking areas of Cameroon into Nigeria is growing, and they're increasingly concerned about the plight of women and children among them. We obviously share that concern. Women and children are about 80 per cent of the 10,000 refugees so far registered in the eastern part of Nigeria, and this situation we're continuing to follow. Inner City Press: And one other thing. WFP [World Food Programme] has found in an audit that… that they're not correctly protecting the personal data of the people whose data they take in order to provide aid to, that basically, it's all in a centralized database and it doesn't follow basic kind of safeguards. (To be continued)

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