Yaoundé - Following the publication of defamatory accusations in certain Cameroonian media organisations, alleging that Doctors Without Borders has provided active support to non-state armed groups in the North-West region, we respond with the following statement:
“Doctors Without Borders categorically rejects the allegations of having provided support for separatist fighters in the North-West.
We affirm as an absolute that we have never facilitated the transport of arms, ammunition or armed combatants, and have never provided logistical or financial support to any of the parties to the ongoing crisis. In Cameroon as everywhere else in the world, we operate in the strictest respect of our charter, which requires us to act in a framework of total independence, neutrality and impartiality and to apply a policy of zero tolerance for the presence of weapons in the structures and vehicles we support and maintain.
Doctors Without Borders has been working in Cameroon for over 35 years, and in the North-West and South-West regions since 2018. For months, we have engaged continually with Cameroonian authorities in order to find a solution to the suspension of our activities in the North-West. We have taken every available opportunity to provide transparency and clarity on all the allegations that have been issued, and to demonstrate a total absence of collusion with any armed group or party to the ongoing crisis.
Doctors Without Borders categorically rejects the allegations of having provided support for separatist fighters in the North-West.
During these discussions, we identified areas for improvement in our level of communication with the Cameroonian authorities, and we shared our deep concerns on the difficulties and serious incidents we have faced from both the armed forces of the state and non-state armed groups in the North-West and South-West regions.
In particular we disclosed serious violations of humanitarian principles, including: harassment, death threats, ambulances being fired upon, carjackings, excessive delays at checkpoints while transporting critically ill patients, and even the murder of a community health worker in the South-West.
In Cameroon, as everywhere else in the world, Doctors Without Borders’ teams are in contact with the armed forces of the state, and non-state armed groups. This is to ensure the safety of our teams and patients and to guarantee access to care. Maintaining contact with these actors cannot and must not be equated with collusion.
The allegations recently published by certain media organisations put both our patients and our staff in serious and immediate danger. Medical staff supporting access to healthcare have faced serious incidents with armed actors – incidents fuelled by these allegations. We therefore call for vigilance and accountability when issuing public statements and reports.
In view of our ongoing dialogue and total transparency with the Cameroonian authorities, we demand the cessation of defamatory allegations against our organisation.
We also reiterate our call, as expressed in our press release of 22 June, that the suspension of our activities be lifted in the North-West in view of its impact on local communities.
In Cameroon, as in other countries around the world, MSF teams will continue striving to provide essential care to those most in need: to those suffering the effects of armed conflict and violence, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from healthcare, or natural disasters. We will provide this assistance irrespective of race, religion, creed or political convictions.”