A desperate woman has implored Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene in a violent conflict in the Central African nation of Cameroon that she said had claimed the lives of much of her family.
The woman, who has not been named by media outlets, fell to her knees crying in front of Mr Morrison as he toured Rockhampton’s Beef Week expo with reporters on Tuesday morning.
“I have no family left in this country. Help me, help me. Every day my people are being killed. I go through trauma every day, every day. Please help me,” the woman said to Mr Morrison.
She later told Nine News she had lost eight family members to the violence in Cameroon, which foreign media reports say has claimed thousands of lives in clashes between groups associated with the Francophone majority and an Anglophone minority.
“The youngest one was 22-years-old, he was supposed to come to Australia and he was buried alive,” the woman said. “I asked [Mr Morrison] if Australia can intervene to stop the genocide – if this thing doesn’t stop I will be left alone in this world.”
Mr Morrison said that Australia was taking in refugees, including from Africa, and helped the woman to her feet. “Thank you, thank you,” she said, shortly before the Prime Minister departed.
Local MP Michelle Landry, who was also present, said she would follow up with the woman.
“This lady has been into my office and spoken to staff, we have sent on her concerns to [the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] but I’ll certainly be following up with another meeting and we’ll contact the relevant people to see what can be done about this,” Ms Landry told reporters.
“We obviously take these things with great concern but we can’t actually tell other countries what they can do either, so a lot of this will depend on what relationship Australia has with these other countries and how much weight we have in those places.”
Violence in Cameroon, which was formed in the merger of an English-speaking territory with a French-speaking one, has escalated since peaceful protests from English speakers in 2016 triggered a hardline government crackdown.
A report from the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch said armed groups and government forces committed “widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial or summary executions and mass killings across Cameroon’s Anglophone regions throughout 2020.”
Australia last year slashed its refugee intake by thousands because of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Nick Bonyhady is industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based between Sydney and Parliament House in Canberra.