YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — The Red Cross warned Wednesday that its emblem is being falsely used in violence-plagued parts of Cameroon and threatened legal action.
Some humanitarian agencies in Cameroon's north and east are using the well-known red cross on a white background without permission, said Nicolas Mbako, director of operational development at the Cameroon Red Cross.
"The danger which arises from such illegal use is the reduction of the protective value of the emblem there by putting in peril all humanitarian assistance," Mbako said. The organization fears that its volunteers could end up targeted by combatants if they lose confidence in the emblem.
Cameroon's eastern border is sheltering about 200,000 refugees from Central African Republic, it said. The country's north hosts close to 80,000 people fleeing Nigeria's Boko Haram insurgency and 100,000, internally displaced persons.
Emmerencia Moussa of Cameroon Self Reliance, a relief agency helping the refugees, says their workers sometimes pose as Red Cross volunteers to avoid a possible attack from insurgents or Cameroonian soldiers who might mistake them for attackers.
"Nobody has ever told us not to use the red cross signal and when we use it nobody disturbs us. We put it in our cars, we put it in our office and nobody disturbs us," she said.
Mbako said that abusers can and will be prosecuted if necessary. "International laws and the Cameroon penal code severely punishes anyone who abuses international emblems with fines and prison sentences," he said.
The Red Cross is a humanitarian organization helping those caught up in armed conflicts around the globe.