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Cameroon to receive Russian weapons

A Russian tank.Cameroon will this year receive artillery, missiles, armoured trucks and other weapons from Russia, according to the country’s government.

Russia’s ambassador Nikolay Ratsiborinskiy met with President Paul Biya on January 16 and discussed a number of issues. In a statement released after the meeting, the president’s office said that, “By the end of the year, the Cameroonian army will be equipped with the most sophisticated military equipment from Russia. This will among other latest generation of weapons, heavy artillery, including missiles, air protection, anti-aircraft missile system, and cannon. Armoured trucks of Russian production will also be delivered to Cameroon to transport troops. To ensure proper use of this equipment, Russia is ready to welcome the young Cameroonians for the training of civilian and military specialists.”

Cameroon has increased its defence budget as it attempts to deal with Boko Haram militants carrying out raids in its territory. According to figures obtained by IHS Janes from a Cameroonian defence official, the Ministry of Defence's budget will grow from CFA198.5 billion ($355 million) in 2014 to CFA212 billion ($376 million) in 2015. After taking into account inflation of 2.7%, this works out as an increase of $16 million in real terms.

At the end of last year, Cameroon became the first country outside of Nigeria to launch coordinated air strikes against Boko Haram. According to Reuters, about a thousand Jihadists had entered the country, “attacking five villages and temporarily seizing a Cameroonian military base”.

“Fighter planes went into action for the first time since the start of the conflict,” Cameroonian Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told Al Jazeera. “Militants were driven out after two strikes and heavy fire”, he added. Later on President Biya reportedly deployed more than 1 000 troops to the Nigerian border to fortify against follow-up attacks. Meanwhile, neighbouring Chad has agreed to send troops to Cameroon to combat Boko Haram.

If Cameroon does indeed receive weapons from Russia, it will be a shift away from China, which is supplying a significant amount of hardware to the West African nation, such as two P-108 patrol vessels being built by Poly Technologies. In May last year Cameroon unveiled a variety of new Chinese hardware, including Type 07P infantry fighting vehicles and PTL-02-type tank destroyers.

Apparently Germany has provided over a 100 military vehicles to Cameroon to help it fight Boko Haram militants. Cameroon’s forces are gradually being re-equipped – for example in August 2013 Cameroon ordered Mi-17 helicopters from Russia and in July that year received a CN235-300 medium transport from Airbus. A French OPV-54 patrol craft was delivered in 2012 while two Aresa-320 patrol boats from Spain were delivered last year.

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