Cameroon sends troops to CAR and Nigeria borders to stop attacks

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Cameroon is deploying troops to its borders in response to a resurgence of Boko Haram attacks in the country’s Far North region.

In April, the military said hundreds of Boko Haram fighters had invaded the Mayo Moskota district along the northern border with Nigeria and were hiding in the bush. Several hundred homes were set on fire, leaving thousands homeless.

Junior parliamentarian Platta Baganama visited Mayo Moskota after an attack and tried to assure residents that the government would take action.

“I know the challenges faced by my people,” he told Equinoxe TV in March. “Over 100 young people have been killed by Boko Haram fighters. My people are suffering.”

Residents have fled into the mountains and forests nearby and said economic activity in their area was paralyzed. Access to safe drinking water and health care also has been limited.

Teacher Marie Claire Wandala said many students no longer attend school and have been traumatized by the violence.

“Those who now live on the mountains, especially the children, often fall sick because of the harsh climatic conditions,” she told Equinoxe TV. “Many of these children now suffer with asthma and coughing.”

Cameroonian Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo held an emergency security meeting in the capital, Yaoundé, in late April and condemned the attacks, which he said occur almost weekly.

He said civilian self-defense militias have struggled to combat thousands of extremists who have been crossing into Cameroon from Nigeria since January.

The Cameroonian military also announced a deployment to its border with the Central African Republic (CAR) after determining that rebels there regularly have crossed into eastern Cameroon for supplies after fleeing from clashes with United Nations peacekeepers in the CAR.

Although not affiliated with Boko Haram, the CAR rebels pose a security threat, as they reportedly have abducted civilians for ransom in eastern Cameroon.

Cameroon’s government continues to look for military solutions.

Its military training institutes announced a graduating class of 2,500 troops in March. At the time, the government said it expects to train 3,000 more Soldiers within the next 20 months to protect civilians and their property.

In northern Cameroon, the spike in attacks by Boko Haram militants has broken what was a relatively lengthy period of peace.

Villagers in the region have said that Cameroon’s military began withdrawing troops after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was killed in battle with an extremist militant splinter group in May 2021.

After months of in-fighting, mass surrenders and disarray, Boko Haram combatants appear to be reemerging.

Célestin Delanga, a researcher with the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS), identified significant deficiencies in Cameroon’s disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process as part of the problem.

Managers at a DDR center in the northern Cameroonian town of Méri said the facility has more than 2,500 in a space intended for 150 people. They told ISS the facility does not screen defectors.

“By distinguishing between fighters, hostages, couriers, slaves or logisticians, those who remain radicalized and dangerous, are identified,” Delanga wrote in an April 17 article for ISS.

“Reintegration is vital to reduce the threat of violent extremism and mitigate the upswing of organized crime linked to the presence of former Boko Haram associates in communities.”

A lack of successful reintegration sometimes can lead to violence.

“Former associates can face reprisals from Boko Haram’s victims, because no prosecutions or reconciliation have taken place to prove their innocence or guilt,” Delanga wrote.

Community sources in Méri, which lies about 40 kilometers south of Mayo Moskota, told ISS that more than 100 former fighters and members — disillusioned by their treatment at the center or left unmonitored in communities — have returned to Boko Haram since Shekau’s death.

“The poor conditions in the Méri center would also deter many fighters from surrendering,” he wrote.

Written by Africa Defense Forum and republished with permission. The original article can be found here.