Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

Africa: Peace and Security - Africa's Ultimate Chance to Fight Together

Some leaders including President Paul Biya in a pre-summit outing, addressed the disturbing issue of poaching and the threat on protected animal species on Thursday.

Pictures of the declining security situation in the Central African Republic on most TV stations here for two running days could not have provided a better setting to fully encapsulate the urgency of addressing Africa's security problems in a collective manner as the Paris Summit on the issue opens this afternoon at the Elysée Palace at the instance of the French President, François Hollande. The President of the Republic Paul Biya - whose commitment to the resolution of peace on the continent is growing by each passing day with the deployment of troops and other diplomatic initiatives in the CAR as the most recent manifestation - will be joining some 40 other African Heads of State and government here in Paris to harmonise strategies in view of talking the problem with the resolve the present-day situation requires.

But before the Summit proper opens this afternoon, the leaders have been using these precious moments in Paris to address other urgent issues posing other forms of developmental and social challenges. Yesterday, for instance a number of Heads of State joined President François Hollande at the Hotel de la Marine in Paris to address the growing threat on protected animal species in the continent. President Paul Biya made a keynote presentation; and this for very understandable reasons. Africa and more specifically, the Central African region have lately experienced a recrudescence of trans-border poaching. Cameroon experienced the peak of this new form of insecurity in 2012 with the brutal killing of some 100 elephants at the Bouba Ndjida National Park in the North Region by heavily-armed poachers said to have come as from far afield as Sudan. Security experts say these poachers are generally members of bigger armed groups which pose a security challenge to many countries. It is estimated that two-thirds of the entire elephant population in the Central African region has already been decimated by these nefarious practices.

When the President of the Republic took the floor yesterday, he spoke of several initiatives so far taken by Cameroon to stem the tide of this hazardous phenomenon. At national level, he announced that he had taken measures to deploy specialized defence forces in Bouba Ndjida, the increase in the number of eco-guards and the acquisition of light aerial surveillance material to ensure air coverage. He told his peers that those measures had paid off because poachers had been kept at bay.

At international level, the President said Cameroon had signed agreements with neighbouring States to protect the aerial space of the Central African region. Apart from these, he singled out other agreements with Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea on biodiversity.

The President of the Republic emphasized that these measures could be more effective with greater support from the international community through reinforcing capacities in training and equipment, for which Cameroon is seeking some seven million Euros while a national emergency plan on the surveillance of protected areas will cost some 192 million Euros.

This afternoon, the various Heads of State will receive a formal welcome ceremony at the Elysée Palace for a brief elbow-elbow exchange before real business of the Summit begins at the Centre de Conférence ministerial where they will conveyed to in a collective VIP coach. The Summit will be examining three key questions or themes: "Peace and Security", "Economic partnership" and development" and "Climatic change". This first day of the Summit will be devoted to security issues while discussions on the other two subjects have been planned for tomorrow Saturday. Today's activities will end with a reception for Summit participants and their spouses at the Elysée Palace hosted by Mr Hollande and his companion Valérie Trierweiler.

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