Voice of America (Washington, DC)

14 April 2014

Cameroon: Questions Raised About Arms Seizures

Yaounde — Cameroon's government says it has seized huge consignments of arms and ammunition destined for Nigerian militant group Boko Haram. Residents in the area of the alleged seizure, however, say they are unaware of any such activity.

"The governor of the Far North Region has congratulated the forces of law and order and administrative authorities of Logone and Chari Division for impounding a huge quantity of arms and ammunition which was being smuggled for onward supply to the Boko Haram group," said the government announcement.

Cameroon state radio has broadcast this message several times, saying that Cameroon's defense forces seized some 5,400 firearms destined for Nigeria's Boko Haram sect in Borno State.

The news was announced after the Cameroon government dismissed media reports that groups like Boko Haram are using its territory as a training ground.

Cameroon's minister of communication and government spokesperson, Issa Tciroma Bakari, said that by seizing the arms, Cameroon had proved to the world that it is cooperating with Nigeria to stop Boko Haram threats.

"This is the best way to deny any allegations that Cameroon is being used as a base for insurgents, for the destabilization of other countries," said Bakari.

The government said the arms were seized in the sub-division of Gulfe, in the Far North Cameroon region.

Competing reports

Forty-year-old businessman Ibrahima Dewa told VOA they had not seen any weapons in their village.

"I set out for the hard-to-access locality on a motorcycle," he said. "People there did not seem to be aware that a huge consignment of weapons had been seized in their locality."

Dewa said Cameroonian policemen move around the village with guns and lately they have seen an increase in the number of military men with guns.

Seventy-year-old Alim Bachir, chief of Kekte village, where the arms were said to have been seized, said he was rather scandalized that state radio and the country's officials could, in his words, mislead the people.

He was emphatic that no arms had been seized in his village, and he said that nobody had been arrested or detained for transporting arms as the government had reported.

Bachir said he is the chief of the village so if the news were true, he should have been informed.

Cameroon Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakari refused to comment on the apparent discrepancies in the state radio reports.

"I heard the information, too, but in my capacity as the minister of communication, member of government, I will make no statement whatsoever. I will make no statement," said Bakari.

He described claims, however, that the arms did not exist as defamatory.

"Cameroon is calling on the authors of this defamatory campaign to put an end to it," he said.

Growing issue

Last month Nigeria asked its neighbors in the Lake Chad Basin Commission to create a task force to handle terrorists, but Cameroon said it would only contribute troops when there is need.

Suspected Boko Haram members so far have kidnapped nine French persons, two Italians and a Canadian in Cameroon. Ibrahim Njowel, a cattle rancher in Kousseri, North Cameroon says the sect remains a threat.

He said the sect is becoming a danger for Cameroon. He also said he had heard that three clergy were again kidnapped, and said he believes Boko Haram is becoming a serious problem in Cameroon.

Cameroon has promised to track down any terrorists and keep its territory safe.

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