9 May 2014

Cameroon Denies Harboring Nigerian Girls

Cameroon has refuted allegations that some of the more than 200 missing Nigerian schoolgirls have been sold for marriage within its borders. Boko Haram’s leader had vowed to sell the girls in the marketplace.

No other topic in recent years has generated such a heated debate in Cameroon as much as the activities of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram. The debate took on a new dimension when close to 300 girls were kidnapped from a school in northeastern Nigeria.

When the girls were kidnapped on April 14, some media reports suggested that some of them had been transferred to Cameroon and Chad.

There has been growing outrage over the missing schoolgirls

They were then being forced to marry Islamist extremists.

Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau warned in a video recording that he would sell the girls at the marketplace. Some sources in Nigeria said a bride price of $12 (9 euros) was all that one needed.

Plea not to marry girls

Muslims in Cameroon have been calling on their faithful not to marry any of these girls should they be offered to them. Muslim leader Nchotu Soule said anyone seen acting suspiciously with a girl should be reported to the authorities. "The prophet Mohammed insists that Islam is a religion of peace, Soule said. "Any true faithful of Islam will want to reject anything that comes from the Boko Haram," he addeed. "They are using our Muslim brothers here to be able to carry out their activities."

For some time now Cameroonian authorities have been warning that Boko Haram is keen on recruiting members from Cameroon. The situation worries many citizens such as Silas Mao, a university student in Yaounde.

Boko Haram attacks have forced an increasing number of Nigerians to seek refuge in Cameroon

He told DW very little is being done to stop Boko Haram. "If Cameroon and Nigeria decide, they can stop Boko Haram because I know that they are not more powerful than these states," Mao said. He also said he was sure the Islamist militant group had a base in Cameroon.

"If nothing is done we will find ourselves in a situation like the one in Arab states where such people dictate what is done," Mao warned.

False allegations

Cameroon's Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakari, told DW that he was shocked by accusations that Cameroon was not collaborating with Nigeria to free the girls from their captors. "We insist that allegations from Nigeria that a part of the 200 young female students recently kidnapped in the North East of Nigeria would have been transferred to Cameroon to be forced into marriage to members of the Boko Haram sect are fully unfounded," Tchiroma Bakari said.

"Cameroon will never ever serve as a support base for destabilization activities towards other countries," the minister said.

Tchiroma Bakari said Cameroon was a victim of what he called ‘rather unfortunate and heinous crimes' in Nigeria. He vowed that his country would spare no effort in combating terrorism.

"Cameroon is subject to attacks perpetrated from neighboring countries and by nationals of those countries," Tchiroma Bakari complained. He stressed that the West Central African country was ready to cooperate with neighboring countries in the fight against transborder crime.

US intervention welcomed

Many Cameroonians have welcomed the news that the United States is to join in the hunt for the missing girls.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has warned of more attacks

Lukong Mildred, a businesswoman in the capital Yaounde, said it was about time for outside help to step in and boost the fight against Boko Haram. "I call on the international community to intervene in this issue because this is when we actually need the international community to come in."

Cameroon may have rebutted claims that the missing Nigeria schoolgirls are on its territory, but still has to contend with allegations that Boko Haram has been using the country's porous borders to traffic arms.

This week, suspected Boko Haram members attacked a Cameroonian army post in Kousseri on the border with Borno State and freed one of its leaders. Two people reportedly died in the attack. Four Cameroonians died in another attack at a local market in the Nigerian village of Gambourou, Borno state.

Almost 3,000 Nigerians have sought refuge in neighboring Cameroon as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency.

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