29 May 2014

Nigeria: Country's Neighbors Gearing Up Against Boko Haram

The terrorist group Boko Haram still has more than 200 girls in their custody. To prevent a further spill over, Cameroon and Chad have sent military to the border region in a bid to stop the extremists.

The northern area of Cameroon is no longer safe. The mountainous region between Nigeria and Chad has become a refuge for Boko Haram. In order to protect itself from further attacks, Cameroon has stationed around 1,000 soldiers and armoured vehicles at the border with Nigeria.

When searching for the Islamists, the army has to rely on information from the public, says General Didier Badjeck, spokesperson for the Cameroonian military. "We need total collaboration from the public. This will encourage us in the field to know exactly that people are thinking about us and are supporting their defense forces."

Nigeria's government has repeatedly criticized Cameroon and other neighboring countries for not doing enough to fight terror.

Around three million people live in the affected area in northern Cameroon. In addition to that, 30,000 people have fled across the border from Nigeria to Cameroon since the terror began.

United against terror

Even Chad has soldiers stationed at the border, says Cameroon's Defense Minister, Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo'o. He and his Chadian counterpart Benaindo Tatola recently met in Yaounde. Military forces from both sides are to fight Boko Haram on Nigerian soil - together with Nigerian troops.

The issue to deploy troops was agreed upon last Thursday (22.05.2014) by Chad's President Idriss Deby and Cameroon's head of state, Paul Biya. It is the first concrete action since the Anti-Terrorism Summit in Paris. In mid-May, France, Nigeria and its neghboring countries, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin, decided upon a plan to fight the Islamists. They agreed to strengthen the exchange of information amongst intelligence agencies, coordinate actions of the African military and control borders within Africa.

Internal problems in Nigeria?

Up until now Boko Haram has been an internal problem for Nigeria, which shouldn't be forgotten, says Fonka Awah, the governor of Cameroon's Far North Region. "Until now, [they] could not get involved in an issue happening in another country," Awah said, while adding that they need to "because they are trying to get into our territory."

Just two weeks ago, suspected Boko Haram gunmen attacked Chinese workers stationed in Northern Cameroon, at least one person was killed and 10 more kidnapped.

The number of attacks are mounting. Cameroon says Nigeria is responsible. The army no longer has the situation under control, says Awah. Nigerian soldiers are ruuning away from the milita and crossing the border in to Cameroon. "That is the situation and now they are exporting their problems into our territory and the Far North Region in particular."

Efforts to free abducted girls

Over the past six weeks the search for the school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram has made little progress. Now Nigeria's former President Olusegun Obasanjo is trying to mediate. According to the AFP news agency, Obasanjo has met with Boko Haram officals to negotiate the girls' release. The talks also centered around the exchange of imprisoned Boko Harm members - something ruled out in advance by the government in Abuja.

Many blame the government for failing to locate the missing girls

For the girls' parents, the mediation attempt was a glimmer of hope, says Mohammed Ali Ndume, he is responsible for the rescue of the adbucted girls from Chibok in the Senate. "Obasanjo is a person who commands respect. I think, they should sit secretly and discuss this matter. The important thing is that the whole world is eager to see the girls saved. So whatever he plans to do to get them released should be supported," Ndume told DW.

Nigerians blame government

Many Nigerians demonstrated for the release of the girls and accused the government in Abuja of failing in its fight against terror. "[Obasanjo] has ruled this country twice, so whatever he does, it will not be for the sake of making a name for himself but only for the benefit of the country," the senator says.

Obasanjo ruled the country until 2007 and has repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Boko Haram. It is unclear to what extent he has the backing of current President Goodluck Johnathan. Relations between the two politicians are tense.

Nigeria's military chief, Air Force Marshal Alex Badeh, annouced at the beginning of the week that the location of the girls was known, but they would not be freed by force in order to protect them. Washington doubts the girls can really be found.


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