Yaounde — In Nigeria, when virtually any official travels, they move in large security convoys. Their homes are heavily fortified. With a recent spate of kidnappings by Boko Haram in Cameroon, now that country's government is following the Nigerian example.
Combat-ready soldiers of the elite corps, the rapid intervention battalion, have assembled to accompany Cameroon Minister of Tourism Bouba Bello Maigari and his delegation on a visit to northern regions that share a boundary with Nigeria. The military spokesman, Colonel Didier Badjeck, said it has been a routine activity for the military since Boko Haram started attacking Cameroon.
Badjeck said it is soldiers' responsibility to respond proportionately to increasing insecurity, and that they cannot work as dictated by public opinion but must be directed by the challenges ahead of them.
Minister Maigari said the presence of the military assures them of safety should Boko Haram attack.
"We can continue to trust our armed forces, and at the same time to back the armed forces, to back fully, totally our armed forces," said Maigari.
The decision to provide a military escort for officials visiting north Cameroon was taken after Boko Haram adopted targeted assassinations, kidnappings and hostage-taking.
In the past two years the group has targeted local chiefs and influential clerics, as well as kidnapping both locals and foreigners.
Last month they attacked the home of Ahmadou Ali, Cameroon's deputy prime minister, and kidnapped his wife after killing soldiers who guarded his residence. The vice prime minister himself narrowly escaped the attack.
Most drivers in the large security convoys accompanying ministers are military men.
This has angered some drivers of senior state functionaries, who receive additional allowances when they travel with their bosses.
Drivers' trade union activist Andre Engoulou said drivers who can no longer go on missions with their bosses because of the Boko Haram threat should be compensated financially.
Captain Hamman Djibril, who is in charge of the military protection unit for state officials, said Cameroon has also fortified security around the residences of its senior state workers and traditional rulers.
He said that for now, they have to assure the safety of senior workers because they are the ones targeted by Boko Haram and that very soon, using the means available, they will see what they can do as far as providing protection for all chiefs that have requested it.
Reacting to complaints that Cameroon is spending huge sums of money to protect state officials and leaving the population of some villages on their own, Djibril said that because of the increasing need to protect people, they have deployed additional troops to accompany travelers on public transport buses.
He said the difficulty they have is that when the assailants notice that there is a soldier in a public transport bus, they shoot indiscriminately and kill innocent travellers.
The attackers continue to show increasing sophistication in their ability to mount coordinated attacks, as they have always done in Nigeria.
Despite Cameroon's effort to protect the officials and travelers, Boko Haram last Wednesday attacked a security convoy.
The assailants killed two soldiers and nine civilians, exposing their gorged bodies along the road.
They also abducted two sons belonging to the chief of Zigué Zigagué, a locality in the Logone and Chari Division, and the elder brother to the chief of Waza, as well as a police officer.
Two of the attackers were killed.