Cameron has deployed hundreds of troops along the Nigerian border after attacks by Boko Haram militants forced more than 40,000 residents to flee the area in the past two months. Cameroon’s defense minister visits the border to assess the security situation and reassure the villagers that it is safe to return home.
The Cameroonian military says Boko Haram incursions into Mayo Tsanaga, an administrative unit on its northern border with Nigeria, have increased dramatically since April.
Every day, armed members of the Nigerian terrorist group cross the border into Cameroon, attack villages and steal livestock and food, the military said.
Cameroon Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo said on Thursday that President Paul Biya had asked him to lead a delegation of senior military officials to the border. Assomo, whose delegation was in the Mokollo area where Mayo Tsanaga is located, says several hundred troops have been deployed to protect civilians and their property.
He said that the self-defense groups should cooperate with the army.
Assomo says that from now on, all militias must be registered and controlled by local authorities and the Cameroonian military. He says that the members of the militia group must be people of unquestioning honesty. Assomo says government troops and local officials are noting that Boko Haram terrorists have infiltrated the militia, adding that the military will vigorously fight the terrorists and bring back civilians trapped on the Nigerian border.
Usman Aliu is from Duwan, a village on the Nigerian border. He says, with the exception of a few elderly people, almost everyone has fled Duvan. He spoke through a messaging app from Mokollo.
“There are 10,000 people living in Duvan and when I was there last week I only saw 15 people in Duvan,” Aliu said. “So, I ask the Minister to do something for us, please. Come and help us. Our people are sleeping on the mountain.”
In May, villagers along Cameroon’s northern border with Chad and Nigeria staged daily protests in front of government offices, demanding that the military protect them.
Deguime is the mayor of the Mokollo district. He says that if the military had reacted faster to the request of the villagers, the civilians would have been spared from fleeing their homes.
He says the situation is getting worse every day. He says that in three weeks, Boko Haram militants destroyed several dozen villages, stole food and livestock. Deguime says more than 30,000 of the 40,000 Cameroonians who have fled their villages are hiding in the bushes on the Nigerian border.
Deguime said some fleeing villagers are taking refuge in host communities in safer border areas.
Local media reports that Cameroon recently withdrew some of its troops from the northern border with Nigeria and Chad and redeployed them to fight separatist rebels in the west of the country. Cameroon’s military denies the allegations and says the troops are always on standby to protect civilians when the need arises.