VOA | YAOUNDE, CAMEROON — Cameron has deployed hundreds of troops along its border with Nigeria after attacks by Boko Haram militants forced more than 40,000 villagers over the past two months to flee the area. Cameroon’s defense minister is visiting the border to assess the security situation and assure villagers that it is safe to return home.
Cameroon’s military reports that Boko Haram incursions in Mayo Tsanaga, an administrative unit on its northern border with Nigeria, have increased drastically since April.
Each day, armed members of the Nigerian terror group cross over to Cameroon, attack villages and steal cattle and food, the military reports.
Cameroon’s defense minister, Joseph Beti Assomo, said Thursday President Paul Biya asked him to lead a delegation of top military officials to the border. Assomo, whose delegation was in Mokollo district where Mayo Tsanaga is located, says several hundred troops have been deployed to protect civilians and their goods.
He said that self-protection groups must cooperate with the army.
Assomo says all militias must henceforth be registered and controlled by local government officials and Cameroon military. He says militia group members should be people of unquestionable integrity. Assomo says government troops and local officials note that militias have been infiltrated by Boko Haram terrorists and adds that the military will energetically fight terrorists and bring back civilians trapped along the border with Nigeria.
Ousman Aliou is from Duvan, a village on the border with Nigeria. He says except for a few elderly persons, almost everybody has escaped from Duvan. He spoke via a messaging app from Mokollo.
“Duvan has got 10,000 population and when I went there last week, I saw only 15 people in Duvan,” Aliou said. “So, I am asking Mr. 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 organized daily protests in front of government offices demanding the military protect them.
Vohod Deguime is mayor of the Mokollo district. He says if the military had responded more quickly to the villagers’ plea, civilians would have been spared from fleeing their homes.
He says the situation is getting worse as the days go by. He says several dozen villages have been destroyed over three weeks by Boko Haram, and food and cattle stolen. Deguime says more than 30,000 of the 40,000 Cameroonians who have escaped from their villages are hiding in bushes on the border with Nigeria.
Deguime said some of the fleeing villagers are finding refuge in host communities in safer border localities.
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 dismiss the claims and say troops are always on standby to defend civilians when the need arises.