Boko Haram threatening Nigerian refugees in Cameroon

Reports from northern Nigeria and its neighbouring countries indicate the Boko Haram insurgency threat is declining. This is due to a determined military coalition headed by Nigeria and including Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

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The question of whether the war is over or not is a vexed and complex one. While an insurgency can be defeated, it only takes a handful of committed followers and an underground network of sympathisers to sustain a hit-and-run guerrilla war. This also includes the use of terrorist suicide bombing attacks on soft targets.

The IRIN news agency reports on a recent attack on Nigerian refugees in the Minawao refugee camp in the far north region of Cameroon. There is concern that some of the refugees are vulnerable to recruitment by Boko Haram because of the poverty and hardship they have been forced to endure, partly caused through inadequate refugee support by donors. 

An additional concern is the failure of the Cameroonian government to address issues of isolation which its own citizens experience in the country’s least developed region. A 2017 UNHCR report states: “The Cameroonian government’s focus on a military response has been partly successful, but the structural problems that allowed this threat to arise have not been addressed.”

IRIN reports that the International Crisis Group (ICG), believe Boko Haram has been able to operate in Cameroon’s Far North Region through a network of local collaborators, where there is an ethnic and cultural affinity with Nigeria’s northeast. They have done this “by exploiting local grievances over the region’s marginalisation by the government of Paul Biya, who has ruled for 34 years.”

The IRIN report concludes: “The danger is not that the refugees are potential fifth columnists. The real threat, notes the ICG, comes from the absence of a government “hearts-and-minds” strategy in the region; to tackle head on inequality, and the ideological challenge that violent extremism represents.”

The full IRIN report might be accessed here:

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