Terror in Africa: Cameroon needs more Western help against Boko Haram


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The Independent Online

This week’s series of dispatches from The Independent’s correspondent in Cameroon has provided a timely reminder that, while our attention has been drawn back to Isis’s horrors in Iraq and Syria, the menace of Boko Haram in and beyond Nigeria remains horribly real.

Failures by the Nigerian government to tackle the threat from the jihadists have inevitably placed an increasing burden on neighbouring countries. Cameroon, along with Chad, has borne the brunt. It has received tens of thousands of refugees, who have fled for their lives across the border, often accompanied by terrible tales of trauma, brutality and loss.

The Cameroonian military has sought to degrade Boko Haram’s capability, but it is stymied by a lack of co-operation from the Nigerian authorities, who seem more intent on maintaining the country’s frontiers than working together to crush the insurgents.

Cameroon has in some respects been a relative success story of Africa’s post-colonial age. It has recently experienced solid economic growth in several sectors and government has been stable and popular, with presidential power having been in the same hands for more than three decades. Corruption remains a perennial problem, media freedom is limited and the country was hit by global falls in the price of oil last year. Even so, there are reasons to be positive.

Yet to assure future peace and prosperity, Cameroon and its neighbours need greater assistance in their fight against the Islamist insurgency and in dealing with the refugee crisis that has ensued. That international donors have so far stumped up just 8 per cent of the UNHCR’s funding requirements for Cameroon this year is frankly shameful.

Only regional governments can finally defeat the grisly Boko Haram. But to do that requires better co-operation with one another, as well as greater levels of support from the West.