Boko Haram’s caliphate moves to target Christians in Cameroon

by - 17th September 2014

AS THE DETAILS of atrocities committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria continue to emerge, fears are now growing for neighbouring Cameroon, which is also coming under fire from the Islamic militants. 

According to recent reports, Cameroon's border area is becoming increasingly deserted due to persistent attacks, looting and kidnappings by suspected Boko Haram fighters.

Boko Haram’s caliphate has, like Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, imposed a strict interpretation of sharia law that has led to beheadings and forced marriages, especially among Christians. 

Islamist fighters also kidnapped the deputy prime minister of Cameroon’s wife after attacking his home in the northern town of Kolofata. The town is close to the border with Borno State, which has been the centre of Boko Haram activity in northern Nigeria.

Ransacked

Other towns along the Cameroon border with northern Nigeria have been attacked. In Assighassia two church elders - Zerubbabel Tchamaya and Samuel Lada - were beheaded. In the village of Cherif Moussary a church was ransacked and the residence of the pastor burned down. Many Christian families were stripped of their properties. A similar act of desecration was also reported at Mouldougoua village.

Cameroon’s military reported last week it had killed over 100 Boko Haram fighters who travelled over the Nigeria-Cameroon border to target Fotokol. Cameroon state Television said the army fired mortars at the fighters and pushed them back into Nigeria.

‘The assailants attack in the night, when the army is no longer patrolling in the villages. They enter the houses of Christians and strip them of their properties… Several churches were ransacked and valuables such as musical instruments were destroyed or taken away…’, said a local community leader.

Kah Walla, president of the National Council of the Cameroon People’s Party feels the threat will seriously hamper international development efforts.  She said on Saturday that Boko Haram is ‘bringing Cameroon and Nigeria to a point that’s going to determine at least the next 50, if not 100 years.

‘People don’t realize the extent of this crisis, how deep it is, and what kind of a determinant it is for these two countries.’

Displaced

The news of Boko Haram’s offensive into Cameroon comes as churches attempt to contain tens of thousands of Nigerian refugees and internally displaced people. The Council of Protestant Churches in the Far North region has set up a crisis committee.

One of the regional leaders of the Council of Protestant Churches’ crisis committee Revd Samuel Heteck, said: ‘The action of our churches has initially consisted of providing the refugees and IDPs with food, shelter and medicines. But now, the capacity of our churches is overwhelmed, as their number has increased up to threefold.

‘More than 9,600 displaced people were recorded in two weeks. Some are welcomed within church compounds and others in the UN Minawao refugee camp in Mokolo [in northern Cameroon].

‘After more than a year of social action, we now face a depletion of our resources. Unfortunately the help and generosity of our brethren from abroad has been slow to appear.'

In June Lapido Media reported that 520,000 people had moved away from northern Nigeria, including into Cameroon, because of the conflict. Yesterday the UN refugee agency UNHCR made its latest appeal of $34m to ‘provide lifesaving assistance’ to 75,000 Nigerians who had left the country since last year.

Abandoned

The far north of Cameroon is a vast semi-desert area that lacks basic infrastructure. Political leaders have been accused of abandoning it.

The destruction of farms and livestock by Boko Haram militants has raised the prospect of widespread famine in the region. In July, the World Food Programme (WFP) started providing humanitarian assistance to Nigerian refugees in Cameroon.

‘Local authorities have done their best to help, but these refugees are in urgent need of food and assistance. We found alarming levels of malnutrition, particularly among children. This is a priority for the WFP and its humanitarian partners’ said Jacques Roy, WFP Representative in Cameroon.