Cameroon’s anti-Boko Haram strategy hampers commerce

Cameroon has sealed parts of its long river border with Nigeria and prohibited travel from dusk to dawn as part of its measures to stop Boko Haram terrorism. Cameroon’s governors from areas sharing a border with neighboring Nigeria have expelled about 200 Chadians and arrested hundreds of people said to have Boko Haram sympathies.

Governor Bernard Okalia Bilai of south west Cameroon said border areas in his part of the country were closed to make sure suspected Boko Haram terrorists were not using the 300km river boundary with Nigeria to plan attacks.

The governor said many of the business people importing and exporting goods between the neighboring countries are from areas where the terrorists have been operating.

“We have decided that there is no longer traffic in the night. All the boats, all the ships coming from Nigeria or going to Nigeria should come in the day, and we have decided that all the creeks that cannot be controlled should be closed,” Bilai said.

The governor said checkpoints have been set up at approved entry and exit points where all river passengers and goods will be tested and verified.

According to the government, 80% of goods sold in south western and northern Cameroon are imported from Nigeria.

Businessman Embola Serge does not like the strict security measures and said the decision to prohibit free movement will cripple the economies of the two countries and make it difficult for traders to make a living.

He thinks the government of Cameroon has other alternatives to fight Boko Haram without impeding people’s liberties and stopping economic activity, and said by restricting river commerce, Cameroon is killing trade with Nigeria.

Officials along Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria have expelled about 3,000 Nigerians and 200 Chadians as part of its war on the Boko Haram terrorist group.

Since four suspected Boko Haram suicide bombings were reported in the country last month, hundreds accused of collaborating with the terrorists have been arrested. – VOA