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Cameroon Army

The great majority of the active duty military men about 4,000 by 1973 were in the ground forces. Most of the light weapons in use by the ground forces rifles, pistols, light machineguns, and other personal weapons were of French manufacture and were old but serviceable. A small number of more modern, Belgian-made rifles were also in use, and a few other items had reportedly been purchased from the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the United States. Heavier weapons included recoilless rifles, field guns, and several kinds of mortars.

Engineer and support units of the army had been more active than other components of the armed services in the economic development mission. In 1966, as their most important project, they began construction of a modern road over a ninety-mile route through a mountainous area extending across the border between Littoral and Western provinces. Government leaders apparently hoped to reduce the chronic unrest and interethnic conflict in this area by improving the access to new land, creating employment, and facilitating new settlements near the road, where agricultural and health services could be made available to a larger number of people. The engineers completed the project in 1970. They were reported to be proud of their achievement and confident that they had learned skills that would enable them to do a better job in less time on future projects.

Pomp and solemnity marked the first day of the celebrations of the Fiftieth anniversary of the army in Bamenda, capital of the North West region, on 08 December 2010. The Head of State, Paul Biya, chairing the colorful ceremony, expressed the appreciation and gratitude of the entire nation to the ranks of men and women for their active participation in maintaining peace in Cameroon. "The history and the present and future generations will remember in fact that the Cameroonian army has always been loyal and republican. It never failed. And whenever circumstances demanded, it has done its job, nothing but work. "It is in these terms that the Head of State summarized the republican loyalty of the army over the last fifty years. He then praised the courage and selflessness of the defense forces in the resolution of the Bakassi border dispute. The conduct of the Bakassi case, he stressed, "is often done at the risk of the lives of our soldiers." To these soldiers who fell in battle for the defense of the country, the head of state praised their memory "with emotion".

The recognition of the supreme head of the armed went beyond words. Standing on the platform of the flamboyant grandstand of 1,500 seats built for the occasion by the Cameroonian army, the President Biya announced in its bilingual speech about fifteen minutes, a host of measures to reward merit and meaning sacrifice in the ranks. Including the creation of the Cross of military valor, the first contingent was honored at the beginning of the ceremony. The Head of State said he ordered the erection of several monuments and headstones, the "Monument of Death" on which he will lay a wreath tomorrow, to perpetuate the memory of men fallen in battle.

Apart from these important steps, the first Cameroon committed to continue the army reform started in 2001, whose major axes are rejuvenation and professionalization of staff, equipment modernization and improvement of the lives of military personnel. It has also decided to create a General Secretariat for veterans, former military and war victims. Dressed in his military authority, the supreme head of the armed decided to delete the 4th step of the grade of Captain and Lieutenant; to harmonize the retirement age to retire for personal non commissioned officers and junior officers.

A housing construction program for emergency military activity was established to facilitate access to military real estate. Their power bonus will be upgraded to stick to economic conditions. The head of state, then addressed his "fellow of the beautiful Northwest region." To these people, President Biya has booked a surprise gift: the creation of a university in Bamenda. The announcement, greeted by a burst of applause, meets the deepest longings of a region that is full of a growing youth. Leaning on the role of the military in national construction, Paul Biya has said the government will spare no effort to meet the expectations of the Northwest populations.

Several projects had already been made there, including road improvements which he assured that the rehabilitation will be continued. Moreover, he gave instructions for the installation of a power station in Bamenda, to end power cuts in the city, waiting for the next construction of the hydroelectric dam on the Menchum. President Paul Biya also revealed that he has instructed the Government to study the construction of a referral hospital in Bamenda.

The speech of the Head of State was preceded by the speech of the Government Delegate of the urban community of Bamenda, Vincent Nji Ndumu, who described the event as a celebration of 50 years of peace under the leadership of man Renewal. The ceremony ended with a parade of the different components of the national army. The festivities continue tomorrow, 9 December. The program provides for the filing of a wreath at the "monument of the Dead" followed by the presentation of the joint exercise to airport Bamenda-Bafut.

Lamenting the weakness of his military, President Biya said in 2008 "it is such a shame that I have such a bad Minister of Defense." Referring to Remy Ze Meka the Minister Delegue for Defense, Biya said: "He is completely corrupt, but I can not get rid of him before August 14." Biya added that members of his staff had warned him that firing the Defense Minister and the senior military officers (whom Biya has already disparaged as too old and corrupt) risked a "situation like Mauritania," but that he had argued that "a weak military is in itself destabilizing." Biya said he had seen photos of poorly equipped Cameroonian troops in Bakassi, who looked like a "ragtag" army.

Though adequately trained, the Cameroon Army does not have operational experience against other forces; therefore, it is not possible to assess its ability to respond to changing threats and opposing tactics. There were several reports that members of defense and security forces committed arbitrary and unlawful killings, either in the execution of their official duties or as part of their private affairs. Two units within the army--the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) and the Motorized Infantry Battalion--the gendarmerie, and police were cited by civil society organizations and Amnesty International (AI) as being responsible for the violations.

In 2006 the Chief of Staff of Cameroon's Armed Forces, General Ren-Claude MEKA, made it clear that Cameroon was ready and willing to move forward with preparations to eventually contribute a battalion-sized element towards international peacekeeping operations. General MEKA admitted that the current state of materiel readiness of Cameroon's Armed Forces was insufficient to support immediate deployment. As for what Cameroon might contribute to peacekeeping operations, General MEKA specifically pointed to the BBR (a lightly armored, wheeled reconnaissance battalion, based in Douala) as a potential unit for refurbishment and peacekeeping training. The BBR is considered to be a relatively elite unit, but its Commando 150 armored vehicles are old, in very poor condition, and definitely not effectively deployable.





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