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Boko Haram - 2017

In December 2016, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced troops had chased Boko Haram militants out of their key remaining base in the Sambisa forest, another former stronghold that straddles Cameroons border with Nigeria. Cameroon and Nigeria that same month reopened the border between the two countries for the first time in three years. Cameroon has since called for vigilance and collaboration between its military and the population, stating that the insurgents had resorted to large-scale suicide bombings as their firepower had been greatly reduced. Boko Haram's six-year insurgency had killed more than 25,000 people and displaced nearly 2.3 million, according to rights groups and the United Nations.

Authorities in Cameroon, where Nigerians fleeing for their lives have been arriving for the past few years, said in erly 2017 that the government is struggling with the economic, security and humanitarian impact of the tide of refugees. In addition to the more than 85,000 refugees it hosts from Nigeria, and more than 150,000 others who have fled sectarian violence in the neighboring Central African Republic, Cameroon has also seen nearly 200,000 of its own citizens displaced by Boko Haram, as the terrorists spread into isolated and insecure areas in the country's Far North Region, close to the Nigerian border.

Cameroon says it had killed at least 60 Boko Haram fighters and destroyed a stronghold for the militant group, as well as a huge stock of seized weapons, in fighting along its northern border. Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon minister of communication and a government spokesperson, said March 14, 2017 , since January 26, thousands of Cameroon soldiers, supported by Nigerian troops, have launched raids on Boko Haram strongholds in the Mandara mountains, freeing more than 5,000 people, including women and children, from captivity. Issa Tchiroma said at least 60 terrorists have been killed since the offensive began in late January 2017.

The Council of Muslim Dignitaries and Imams of Cameroon has dispatched its members to the area to educate the population and instruct local Muslim clerics to be watchful. The councils president, Moussa Oumarou, says terrorists use this holy month of fasting to deceive young Muslims that if they die fighting for Allah they will go straight to paradise. He says poverty makes youth more vulnerable to that message.

Nigerians celebrated March 2017 as 82 of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram were released and returned to the capital, Abuja. A total of 103 girls have been released since the kidnapping more than three years ago. Despite the joy, questions remain about the fate of the 113 girls still being held captive. Additionally, some are questioning the ethics and long-term implications of the negotiating tactics used by the Nigerian government. Talks to free the girls date back several years. In October 2016, 21 girls were released, although few details were given at the time about what was exchanged for their release.

By June 2017 thousands of Nigerian refugees fleeing Boko Haram atrocities were trapped in difficult humanitarian and security conditions near Cameroon's northern border. They were crammed in a makeshift camp not far from another camp hosting 2,000 internally displaced Cameroonians.

The governments of Cameroon and Nigeria signed in a tripartite agreement with UNHCR in March 2017 stipulating that refugees who choose not to return to Nigeria should not be forced to go back. Rene Emmanuel Sadi, Cameroon's minister of territorial administration and decentralization, says the camp, which was created to host 25,000 refugees, is now home to 75,000. The number had diminished to 60,000 last month when some refugees decided to return.

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Page last modified: 11-09-2017 16:28:10 ZULU