Cameroon claims that its neighbouring countries are to blame for the proliferation of Boko Haram, anglophone separatists, and criminal activity within the country. The military estimates that more than 100,000 illegal small guns smuggled in from neighbouring Chad and Nigeria remain at large.
On Tuesday, Cameroonian military leaders met in Maroua and Garoua, close to the country’s borders with Chad and Nigeria, to discuss the issue of arms smuggling.
The military has stated that smuggled guns from its neighbours are to blame for the rise of Boko Haram, separatists, and border crime.
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Colonel Jean Jacques Fouda, who is in charge of the military’s anti-proliferation efforts, has stated that many of the illegal armaments recovered in northern Cameroon originate from conflict zones such as the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, and even Sudan.
He warned that Boko Haram’s distribution of firearms to civilians so that they can fight government soldiers was and is a threat to Cameroon’s security and stability. He said that some civilians also use guns to assault and kill people in border towns and villages along the Cameroonian, Nigerian, and Chadian borders.
The military of Cameroon has reported that Boko Haram has drastically reduced its attacks on military posts, marketplaces, and churches over the past three months.
Criminal activity has increased, and officials in Yaounde have linked it to smuggling weapons from the Central African Republic, Chad, and Nigeria into Cameroon.
Armed smuggling is just one of many border crimes that Cameroon hopes to combat with the help of its neighbours, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Nigeria.
According to a joint assessment between the African Union and the country’s government, about 130,000 illegal handguns, rifles, and machine guns are in circulation in Cameroon.
The military estimates that during the last ten months, they have found 1,500 illegal firearms in the northern region of Cameroon.
Military officials in Cameroon report recovering 3,500 additional guns in the country’s western areas, where English-speaking separatists are trying to overthrow the government of the country’s French-speaking majority.
The UNDP’s disarmament project manager in Cameroon, Julie Mballa, has stated that most civilians who use guns to steal or kill are unemployed youth. The majority of armed civilians are young men, she said on Tuesday’s broadcast of state television CRTV, and attempts are being made to educate and encourage them to lay down their guns.
For recruitment purposes, Islamist extremists like Boko Haram generally focus on young men who are unable to find work.
The United Nations estimates that since the violence began in 2009 in northeast Nigeria, it has killed over 350,000 people, displaced over two million, and caused economic losses of over $100 billion in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger alone.
In 2013, violence broke out in the Central African Republic, and since then, rebels and their weapons have been crossing into Cameroon from the east.
Since the separatist crisis in Cameroon broke out in 2017, the United Nations estimates that 3,300 civilians have been killed and 700,000 have been forced to flee their homes.
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