YAOUNDE, CAMEROON —
The war against Boko Haram lent added significance to Cameroon’s annual National Day celebrations Friday. There were the usual military parades and speeches, but citizens also mobilized to honor and help the troops.
Hundreds of youths sang in front of President Paul Biya. If it weren’t for the military, they sang, their country would have been seized by Boko Haram.
Cameroon has deployed more than 8,000 soldiers to the north to fight the Nigerian terrorist group.
In hospitals around Yaounde, people donated blood all week for wounded soldiers. Among them was university student Julienne Njock, 19. She said she could not go to the front but could make this modest contribution. The teenager said she was moved when she saw wounded soldiers, some who had lost legs to amputation.
Cameroon said it needs at least 400,000 pints of blood and that shortages have forced medical staff to stop work to give blood for urgent cases.
This banner across the National Day parade route in Yaounde, Cameroon, reflects citizens' appreciation for soldiers' efforts against Boko Haram, May 20, 2016. (M. Kindzeka/VOA)
Alvine Mvogo, 60, could not donate for health reasons. She said she was instead praying for peace to return and soldiers to come back healthy. She said Cameroon has been losing too many people.
Boko Haram began attacking northern Cameroon in 2014. Suicide bombings and raids continue.
The military said it has been struggling to meet the needs of both the soldiers and the over 200,000 displaced people who have sought refuge at camps and host communities in the north.
Military spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck said support from the population motivates the troops. He said that even poor villagers had contributed bunches of plantains, that pastors and imams had prayed for the soldiers, and that all political parties had come out to support them Friday.
The government said it had also received over $6 million in donations from the population in the past two years to support the fight against Boko Haram.