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Poverty, Crime on Rise in Africa's Boko Haram Zone


This screen grab image taken on February 18, 2015 from a video made available by Islamist group Boko Haram shows Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau making a statement at an undisclosed location.

This screen grab image taken on February 18, 2015 from a video made available by Islamist group Boko Haram shows Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau making a statement at an undisclosed location.

Security experts from Cameroon and Nigeria are meeting in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, to discuss the proliferation of weapons and the increase in crime along their border, caused by the Boko Haram insurgency.

The head of the Nigerian delegation at the meeting, Major General Samuel John Babatunde, said relations between Cameroon and Nigeria have been strained by the security threat posed by Boko Haram.

The group, Babatunde said, has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than a million, mostly in northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon, which share a common border.

He said such terrorism has led to a proliferation of heavy weapons and small arms that the Cameroon/Nigeria cross-border security committee should work out strategies to handle.

"This committee is not only concerned with tackling the nefarious activities of the Boko Haram sect, but it is also mandated to resolve a number of issues which affect the overall security along our common borders," said Babatunde.

Last month, Cameroon's military said it had discovered huge stashes of war weapons buried on its border with Nigeria. It also reported that individuals were using light weapons for self-defense in areas under regular attack by Boko Haram fighters.

Cameroon's minister of territorial administration and decentralization, Rene Emmanuel Sadi, said the militant group has impoverished farmers and cattle ranchers on the border by killing and stealing thousands of cattle, sheep, goats and food. He also said trade between the two countries has stagnated.

"The advent of Boko Haram and the atrocities of Boko Haram have caused a lot of prejudices in our border," said Sadi. "Smuggling, [plummeting] customs [revenues], trans-humans [movement] of cattle, banditry, piracy -- all these questions are the major concerns of our committee."

The experts are examining how to work together and reduce the violence and the crime wave threatening the development of the two countries. They say they are counting on the deployment of more than 8,700 troops pledged by Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Benin to crush the militants.

Without it, they say, disease, poverty, food and humanitarian crisis will continue along the Nigeria-Cameroon border. They also have called for additional food aid for people displaced by Boko Haram.

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