KOUSSSERI, CAMEROON —
Cameroonian youths living close to the border with Nigeria are benefitting from the efforts of a man who left his administrative duties in a well-established company and created an information technology training center to empower youths and reduce the chances of them joining the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Wakil Idi, 34, said he decided to help when he found out unemployment was leading young people in his town of Kousseri, which borders Chad and is close to Nigeria, to join Boko Haram.
The Islamist terror group has increased attacks in the area in the past seven years.
He said many of the youth left but never returned, and those who escaped from suspected Boko Haram strongholds told stories of how they were sent to loot, kill and burn at schools and churches.
Idi said he learned the terrorist group was offering up to about $5,500 for each person kidnapped or killed, and that was tempting to poor, suffering and jobless youths.
Since 2013, Boko Haram has kidnapped scores of people from Cameroon, including a French family of seven, a German citizen, 10 Chinese road construction engineers, as well as traditional rulers and clergy.
Cameroon's government has said it refused to pay ransoms for their release but said it negotiated their freedom.
Idi said he was able to flee to Cameroon's economic capital, Douala, to learn information technology with the hope of returning to help his fellow Cameroonians by educating them on the dangers of joining Boko Haram and, more importantly, by providing jobs for the youth.
He said even though he has only four desktop computers before returning to Kousseri, he has not been discouraged from his plans to help young people in his hometown.
Among the hundreds who have been trained at the computer institute is 36-year-old Hassa Abbashmir.
He said he has been unemployed since graduating from university in 2006. He said he sought employment with the Cameroon government, writing at least 10 competitive entrance exams, but has not been hired. He then decided to be trained at the information technology center , and now he says he can take care of his wife and three children.
Tijie Jacob, 30, also has benefited from Idi's initiative.
Jacob said after receiving training he was asked to remain at the center and teach other youths. He credited the technology center with providing him the education to be able to provide for his family.
Cameroon's National Institute of Statistics reports the unemployment rate in Cameroon's northern border with Nigeria is over 16 percent, and the young are the worst hit. The region also suffers from high levels of illiteracy.