Information Minister Issa Tchiroma says Cameroon has increased its troop level at the border with neighboring Nigeria to 3,000, vowing the administration in Yaoundé will go to any extent to prevent Boko Haram militants from using the country as a base to launch attacks on neighboring countries.
“We have never allowed Boko Haram to have any base here and we will never allow it despite the fact that even today, we have been a victim of very nasty aggression,” said Tchiroma. “We have mobilized all our security and defense forces and the government will leave no stone unturned and the fighting [against Boko Haram] and bring them down.”
Tchiroma says Cameroon’s security agencies will soon implement a revised security counter-insurgency strategy to combat the Islamist militants.
He says security at the border with Nigeria has been stepped up following the weekend attacks. Tchiroma however says the military is fighting a faceless enemy in an unconventional conflict.
“The problem is we are fighting and asymmetric battle. Nobody knows who is Boko Haram, they have very much infiltrated here and there [and] it is impossible to know when they will attack,” said Tchiroma. “The government is going to take any measures to review our strategy and to find the right and best answer to tackle and curb this situation.”
Critics say the government in Yaoundé was slow to cooperate with Nigeria as the West African country faced challenges of protecting its citizens from attacks carried out by Boko Haram in parts of the country. But Tchiroma rejected the criticism, saying Cameroon has been cooperating with Nigeria on combating terrorism.
“We have never delayed cooperation. We always agree to exchange information. We said that if the Nigeria government is ready to undertake a very important attack against Boko Haram, they have to inform us in order to protect our border in order to put troops and information services in order to prevent [Boko Haram] from entering our country. This has always been the principle accepted by both countries,” said Tchiroma.
“What we were reluctant to accept is to authorize a foreign army to penetrate our soil, because we already have what we need in order to face the situation,” said Tchiroma. “We are ready to engage a coordinated cooperation ... so together we deal with them. This has always been the position of our government.”
Tchiroma called for Western countries including the United States and France to help the country and the region to combat the Boko Haram militants, saying Cameroon has become a “collateral victim” following the weekend attacks.
“We are saying this is not something that can be addressed overnight by a single nation. So all these heads of states involved in this war against Boko Haram; Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Nigeria are in close relation in order to put in place the best strategy, to curb and to bring down this terrorist organization," Tchiroma said.
Clottey interview with Issa Tchiroma, Cameroon's information minister