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Boko Haram, Border Top Agenda for Buhari’s Cameroon Visit

FILE - Nigerian troops patrol in the northeastern Nigeria city of Mubi, 20 kilometers (14 miles) west of the Cameroon border, March 2015.

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, is expected to visit neighboring Cameroon sometime in the coming weeks on what can be expected when the heads of the two neighboring states, which have not always gotten along, meet.

Nigeria and Cameroon have butted heads before. Their most notable spat was over who owned the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula on the coastal border.

The spread of the Boko Haram insurgency from Nigeria into Cameroon has drawn the two countries together again. While the Islamist insurgent group’s stated goal is to establish strict Islamic law in Nigeria’s northeast, it has attacked northern Cameroon repeatedly and is thought to keep rear bases on its territory.

Buhari has pledged to defeat Boko Haram, and is putting together a task force of troops from neighboring states to defeat the group. Buhari has already visited Chad and Niger, both of which have been attacked by the group, and has said he will visit President Paul Biya in Cameroon. President Buhari, a Muslim, is expected to make the trip after Ramadan ends this week.

A senior research fellow at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, David Zounmenou, said Buhari will not be able to achieve the victory he campaigned on without Cameroon’s help.

“I think Cameroon and Nigeria understand very well the porosity of the border and the capacity of the organization of Boko Haram to move from one point to the other,” he said.

Zounmenou said this summit will focus on turning over a new leaf between the newly-elected President Buhari and President Biya, who has been in office since 1982.

“It will be very important to restate the engagement of Nigeria to cooperate with Cameroon at different levels, to be able to respond effectively to the threat of Boko Haram, to put aside the differences that emerged from the Bakassi dispute, and see where Cameroon and Nigeria need to strengthen their relations,” he said.

The regional task force will be based in Chad, but commanded by a Nigerian.

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