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Cameroon Border Markets Reopen

In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, Chadian soldiers on top of a truck, left, speak to Cameroon soldiers, right, standing next to the truck, on the border between Cameroon and Nigeria as they form part of the force to combat regional Islamic extremists force's including Boko Haram, near the town of Fotokol, Cameroon.

Cameroon has cautiously reopened its border with Nigeria, launching business activity three years after the border was closed due to Boko Haram atrocities. The central African state says although business with Nigeria has been relaunched because Boko Haram attacks have fallen off during the past two years, all business persons traveling to Nigeria and back must be screened and escorted.

Hundreds of merchants have returned to the Limani border market in the Far North region in Cameroon. They are once again selling and buying with their Nigerian peers.

The secretary-general of Nigeria's Gambari Ngara market, Alhadji Bakari Balje, says they made the decision to reopen because Boko Haram attacks and atrocities have come to an end and they must restart business activity between the two countries.

"We thank God that things will be okay now because this place is a revenue generating place for both Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad," said Bakari Balje. "And we can't allow room for manipulation just because of that small remnant of Boko Haram to exercise their power over us. Boko Haram has already been defeated. What remains is only remnants of it."

Good news for population

Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of the Far North region of Cameroon, says endemic poverty and misery in the region, whose population is mainly merchants and farmers, will be reduced. But, he says, movement of people and goods will be controlled.

He says merchants and transporters can now leave Maiduguri, the largest city of Nigeria's Borno state. He says he has instructed that systematic controls be carried out on every vehicle because he is aware that Boko Haram fighters may want to traffic arms and dangerous weapons. He says the opening of the border does not mean there is going to be the free movement of goods and people because there will be permanent controls.

General Jacob Kodji, one of the commanders of Cameroon troops fighting the Boko Haram insurgency, says although the militants have not staged a full scale attack with heavy weapons for about a year now, the military is ready to protect the population.

Border surveillance

He says the border is stable under their care and they are very vigilant following reports of many Boko Haram fighters escaping from the group and hiding in villages. He says one week ago, the insurgents attacked many villages and a few military positions but no one was hurt or kidnapped and that they did not even succeed in stealing.

It is expected that with the opening of the border, business and other economic activity will be revived in the region even though concerns about the lives and safety of the people still remain.