Cameroonian authorities are urging more northerners to join self-defense groups to fight Boko Haram. The call comes after several recent successes scored by the self-defense groups working in collaboration with the military, including reports that vigilantes intercepted and killed two young female suicide bombers in a border town this week.
Boubakarri Alioum lives in the town of Amchide that straddles the border of Cameroon and Nigeria.
Taking up arms, self-defense
Two years ago, Boko Haram fighters attacked the town and killed 30 people, including his father and only brother. The 27-year-old shopowner joined the community self-defense force.
He told VOA that they are divided into teams that patrol the mountainous areas, villages, markets, mosques and farms day and night. He said they ask all suspects to surrender from a distance and then call the military for intervention, but he said if a suspect reaches for anything, they shoot him with poisoned bows and arrows. He said they also report all strangers and suspected collaborators to the military.
The Nigerian militant sect began attacking in northern Cameroon in late 2014 and has since also expanded attacks into Chad and Niger.
In northern Cameroon, militants have routinely targeted civilians, burning and looting villages, planting landmines and attacking markets and other public places with suicide bombers.
Mamoudou Adji, a community leader in Amchide who recruits young people, said not every one who asks to join the self-defense groups is admitted for fear of infiltration.
He said they do background checks into applicants' “morality” and patriotism. He said they only recruit people from the area who have not traveled to be sure they have not been intoxicated with extremist ideas. He said that decision was taken after a retired policeman returned home and started collaborating with Boko Haram.
Adji said the young men get some training from the military and have recently begun some joint patrols.
The young men are asking for motorcycles and food to help them broaden and extend their patrols in the hills at the border.
The governor of Far North Cameroon, Midjiyawa Bakari, said the government has made provisions in its 2016 budget to support the self-defense groups but declined to give further details.
He said he is congratulating all self-defense groups whose courage has drastically reduced the shock of Boko Haram attacks and he is inviting everyone to emulate their example. He said the government will do everything it can to support the self-defense groups.
The governor said about a dozen of the youth vigilantes have died in operations so far this year.