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Cameroon, CAR Join Forces to Fight Rebels on Border

Map of Mbere in Cameroon

A commission of senior security and state officials from the troubled Central African Republic and Cameroon has agreed to jointly fight armed C.A.R. rebels they say are fleeing intensive fighting and infiltrating refugee camps in Cameroon. After concluding a meeting in the border town of Ngaoundere, the delegations said they will jointly deploy their militaries to battle the proliferation of weapons, abductions for ransom, attacks for supplies and the illegal exploitation of minerals by rebels along their border.

Senior government and military officials from Cameroon and the Central African Republic (C.A.R) say rebels and armed groups are infiltrating border towns and villages.

The officials ended a security commission meeting Friday in Ngaoundere, a city in Cameroon on the border with the C.A.R. They say scores of civilians abducted for ransom are still being held by C.A.R. rebels and armed groups. They also note that C.A.R. rebels and armed groups are attacking border towns and villages for supplies.

Kildadi Taguieke Boukar is the governor of Cameroon's Adamawa region, where Ngaoundere is located.

Boukar says Presidents Paul Biya of Cameroon and Faustin-Archange Touadera of the C.A.R say they are deeply concerned their plans to ease the circulation of people and goods across the border are being shattered by C.A.R. armed groups and rebels. Boukar spoke through the messaging app WhatsApp from Ngaoundere.

He says the two presidents want to immediately stop cattle theft, abductions for ransom, the proliferation of weapons and many other forms of transborder insecurity caused by C.A.R. rebels and armed groups. Boukar says Cameroon and the C.A.R want total peace to return to border localities so that civilians and goods can move freely across the border. Boukar says rebel attacks and theft slow economic development and growth in border towns and villages.

General Freddy Johnson Sakama, C.A.R.’s defense chief in charge of military operations, led his country's delegation to the Cameroon - C.A.R security commission meeting.

Sakama says the rebels and armed groups are escaping heavy fighting with forces of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, or MINUSCA.

Sakama says the proliferation of armed groups in the C.A.R. is posing serious security threats to both the C.A.R. and its neighbors — Cameroon, Chad, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville. He says the C.A.R. military is commending efforts made by MINUSCA to bring peace to the C.A.R., but that his country is worried because rebels and armed groups fleeing MINUSCA forces are escaping to neighboring countries.

Speaking on Cameroon state broadcaster CRTV, Sakama said the C.A.R. has agreed to collaborate with militaries of all neighboring states to put an end to mounting transborder insecurity caused by C.A.R. rebels and armed groups.

In March, the U.N. peacekeeping mission to the C.A.R., MINUSCA, said rebels left several towns where they were hiding on the border with Cameroon. MINUSCA said the C.A.R. rebels were fighting to control border towns, and villages and crossing the border to escape fighting with the C.A.R’s military.

Cameroon says some of the rebels are disguised as refugees. Paul Atanga Nji, Cameroon's minister of territorial administration, visited Gado Baadzere, a refugee camp on the border with the C.A.R. this week.

Nji says many C.A.R. rebels and armed group members infiltrate refugee camps in Cameroon with weapons and carry out illegal activities like selling ammunition and hard drugs to armed groups in Cameroon. Nji says refugees should not be surprised if joint troops from Cameroon and the C.A.R. visit their camps to search and arrest C.A.R. rebels or former rebels hiding in refugee camps and committing crimes.

Violence was pervasive in the C.A.R. in 2013 when then President Francois Bozize was ousted by the Séléka, a coalition from the Muslim minority groups that accused him of breaking peace deals.

The C.A.R. says there are 14 rebel groups fighting against the government of the Central African Republic. It says several armed gangs also operate in the country, making peace efforts difficult.

Cameroon and the C.A.R. say they are committed to their militaries working together in border towns and villages to dismantle rebels and armed groups responsible for increasing insecurity.

The ongoing fighting in the C.A.R. has forced close to a million Central Africans to flee neighboring countries, including Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria, according to the U.N.