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Cameroon Detains 30 of Its Soldiers Fighting Boko Haram

FILE - Cameroonian soldiers stand guard at a lookout post as they take part in operations against Boko Haram militants on Elbeid bridge that separates northern Cameroon form Nigeria's Borno state near the village of Fotokol, Cameroon, Feb. 25, 2015.

Cameroon has detained 30 of its soldiers fighting Boko Haram in the northern part of the country. The Defense Ministry says the soldiers abandoned their positions in a protest over pay and working conditions.

Military officials in Cameroon say the incident happened earlier this month. Several dozen Cameroonian soldiers erected barricades near the country's border with Nigeria and asked to be immediately replaced. The soldiers were part of the Multinational Joint Task Force fighting Boko Haram since 2015.

Colonel Didier Badjeck, spokesperson of Cameroon's military, said the protest was "unacceptable." He said so far 30 of the soldiers who took part have been arrested.

He said the minister of defense gave instructions that the protesters should be arrested so that this bad memory can be forgotten. He said he does not understand what went wrong in the minds of the soldiers to abandon the commitment and oath they took to defend the nation with honor and loyalty even to the ultimate sacrifice.

Badjeck says investigations are ongoing to fish out those who may have masterminded the unrest.

Military officers who did not join the protest tell VOA the soldiers were disgruntled that they are not receiving the same allowances as their peers serving in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic, who they said get an additional bonus of $500 per month.

But Cameroon’s government says soldiers fighting Boko Haram are not U.N. peacekeepers and are not entitled to the same allowances. The force fighting Boko Haram is a regional mission organized through the Lake Chad Basin Commission.

Colonel Akoutou Mvondo, Cameroon's director of military justice, says Cameroon has paid salaries and allowances to soldiers sent to the front in the north, but he declined to say how much.

He said the military hierarchy took time to explain to these soldiers that their allowances and bonuses were to be paid from contributions of member states and that while waiting for the contributions, each country would pay its soldiers taking part in the war, according to agreements made with its soldiers.

Mvondo said soldiers who took part in the protest may be charged with acts of revolt or rebellion under the military justice code, pending results of the investigation.

The 8,700-strong regional force fighting Boko Haram is led by Nigeria and includes troops from Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin.

Donors, including Nigeria and the European Union, have pledged at least $250 million to fight the insurgents but that remains well short of the force’s original projected budget of $700 million.