YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Cameroon has instructed its military to be on the alert as Equatorial Guinea says it is building a border wall to stop Cameroonians and West Africans from illegally entering its territory. Equatorial Guinea's announcement comes as officials of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) regional economic bloc, of which Equatorial Guinea is a member, are encouraging the free movement of people and goods to boost economic growth in the region.
Thirty-two-year old Cameroonian merchant Kome Pascal imports wine from Equatorial Guinea. He also exports cement, roofing sheets and farm produce from Cameroon to the neighboring nation.
"I feel very bad because goods will not come again into Cameroon and farmers who sell in Equatorial Guinea, what do they expect them to do with their goods," he told VOA. "Building that particular wall is not going to permit Cameroonians to sell their goods."
When Equatorial Guinea said it was building the wall and erected milestones on the border near the Cameroon town of Kye-Ossi, Cameroon army chief Lieutenant General Rene Claude Meka visited the border. Meka said he was told the neighboring state was not respecting territorial limits and was encroaching on Cameroon land. He said the Cameroonian army would not tolerate any unlawful intrusion.
Anastasio Asumu Mum Munoz, Equatorial Guinea ambassador to Cameroon, was called up by Cameroon's minister of external relations on Thursday to explain his country's plans for the border.
Ambassador Munoz said his country plans to build a wall, but that reports that the its military had installed milestones in Cameroon territory are misleading.
Equatorial Guinea has always accused Cameroon of letting its citizens and West Africans enter its territory illegally.
More than 100 migrants from Togo, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Benin on their way to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are currently stranded in Cameroon after they were rescued from their capsizing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean.
Cameroonian-born Christian Mbock, visiting lecturer of international relations at the National University of Equatorial Guinea, said the wall will stop illegal migrants and secure Equatorial Guinea.
"There was a problem in Equatorial Guinea because there was a coup there, then the government had to protect itself and said that the government was suspending the implementation of [CEMAC's decision for free movement]," he said. "It is a complex situation."
Equatorial Guinea has often sealed its border with Cameroon, complaining of security threats posed by illegal immigration.
In December 2017, Equatorial Guinea said it had arrested 30 foreign armed men from Chad, the Central African Republic and Sudan on the border. The report said they possessed rocket launchers, rifles and a stockpile of ammunition to destabilize the government of President Theodoro Obiang, who has led oil-rich Equatorial Guinea since 1979.
Cameroon said it also arrested 40 heavily-armed men on the 290-kilometer boundary.
Both countries are members of the CEMAC, which in 2017 said it had reached a milestone when heads of state meeting in Chad lifted visa requirements for their 45 million citizens traveling within the six-member nation economic bloc.