KOLOFATA, CAMEROON - In the past two months, Nigerian and Cameroonian troops have freed hundreds of people in Nigeria who were being held captive by Boko Haram militants. Many are now living in an open air transit camp in the northern Cameroonian town of Kolofata.
Heavy winds blow across this open air transit camp in Sabongari, a village on the border outside Kolofata. The camp is now home to over 800 people displaced by the Boko Haram conflict.
Among them is 56-year-old Nigerian, Dada Aminatou. She fled her village near the town of Banki, less than 20 kilometers away, during a raid by the Cameroonian military this month.
She said Boko Haram wouldn’t let them leave their village. Their property and cattle were seized. She said the militants took the boys into the bush to their camps while she and other residents escaped amid gunfire during repeated raids by the Cameroonian military.
She said some Boko Haram fighters escaped, while others were killed or arrested. Some village residents asked the military to take them to Cameroon for fear that Boko Haram would come back for revenge she said.
Aminatou said some villagers are missing and believed to have been killed during the fighting. She said the Cameroonian soldiers did not assist the wounded.
Some of the now displaced Nigerians accuse Cameroonian troops of burning huts and killing as many as 150 villagers during these operations, something the Cameroonian government has denied.
Akama Ngeti, a Cameroonian troop commander in Kolofata, said the raids have been a success and will continue until Boko Haram is crushed.
"Positively we never lost any soldier here. We have killed many of the Boko Haram. For the present moment now, we are controlling all the region without any difficulties. The situation now is very calm," said Ngeti.
The officer said the former captives will remain in the transit camps until their villages are secure, but that negotiations are ongoing with the Nigerian government to resettle them. The government of Cameroon and humanitarian agencies are taking care of the needs of the former hostages now, many of whom say they plan to stay in the camp for the time being.