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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

<<< Nigeria, Cameroon may clash over Boko Haram >>> <<< Cameroon Is Habouring Members Of Boko Haram >>>

There are strong indications that Nigeria and Cameroon may clash over Boko Haram as the Federal Government accuses Cameroon of harbouring members of the militant Islamic sect.
Saturday PUNCH learnt on Thursday that the Federal Government was becoming increasingly frustrated by the refusal of Cameroon to cooperate with Nigeria in its efforts to combat the militant Islamic sect.
A top source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who confided in one of our correspondents in Abuja, said that President Goodluck Jonathan would report Cameroon to relevant agencies in the United Nations.
Part of government’s strategy is to adopt the policy of hot pursuit, whereby Nigeria’s military will chase the insurgents into their hideouts and flush them out while those in the diplomatic circles will continue with diplomacy.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that this was one of the reasons why Jonathan canvassed that countries should be allowed to chase fleeing terrorists to other nations while addressing fellow African leaders during Thursday’s International Conference on Human Security, Peace and Development: Agenda for 21st Century Africa, in Abuja.
He had asked his colleagues to, as of necessity, change their collective approach and work closely together to confront and defeat the purveyors of hate who do not respect borders and boundaries.
He said, “Our architecture must recognise the fact that trans-border criminals don’t respect boundaries while law enforcement agencies are compelled to respect our international boundaries,’’ adding, “There must be compromise on this if we must wipe out criminality and trans-border crimes.
“While we respect our national boundaries, terrorists move in and out of our borders, it’s now time that we should agree as African leaders that an act of terror against one nation is an act of terror against all nations.”
In a veiled reference to Cameroon, the President said, “We must not allow our countries to become safe havens for terrorists; we must cooperate maximally beyond political boundaries and adopt protocols that allow other countries to pursue terrorists to their safe havens in other nations.
“While we cannot redefine our borders we can redefine our collective approach in fighting trans-boundary insurgencies.’’
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the Federal Government was of the view that since the joint commissions had not yielded any positive fruit, it should start looking towards a new direction.
“The best option is to involve the military and use the policy of hot pursuit,’’ a foreign ministry source noted.
The Federal Government believes Cameroon has a history of harbouring criminals that use its territory to destabilise Nigeria.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the Federal Government was aware of Cameroon’s unexplainable indifference to Nigeria. One of the sources said that as early as 1906, northern Nigeria suffered from violence orchestrated by religious leaders whose roots were in northern Cameroon.
It was further learnt that the Federal Government was disturbed that Cameroon, unlike Niger and Chad, had been providing a safe haven for fleeing Boko Haram members in northern Cameroon.
Nigeria’s frustrations were echoed by President Goodluck Jonathan, who during the last presidential media chat, made a veiled reference to contacts being made with Cameroon over Boko Haram.
According to a source, the 1906 Mahdist rebellion in Kano has an imprint of such pseudo Islamic teachers.
The source recalled that Mallam Muhammadu Marwa, better known as “Maitatsine” a Fulani native of Marwa, in northern Cameroon, was driven from the northern commercial city of Kano back to Cameroon by the Emir of Kano in 1962.
He further noted that Maitatsine returned to Nigeria in 1966 as a Quranic teacher. “Marwa remained in the country recruiting and indoctrinating gullible young men until he led an insurgency in the 1980s,’’ he added.
Commenting specifically on the Boko Haram insurgency, the source said, “From all indications, there appears to be an unwritten understanding between the sect members and Cameroonian security forces that they can operate from bases within their borders as long as they don’t launch attacks within Cameroon.
“Cameroon has a history of harbouring criminals who use its territory to destabilise Nigeria. You may wish to recall that the leader of the Maitatsine Islamic sect operated from Marwa, a Cameroonian border with Nigeria’’
Also, a retired diplomat who pleaded anonymity, expressed disappointment that Cameroon had failed to reciprocate Nigeria’s generosity, especially after giving up the Bakassi Peninsula.
He, however, said the situation was not hopeless if Nigeria could leverage on its healthy relationship with western powers like the United States and the United Kingdom to put pressure on France who in turn would call Cameroon to order.
Investigations by Saturday PUNCH further showed that Nigerian diplomats were at their wits end after several diplomatic entreaties through the Nigeria/Cameroon Joint Commission which sought to strengthen bilateral ties between the two neighbours failed.
The source made reference to America’s war in Afghanistan which he said was part of US strategy of taking the war on terrorism to insurgents outside US borders.
Military sources, who also pleaded anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the issue, confirmed the agreement between Cameroonian gendarmes and Boko Haram operatives to Saturday PUNCH.

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