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General News of Friday, 31 January 2014

Source: Cameroon Tribune

Emergency Security Measures Bear Fruits

The East Region has endured skirmishes, armed incursions, refugee indiscipline as well as trafficking in arms and identification papers that prompted measures from the authorities.

The conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) has within the past one year transformed parts of the East Region into hotbeds for trans-border insecurity, affecting peace and destroying livelihoods. The advent of former CAR President, Michel Djotodia, in March 2013 that ushered in an unending influx of refugees and blood-thirsty mercenaries, was further accentuated by Djotodia's forced resignation on January 10, 2014.

In the face of threats from armed groups causing casualties, Cameroon reviewed its defence strategy, opting for an intimidating security deployment aimed at ensuring peace throughout the national triangle, in general, and the East Region in particular.

Valiant soldiers from the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) and the 123rd Motorised Infantry Unit (CIM) of the gendarmerie, among other forces, halted a cross-fire on January 20, 2014 between Seleka armed groups going after anti-Balaka militia in the Cantonnier hamlet situated in CAR's border area with Cameroon. Two shells had hit the former Divisional Officer's building in Garoua Boulaï as well as the town's Zougonde neighbourhood.

According to the Divisional Officer for Garoua Boulaï in the Lom and Djerem Division of the East Region, Viang Mekala, the town situated 246 km north of the East Regional capital, Bertoua, would have endured a greater spill-off effect of the Seleka-Anti-Balaka confrontation were it not for the timely Cameroonian military intervention.

With foresight, the creation by the Head of State, Paul Biya, in December 2013 of more Motorised Infantry Brigades (BIM), gave the country an advantage in the defence of its frontiers. Following earlier attacks by gunmen in Toktoyo and Gbiti border areas in the Kadey Division of the East Region in 2013, forces of the 8th Military Sector, the 81st BIM and 2nd BIR, now control the border localities of Toktoyo, Gbiti, Kentzou, Ondiki and Mbombete while regular patrols sweep through the Bombé-Pana, Mbomé-Nasse and Tamounagezé crossing points, according to the Senior Divisional Officer for Kadey, Emmanuel Halpha.

Shooting and detonation exercises are held regularly to warn ambitious militia on the CAR side against crossing the border. Furthermore, defence forces have been deployed to mining sites and the major Lom Pangar hydropower dam project area.

The recent inauguration of the 11th BIM headquarters in Ebolowa by the Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of Defence, Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo'o, was a show of force in the army's determination to protect the east and southern frontiers of the national territory.

In other spheres, authorities are checking arm trafficking by rigorous border searches while a double verification of identification papers is undertaken to ensure authenticity. Under the leadership of East Governor, Samuel Dieudonné Ivaha Diboua, repatriation of undisciplined refugees have been made from Guiwa Yangamo and Gbiti while the questioning of armed group members is going on in Bertoua alongside shrewd intelligence gathering and transport bus searches by security forces on highways for suspects.

Meanwhile, border tribesmen are being sensitised by local authorities against hosting CAR gunmen while the newly installed International Support Mission for Central Africa (MISCA) force in CAR has signed an undertaking with local authorities in Garoua Boulaï to escort trucks transporting supplies to CAR. That notwithstanding, over 200 of such trucks are now parked in the border town because the mostly Muslim drivers worry about their safety if they drive into CAR.