Nigeria, Cameroon team up to crackdown on secessionists

Nnamdi Kanu

Nnamdi Kanu (centre), the head of the Indigenous People of Biafra movement, has been charged with several offences including terrorism-related ones.

Photo credit: AFP

What you need to know:

  • Nigeria is facing violent secessionists who have been trying to re-enact the 1967 Biafra Republic in the southeast.
  • Cameroon are also fighting to create the Ambazonia Republic in an area that shares a common border with southeast Nigeria.

Abuja

Plagued by the activities of violent secessionists over the years, Nigeria and Cameroon have pledged to support each other in securing their borders against these groups and terrorists.

The neighbouring countries share a porous border spanning 1,690km that groups such as Boko Haram use to spread terror across several West African states.

Increasingly, however, secessionists are using these borders to escape government clampdowns in their home countries and establish a haven to regroup.

While Nigeria is facing violent secessionists who have been trying to re-enact the 1967 Biafra Republic in the southeast, which led to a three-year civil war, separatists in anglophone Cameroon are also fighting to create the Ambazonia Republic in an area that shares a common border with southeast Nigeria.

Nigeria is also facing another secessionist movement in the southwest. The country’s move to stall the movement led to the fleeing of secessionist leader Sunday Igboho, now detained in Benin.

The most populous West African nation has previously said its territory will not be used to destabilise its neighbours. For instance, in January 2018, Nigeria arrested and deported 47 key separatists to Cameroon, including Julius Ayuk Tabe, the first president of the unrecognised Federal Republic of Ambazonia.

Haven for secessionists

Restating Nigeria’s position on the secessionists, the national security adviser, retired Maj-Gen Babagana Monguno, on August 24 told the eighth session of the Cameroon-Nigeria Trans-border Committee in Abuja that Nigeria’s territory will cease to be a haven for secessionists.

“Nigeria’s territory will never be used as a haven or staging area by any group of secessionists to destabilise another friendly sovereign country.’’

He also raised the alarm on attempts by secessionist groups in Nigeria, especially the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), to form alliances with similar groups in Cameroon in order to destabilise both countries.

He said reports had linked the activities of IPOB to the self-determination group of the Republic of Ambazonia, which is seeking a breakaway region for the English-speaking part of Cameroon.

“In addition, we will work closely together to ensure that any real or perceived attempts to form any alliances between secessionist groups in Nigeria and Cameroon are decisively dealt with,” Maj-Gen Monguno said.

He said Nigeria would continue to support the efforts of the Cameroonian authorities by engaging all aggrieved parties to de-escalate the security concerns in the northwest and southwest regions of the country.

Address issues

He reported that since the seventh session of the trans-border committee took place in Yaoundé, Cameroon, July 3-6, 2019, a series of transnational security issues had come up and needed to be addressed, including transnational security typified by the activities of the Islamic State in West Africa Province and Boko Haram.

The terrorist groups, he said, continue to exploit the porous borders to disrupt the livelihoods of innocent communities.

“At this point, I am glad to acknowledge that the close counterterrorism collaboration between our two countries has significantly curtailed the activities of these terrorists as well as other forms of criminality,” Maj-Gen Monguno said.

He noted that collective efforts under the auspices of the Multinational Joint Task Force to significantly degrade terrorist activities in the Lake Chad basin were yielding positive outcomes.

The multilateral platform in collaboration with international partners, he explained, needed to be further enhanced. He reported a gradual movement of some terrorist groups from the Maghreb to the Sahel in order to form alliances.

“We must therefore consolidate our joint efforts to address all the current and emerging security threats affecting both countries. This is due to the grave and unintended consequences of allowing such threats to thrive in our environment.”

Nigeria’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Zubairu Dada, said it was important for Cameroon and Nigeria to sustain strong bilateral relations to overcome lingering border concerns and the enduring challenge of terrorism.

Border communities

Mr Dada reiterated that border communities are more susceptible to trans-border problems and if left unchecked will have spiral effects.

He called on the committee to come up with new ways of improving cooperation to defeat insecurity and terrorism that had led to loss of lives and property.

Paul Atanga Nji, head of the Cameroon delegation at the session, said the meeting provided opportunities to effectively implement resolutions already adopted and to examine new security challenges.

“We have to examine threats that impact on the internal security of our states, such as kidnapping for ransom, training of armed groups along the common borders, illegal trafficking of arms and ammunition, and money laundering,” he said.

“It is obvious that trans-border insecurity is a permanent challenge for our two states. As such it is incumbent (on us) to deal with the enemies of peace and security.”

To achieve this, he said, intelligence gathering and sharing is imperative and “we must coordinate activities in the field to combat all forms of organised crimes”.

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