Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari traveled to neighboring Cameroon on Wednesday to ease tensions and discuss the regional fight against the Boko Haram terror group. Buhari met with his Cameroonian counterpart, President Paul Biya, in the capital Yaoundé for talks aimed at building a stronger coalition to battle the Islamist militants, the Associated Press reported.
It was Buhari’s first official trip to Cameroon since he took office May 29. The visit came eight weeks after he visited Chad and Niger, two other neighboring countries that have also suffered from attacks by the Nigerian insurgents. All three West African countries are contributing to Nigeria's battle against Boko Haram, but hard feelings that date back decades have strained relations between Nigeria and Cameroon.
Biya saw Buhari’s failure to visit sooner as a snub and didn’t attend his presidential inauguration. Nigeria has accused Cameroon of not doing enough to fight Boko Haram and prevent the militants from crossing into Cameroon. The two countries previously argued over the rights to their oil-rich border region and its local populations, which escalated into a military confrontation at the end of 1993. The dispute was finally resolved in 2006.
In recent months, Boko Haram militants have launched attacks targeting Cameroon, Niger and Chad that have claimed dozens of lives. Suicide bombings blamed on the terror group killed 60 people in Cameroon over the past week. In a bid to stem the recent spate of violence, authorities in northern Cameroon on Sunday ordered the shuttering of mosques and Islamic schools, and also banned child beggars after a young suicide bomber posed as one, the AP reported.
“Those are the last kicks of a dying monster,” Cameroon’s Defense Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o reportedly said Tuesday.
An 8,700-strong multinational joint task force was scheduled to be deployed in November and a new commander is expected to be named after Buhari appointed its former Nigerian leader, Maj. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, as chief of staff of Nigeria’s army. A spokesman for Buhari, Garba Shehu, said the regional troops will be operating “at the end of this month,” Agence France-Presse reported.
Buhari, a former military ruler, has sworn to crush Boko Haram, whose six-year campaign for a strict Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria has taken the lives of at least 15,000 people and displaced millions. After replacing his top military commanders, the Nigerian leader met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House last week, seeking U.S. military aid.