Article written

  • on 23.12.2015
  • at 03:32 PM
  • by Kimberley Evans

Cameroon: volunteer vigilance committees call for more help in combatting Boko Haram 0

Through their knowledge of the land and surveillance capabilities, local volunteer groups are proving crucial in the fight against Boko Haram.

At 7pm on 1 December, the town of Waza in Far North Cameroon was quiet. By this time in the evening, the only people on the streets were the military and members of so-called ‘vigilance committees’, groups of ordinary residents who help protect the area from Boko Haram attacks. It was some of these local volunteers who, in their routine checks around the town, stumbled upon three young female suicide bombers.

According to Military Commander Colonel Joseph Nouma, one of these attackers was killed by security forces; another managed to kill three members of the vigilance committee; while the third ran into a home and detonated her explosive device, killing three more.

The incident was another deadly tragedy for the region, where Boko Haram have killed several hundreds through sporadic attacks over the last couple of years. But Nouma believes the death toll at the start of the month could have been much higher had the attackers reached their intended targets.

“The kind of explosives they were carrying were far reaching and I think they wanted a more populated place in the early morning of 2 December,” he says. “Thank God the vigilance committees busted their evil plan, albeit at the expense of their lives.”

The role of local vigilance committees in disrupting insurgents’ plans and providing crucial intelligence in northern Cameroon has been praised by many in the army and beyond. “The military is the vertebrae column of this war, but the vigilance committees are no less important in the sense that they serve as sentinels,” says a captain who asked to remain anonymous.

According to Modou Tidjani of the Kangueleri vigilance committee, the Cameroonian military puts a lot of trust in the volunteers and their surveillance.

“We work in perfect collaboration with them. When we get information, we immediately transmit to the military and our information is always credible,” he says.

Major Nlate Ebale confirms this, saying “The information they give has frequently helped the military to bust some attacks even before they happen.”

The central role of vigilance committees in combatting Boko Haram has thus earned the volunteers praise and gratitude from far and wide in Cameroon.

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by Ngala Killian Chimtom

Photo credits African Arguments/Sergio Agostinelli

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