Boko Haram in the Far North of Cameroon: The Tree Hiding the Forest Notes de l'Ifri, June 2022
The Far North region of Cameroon has been shaken since 2013 by the Boko Haram conflict, which originated in the northeast of Nigeria (Borno State) and spans four countries (Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger). The complex interactions between the Boko Haram jihadist movement and the local criminal milieu make this region a relevant case study to reflect on the relationship between crime and conflict.
Before the Boko Haram conflict extended to the Far-North region in Cameroon, this area was already prone to trafficking and banditry. The state security system in this region was reorganized to fight against the Boko Haram movement. As the guerilla warfare between the state security services and Boko Haram has been going on for almost ten years, its impacts on the local existing security problems are important but neglected.
The Boko Haram conflict both exacerbates and makes invisible these security problems. It has served as a springboard for the proliferation of economic criminal activities and has opened a gap for several criminal groups to operate under the banner and in the shadow of Boko Haram. This blurs the lines between organized crime and jihadism and leads to the criminalization of jihadism.
The dramatic proliferation of violent urban crime and inter-communal tensions in some departments of the region are neglected by the Cameroonian authorities who focus their interest and security resources on the fight against Boko Haram. These two security problems are deepening without receiving the response they deserve from the authorities.
This paper aims to identify and analyze its impacts by showing how the complex interactions between the Boko Haram movement and the local organized crime milieu have created a true criminal nebula and obscure other security problems that are silently deepening in this region. This study is based on field research conducted over the past four years in the Far North as part of the preparation of a doctoral degree, using military, customs, and police sources as well as victims' testimonies.
>> This content is available only in French (PDF) : Boko Haram dans la région de l’Extrême-Nord du Cameroun : l'arbre qui cache la forêt