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Editorial Comment: Defence, New Blood In The Fight

By the time the government reshuffle of last Friday came, anxiety had risen to unexpected heights.

You could cut anxiety and expectation with a knife as each group, depending on its wishes and desires made projections which have ever been so difficult in coming. And even the long period of expectation did not kill enthusiasm because since the October 2013 legislative and municipal elections suspense continued to grow and any act of the President of the Republic was closely watched and analysed by the principal political actors and even simple citizens, all too eager about seeing their daily problems of survival adequately addressed by a new government.

The Boko Haram insurgency came as a tool thrown into the works of this political situation and the non-formation of a new government was believed to be because of the concentration on the war effort to get the dangerous sect completely defeated or, at the very worst, booted out of the national territory. One must say a lot of activity has been around the war effort and for some time now hardly does a day go by without news about an attack or on the activities of our valiant troops in the various theatres of war in the Far-North Region.

There is the Far-North Region; but there is also the East Region and even to a smaller extent, the Adamawa and North Regions which are not too far from the epicentre of instability. Take the East Region. It is located in the extreme western border of the Central African Republic embroiled in an internal civil strife which has refused to subside even with the great human, material and financial inputs provided by the international community to get back to normalcy. Cameroon has paid a huge tribute due largely to an unprecedented influx of refugees from this neighbouring brother-State.

Even very disturbing is the fact that many of the refugees are not only ordinary citizens fleeing bloodshed but also renegade soldiers fleeing from the war in that country. Virtually all of the East Region of Cameroon is under a serious security threat because many armed bands are circulating even out of the secluded refugee enclaves with light and even heavy weapons.

The security challenges emanating from the situation in these two Regions is enormous and one can imagine the number of sleepless nights inflicted on the Supreme Commander in his effort to address same. Added to this cheerless picture is Bakassi where sporadic incidents involving armed attacks by pirates is also a cause for grave concern given the huge sacrifices endured by the nation to get back this important part of the national territory to the fold.

The change of the Minister responsible for defence issues in the reshuffle of last Friday in no way indicates that there is trouble in the defence house. On the contrary! The government has lately spoken of its determination to fully defeat the savage sect and has spared no effort in doing so, with the recent reorganization of the defence strategy and the combination of efforts within the framework of the new joint international task force involving troops from all the countries affected by the insurgency.

The situation on the ground is upbeat with the recent appointment of general officers and the reorganization of the command structure. A Cameroonian proverb says a mask no longer frightens children who see it too often. The change at the head of the ministry could somehow be seen in this perspective, given the new blood and determination inherent in a new office holder usually brings along.

As a long-serving administrative command official (he has been DO, SDO and Governor) the new minister has a long and credible service record and is acknowledged for knowing how to tread even the most difficult terrains, using the carrot and the stick rather well in the pursuit of positive results. As our troops prepare for a final and determined assault on the enemy, the forces need a leader who has the capacity to instill discipline. And the recent riotous outing in Yaounde by a group of soldiers claiming salary arrears is proof of the necessity for a no-nonsense, but caring leader as minister.

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