YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Thousands of people marched in Cameroon’s capital on Saturday to protest against Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency and support the Central African nation’s army, which is fighting alongside regional neighbors to defeat the Islamist group.
The march in Yaounde was aimed at informing the public, especially in the southern regions, about the threat posed by Boko Haram, which has carried out regular cross-border raids in the far north, one of the organizers said.
Yaounde is located in the central region of the country.
“It was important to tell Cameroonians that we are at war and a part of the country is suffering,” said Gubai Gatama, a newspaper editor who was among the march’s organizers. “About 150,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.”
In addition to its own citizens forced to flee the violence, thousands of refugees have poured into Cameroon from northeastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram is seeking to carve out an Islamist emirate.
“Some 170 schools in Cameroon’s northern region have been closed,” Gatama said.
Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency in Nigeria has spread to neighboring countries, where the group has launched attacks over the past year, burning villages and kidnapping residents.
The Lake Chad region nations threatened by Boko Haram, Nigeria along with Cameroon, Niger and Chad, have launched a joint offensive to quell the rebellion and claim to have retaken territory from group in recent weeks.
Muhamadou Labara Awal, 27, was among the 5,000 people who organizers estimated marched on the May. 20 boulevard in Yaounde, chanting and waving the flags of the regional coalition.
“It was important for me to be here because I’m not a soldier to be deployed to Fotokol. The only way I could pay homage to our troops was to be here,” Awal said, referring to a northern town regularly targeted by Boko Haram.
Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Joe Bavier and Louise Heavens