Cameroon And Equatorial-Guinea Meet Over Border Tensions

In a bid to reduce the increasing tension between their two countries over a border wall, Equatorial Guinea has started to build a gigantic wall to curb the illegal entry of Cameroonians into its territory, the defence ministers of Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea would be meeting in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital tomorrow.

The Equato-Guinean delegation to the talks led by its Defence Minister Bekale Nkogo Leandro accompanied by a delegation of experts and senior military officers arrived Yaounde this afternoon and was received at the Nsimalen International Airport by a ministerial delegation led by Beti Assomo accompanied by senior military officers.

The talks will hold for two days, June 29 and 30 and the first closed-door session by experts from the two countries begins tomorrow at 9 o’clock.

This would be followed on Tuesday by another closed-door session, this time between the military high commands of the two countries to also begin at 9 o’clock.

According to the programme drawn up by Minister Beti Assomo, a copy of which HumAngle was able to lay hands-on, the formal meeting between the Defence Ministers of the two countries to be held in the Yaounde Hilton Hotel would begin at 14:30 hours and last till late in the evening.

It should be recalled that recently there has been heightened tension between Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon when Cameroonian authorities discovered that Equatorial Guinea had started building a wall on its border with Cameroon.

This U.S. President Trump Mexico-USA-type border wall almost led to a confrontation between the armies of the two countries.

A Cameroonian senior military officer speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the army told the French News Agency (AFP) that Equatorial Guinean soldiers had crossed the River Ntem that forms the natural border between the two countries and erected milestones in the town of Kye-Ossi on the Cameroonian side.

The beacons had been placed at points “between one and two kilometres inside our territory,” the officer revealed.

Cameroon Army Chief of Staff General Rene Claude Meka visited the 180 – kilometre boundary and the spot where the beacons had been planted in July last year to see where the Equatorial Guinean encroachment had taken place and condemned the “expansionist ambitions” of neighbouring Equatorial Guinea warning that the Cameroon army will not tolerate “any unlawful intrusion” into Cameroonian territory.

The Cameroon government eventually summoned Equatorial Guinea’s Ambassador to Yaounde, Anastasio Asumu Mum Munoz for an explanation. The Ambassador confirmed the planting of the milestones but dismissed General Meka’s assertion that his country was encroaching into Cameroonian territory as “misleading.”

Commenting on Equatorial Guinea’s decision to close its borders following the arrest by Cameroonian police at the border between the two countries in December 2017 of a commando accused of fomenting a coup in Malabo, the CEMAC Commission President Ondo said “Freedom of movement is not called into question. It is the breach of security that is questioned. I believe that when you are attacked, you are forced to be on your guard.”

Equatorial Guinea’s regular closure of its borders with Cameroon is becoming legendry. Hardly a year passes without the country closing its borders with its Cameroonian neighbour. The paradox here is that Equatorial Guinea depends on Cameroon for over 70% of its food needs as well as most of its other subsidiary commodities.

“Besides importing almost all their foodstuff from Cameroon, Panya people (the local name Equato-Guineans are known by in Cameroon) import even sand from Cameroon.

Most of the high-rise buildings now in Equatorial Guinea were built and are still being built with sand imported from Tiko and Limbe in the Southwest Region of Cameroon”, Eyongombong Gerald, a resident of Limbe told HumAngle in March this year.

Most farmers within the border areas between Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea rely very much on customers from the former Spanish territory. “Whenever they close the border, we suffer losses in the millions because our perishable foodstuff remains and rot here without buyers.”

Before the discovery of crude oil in Equato-Guinea, “they wouldn’t dare close their border with us because their people would starve to death. But now they have money and can afford to import food even from Europe and other faraway countries, so they can afford to bluff us”, Elizabeth Amougou, a farmer in Kye-Ossi had also told HumAngle.

In a rather tacit acceptance of the existence of the said wall, border police of the former Spanish territory say “the real problem is that Cameroonians are in the process of illegally invading our country. With life difficult in their country, many young Cameroonians have decided to brave it to Equatorial Guinea in search of new openings in their lives”.

Young Cameroonians from Olamze near Kye-Ossi and Evouzok in Ma’an subdivision use bush paths to enter Equatorial Guinea and sell their farm products which sell at more than double the prices they can get at home in Cameroon.

“It has been several years since Equatorial Guinea started thinking about constructing a border wall at the frontier with Cameroon and the Covid-19 pandemic has just come to give the country an added reason to brandish for the necessity for the wall”, declares Fabien Mvo’o a young fisherman in Kye-Ossi.

According to Fabien, the Cameroon government should invest in structures that would attract young Cameroonians and make them prefer to stay at home rather than seeing greener pastures only on the Equato-Guinean side of the border.

“Just see the difference between the Cameroonian and Equato-Guinean sides of the border at night. While most of Kye-Ossi is in darkness at night, Ebibeyin on the other side of the border shines like daylight. The difference is like day and night”, Fabien said.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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