March 19, 2012
Equatorial Guinea Shifts Tone in Relations with Cameroon
Ever since Equatorial Guinea began pumping and exporting oil in 1991, its relations with neighbors in the six-member Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States, and particularly Cameroon have recurrently rippled between bitter and sour.
Since 1994, Cameroonians residing in the new oil Eldorado have repeatedly complained of xenophobic assaults, arbitrary expulsions and routine confiscation of residence permits, abusive incarceration and a long list of acts of harassment by the country’s security forces as well as its 668,000 inhabitants.
The ticking tensions especially shot to the fore in December 2006 when Equatorial Guinea unilaterally shut down its border with Cameroon. The decision followed the massive expulsion of Cameroonians two years earlier and came despite the holding in Malabo of a mixed commission session.
In 2007, thousands of Cameroonians were again expelled. In 2008, tensions surged again following the alleged killing of a Cameroonian fisherman in the border town, Campo. Equatorial Guinea again sealed its border. For several years, both countries have been locked in mild border disputes.
Nonetheless, a series of events registered this early March 2012 indicate a softening of Malabo’s usual hardnosed poise vis-à-vis Cameroon. Firstly, officials from both countries exited the 4th joint ad hoc committee meeting on consular and crossborder security Wednesday, March 7 with lots to write home about.
A release issued after the session states that Equatorial Guinea is planning to have its crossborder security personnel formally trained in Cameroonian institutions. “Both parties have decided to eventually finalize modalities for the putting in place of the training program,” the communiqué read.
Cameroon counts several time-honored schools for the training of law enforcement officers and soldiers. They include among others the Higher National Police School, ENSP in Yaoundé; the Interarmed Military School, EMIA; the International School for Security Forces, EIFORCES; the Mutengene Police Training College, etc.
It added that enforcing crossborder security in the region is crucial especially as the Gulf of Guinea’s abundant natural resources has steadily attracted pirates, multiform traffickers and assorted criminals over the years. “Additionally, there has been generalized contraband activities on the border between the two countries which has been detrimental to the economy of Cameroon, generating lawsuits that have only contributed to sustain the climate of tension,” Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, Cameroon’s External Relations Minister explained.
Elsewhere, Paul Biya held talks Thursday March 8 with a special envoy of his Equato-Guinean counterpart, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Baltasar Engonga Edjo, Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of Sub-regional Integration told reporters he was bearer of a sealed message. His trip to Yaoundé was the second in three months, following fatal assaults on Cameroonians by Equato-Guinea security forces in Bata in October last year.
One of the victims, 25-year-old Justine Ze died after the attack while another, Esther Balbine Ebela survived with the amputation of her left leg. She is currently under treatment at a Malabo hospital. Baltasar Engonga handed over an envelope containing 4 million FCFA to kin of the deceased Ze, and another bearing 3 million FCFA to the survivor. He said the soldier who undertook the attack has been dismissed from the army and additionally slammed a six-year jail term.
According to him, Cameroonian economic migrants currently numbering some 15,000 according to statistics from the External Relations Ministry can be assured of better conditions in the future.
Articles source Cameroon Post Online posted on The Cameroon News under Cameroon Politics.