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ICC Note: The spread of Boko Haram continues to expand into other African nations forcing governments to pursue aggressive security measures . In Cameroon, the presence of Boko Haram and its growth in the region has been supported by a new threat of religious intolerance. Sectarian infighting in other regions has resulted in civil war, and in various parts of Africa and the Middle East, the rise of radical Islam. Cameroon has historically maintained a Christian majority with a Muslim and traditional religious minority. Religious turbulence in Cameroon has the potential to allow for Boko Haram to gain strength. Boko Haram is notorious for targeting Christians and other religious minorities with murder, kidnappings, torture, and rape. 

By Hans De Marie Heungoup

09/22/2015 Cameroon (Mail & Guardian) – The image of Cameroon as an island of peace amid regional turmoil ended in 2013, when Boko Haram’s violence first crossed the Nigerian border. The group is affiliated with the so-called Islamic State or Daesh, and even renamed itself Islamic State in West Africa earlier this year. But the brutal form of African jihadism it represents is hardly a result of the Islamic State’s rise in Iraq and Syria. In fact, it is in part a consequence of Africa’s changing religious landscape, not least in Cameroon.

Traditional Sufi Islam is increasingly challenged by the rise of a fundamentalist Islamist ideology, mostly Wahhabism or closely related Salafism. Historical Catholic and Protestant churches, too, are facing religious competition and are losing ground, mostly to revivalist churches. This is undermining the formerly peaceful co-existence of religions and planting the seeds of religious intolerance. But by focusing on only one symptom of the problem – Boko Haram’s bloody actions – the authorities will be unable to deal with all its root causes.

Boko Haram has been a critical actor since 2004, when its fighters fled from Nigerian counter insurgency operations into Cameroon’s Mandara mountains. This happened again in 2009, when the group’s founder Mohamed Yusuf was killed. Since then, the group has radicalised and under new leadership has significantly expanded its proselytising in the country. Cameroon’s north is no longer a mere transit area, but an operational base.

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