Kidnap of French tourists in Cameroon
About three days ago, a group of French tourists, including two children, was abducted in the Cameroonian border town of Dabanga, about 10 kilometres from Nigerian border. It was reported that armed men riding on a motorcycle intercepted the tourists in their car and compelled them to drive to the nearby Nigerian border town, where they melted away.
The aide to a Cameroonian provincial governor, who spoke to Reuters news agency, said that the incidence was the first time such would take place in the predominantly Islamic northern Cameroon. The kidnap of the French tourists is coming on the heels of the abduction of seven foreign nationals by militants at the premises of the construction firm, Setraco Nigeria Limited, in Bauchi state.
The Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis-Sudan, a Boko Haram splinter group, on Monday claimed responsibility for the kidnap of the foreign workers, made up of an Italian, a Filipino, a Briton, a Greek and a Lebanese. According to the group, the action was to avenge acts allegedly perpetrated against Islam in Afghanistan and Mali. The group warned that “any attempt or act contrary to our conditions by the European nations or by the Nigerian government will lead to the happenings as they were in the previous attempts,” in apparent reference to the botched attempt to rescue kidnapped foreign workers in Kebbi state last year which resulted in their brutal death.
Interestingly, there are serious lessons to learn from the kidnap of the French tourists. First, the French leader, President Francois Hollande quickly issued statement announcing the kidnap and nipping any speculation in the bud. The statement was even more significant given that Hollande was on a state visit to Greece. He pointed an accusing finger at militants in Nigeria and warned that “France is in Mali and it will continue until its mission is completed.
We commend the statemanly re-assurance of ordinary citizens that in spite of its state-engagement, the citizens remain the centre and focus of its leadership.
Even as we commend the prompt response and obvious sensibility of the French leadership to its Nigerian counterpart, which oftentimes behaves as if the concerns of ordinary citizens are the least of its priorities, we want to caution France against using the kidnap of its citizens as an excuse to flood the sub-region with its military personnel.
With its military already deeply involved in Mali, it is our considered opinion that any attempt by France to extend its military operations beyond its current focus will only play into the hands of the extremists.
And with the rumours of the release of the kidnapped French nationals denied by the French, Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities, and the fate of the tourists still uncertain, it is possible that government might be tempted to escalate its offensive against the militants thereby foreclosing all options of a dialogue.
It is Peoples Daily’s view that, while government should show enough teeth to bite, it must be ready to engage with the moderate factions of any extremist group for a negotiated settlement. The restiveness of the West African sub-region on account of the escalation of terrorism is seriously undermining the efforts for a meaningful development.