KOUSSERI, CAMEROON - Authorities in Cameroon are giving huge consignments of food, money and equipment to militias fighting Boko Haram on the country's northern border with Nigeria. The militias are defending areas from which the military has withdrawn.
Twenty-year old cattle rancher Hussein Abu still suffers from pain in his abdomen and forehead from when he fell into a river while hiding from attacking Boko Haram fighters on August 3.
Abu says he and his father were part of the militia on duty in Kousseri that day. He says his father was killed in the attack alongside four other vigilante group members.
Abu says if his father were alive, he should have been able to ensure his young ones would have education, food and clothing, and he should have had a means to take care of his failing health and that of his mother. He says he wants the state to help them.
The government appears to be listening. Authorities have given a half-million dollars worth of food to Kousseri and an unspecified amount of money. They pledged to give $1 million to militias in other areas.
The militias are defending areas from which the military has withdrawn, presumably to fight separatists in Cameroon's English-speaking areas.
Officials say the self-defense groups are needed to stop the fighters who infiltrate through porous borders and hide in the communities.
After years of battling the armies of Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, Boko Haram has lost much of its military strength but still attacks villagers in northern Cameroon with machetes, long knives and locally made guns. Thirty-two militiamen and civilians have been killed in less than a month.
Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of Cameroon's Far North Region, says the terrorists are now targeting militiamen because they are an impediment to small-scale operations like burning schools and markets.
He says Cameroon President Paul Biya sent him to encourage each and every member of local militia groups who have abandoned their farms, ranches and businesses to be steadfast in collaborating with the military to defend Cameroon from Boko Haram terrorists. He says all those who have died in the process will be, forever remembered by the nation they paid an ultimate prize to save.
Aliou Seini, spokesperson of the militias in Kousseri, says the gifts motivate them to work, especially given that schools which have been closed for several years are preparing to reopen on September 3.
Seini says although they need regular and not impromptu assistance when crisis deepen, the gifts from President Paul Biya have assured them of the state's support for their efforts against Boko Haram, and they are now more than ever determined to fight the terrorists even if it means paying the ultimate prize to free Cameroon and its people.
Cameroon authorities have warned that Boko Haram may be planning other raids that may affect school going children and their teachers.