In a rare public appearance, Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, paid homage to four top military officers killed in a helicopter crash last month and urged the country to persevere in its fight against Boko Haram militants.
Cameroon’s top general in the war against Boko Haram, Jacob Kodji, was among the four officers killed when a helicopter went down on January 23. An investigation into the crash is underway.
At a memorial service for the officers Friday, Biya said that Boko Haram’s fire power has been greatly reduced but stressed that the war is far from over.
He said Cameroonians should be solidly united and remember all those who have died as a result of Boko Haram atrocities. He said their grief should reinforce their determination to continue the battle with the barbaric group. He said the blood of all soldiers who have died while defending Cameroon should prompt the entire nation to participate.
Cameroon’s Ministry of Defense says close to 200 soldiers have lost their lives in the war. The president pledged to take care of the families of fallen soldiers but did not give details.
An estimated 2,000 civilians have been killed in Cameroon, and hundreds of thousands more displaced, since 2013 when Boko Haram expanded its insurgency from northeast Nigeria into Cameroon.
Cameroon’s military partnered with Nigeria and other regional armies. In the past year, those forces have succeeded in pushing Boko Haram out of much of the territory it once occupied but suicide bombings have continued.