Cameroonian town ravaged by Boko Haram bears deep scars

Boko-HaramBurnt cars, houses torched or pockmarked by heavy shelling and shuttered schools mark the once bustling Cameroon town of Amchide which was a frontline in the war against Boko Haram.

Most of the inhabitants fled after October 2014 when the town near the Nigerian border became the battleground between the Cameroonian army and Boko Haram fighters.

Although some have returned after a call by the authorities to come home, Amchide is a shadow of its former self.

“Before life was in Amchide was good,” said Amadou Ahidjo, an adviser of the local chieftain, or lamido, adding that it now only counts about 15 000 residents against more than 90,000 earlier.

“When I returned, the town was unrecognisable. Everything was ravaged,” he said.

The main police station has no roof. The local school and pharmacy don’t either. Shops have been destroyed and blackened, scarred walls bear testimony to the violence.

“The children are forced to remain at home because the school was vandalised,” Ahidjo said.

Amchide was the frontline in the battle to wrest back control of the nearby Nigerian town of Banki, which was held by Boko Haram for several months.

After pushing back Boko Haram, the Cameroonian army dug long trenches around Amchide and even inside the town to foil new incursions by the jihadists.

“The trenches have sliced the town in two,” said Boukar Kamssouloum, the head of a district. “We no longer have access to our homes, our fields and the main mosque.”