“With Boko Haram, we joined your club,” mused Mdjiyawa Bakari, the governor of Cameroon’s Far North Region (Extrême-Nord), when we met at his home in Kousseri. The ‘club’ consists of liberal democracies bound by a common dilemma: defeating terrorist insurgencies at home while respecting the laws of war, including civic and human rights. From his veranda we gazed across the Logone River at the dusty skyline of N’djamena, capital of Chad. I was visiting to understand exactly how civilians were coping with the threat—forced displacement, pervasive suspicion of strangers, neighbours, even friends, and a near collapsed economy – posed by this West African affiliate of the Islamic State to this most peripheral region of Cameroon. “Asymmetric war means an invisible enemy playing by other rules,” he continued. “It’s turned our lives upside down.”
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