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The Voice of America now has a presence in Maiduguri, providing welcome firsthand reporting on the Boko Haram insurgency. A recent report describes the gradual resumption of cross-border economic activity with Cameroon in the far northeastern sliver of Nigeria that borders on Cameroon and Chad. Specifically, the cattle market in Kolofata has reopened, with ranchers coming from across Africa. In another border town, Amchide, purveyors of small consumer goods crossing into Cameroon from Nigeria have reappeared. Local people are saying that security has improved because of the large number of soldiers that are now present. (It is not clear whether the soldiers are Nigerian, Cameroonian, or both.)
However, a local employee of Human Rights Watch, a highly credible non-governmental organization, is also warning that the security in the region is too uncertain for those internally displaced to return to their homes. Boko Haram activity continues—the group conducted an attack in Kolofata only a few days after the reopening of the cattle market.
Generalization is always risky. For now, however, the experience in Kolofata and Amchide indicates that once a modicum of security is achieved, economic activity bounces back. But security appears to be achieved only by large troop deployments. And, even if the area is more secure now than in the past, Boko Haram continues to be able to operate.