Cameroon’s information minister says it is unlikely the country’s decision to close its border with neighboring Nigeria due to the ongoing Ebola crisis would undermine warm diplomatic relations between Yaoundé and Abuja.
Issa Tchiroma said Cameroon had no choice but to close the border, admitting that the decision could have an adverse impact on Cameroon’s economy, since the Central African nation enjoys significant trade with Nigeria, which is Africa’s biggest economy.
There have been 12 confirmed Ebola cases in Nigeria with at least four deaths.
The World Health Organization estimates that about 1,350 people have so far died of Ebola, with about 2,473 confirmed cases. The West African countries battling Ebola include Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Tchiroma said Cameroon closed its border with Nigeria in a bid to protect citizens from the deadly disease.
“The best way to address this issue given the fact that there is no medicine to curb this disease, the best way to address it is to close the border. But, this will not last forever,” said Tchiroma. “We it just because there is no other alternative, [and] we hope that it will not last for more than two to three weeks.”
Some Cameroonians have expressed concern that Yaoundé’s decision to close its border could signal a lack of trust in Nigeria’s effort to curb the disease, which they contend could sour relations between the neighboring countries.
Tchiroma disagreed, saying the decision to close the border was not ill-intentioned.
“Abuja cannot blame Cameroon for taking the necessary precaution to protect the health and the lives of our people. We have to place the lives and health of our people above everything else and that is why the government has to do it,” said Tchiroma.
Tchiroma outlined the importance of the “strong” trade relations with Nigeria after conceding that the decision could negatively have an impact on Cameroon’s economy.
“We have the full knowledge of the consequences and inconvenience that this measure will cause to Cameroon but, we have no choice,” said Tchiroma. “We didn’t do it to harm our relations with Nigeria we didn’t do it to jeopardize the diplomatic relations with Nigeria…I am convinced [that] Nigeria politicians and leaders will understand Cameroon’s [decision].”