INTERVIEW WITH BARTHÉLÉMY TSILLA
By Aboudi Ottou, US Africa News. Updated 2015-10-15
Colonel BARTHÉLÉMY Tsilla, the commander of the Air Base 301 in Garoua, Cameroon explains the role of aviation in the war against Boko Haram.
USAN: What has been the contribution of the Garoua Air Base 301 in the war against Boko Haram?
BARTHÉLÉMY TSILLA: The mission of the Air Base 301 is to support the other corps (army, navy, police, etc.) as well as other air bases which have planes that pass through here. The establishment of virtually all security in the Far North of our country has been made by air. Since Maroua does not have an open air base, it’s the Garoua Base that supports all the aircraft. So we have had to be in two places at once in terms of logistics and support to other forces and other air bases, especially the Air Base 201 with its C 130 (military transport aircraft), and Air Bases 101 and 102 with respect to their helicopters. The specificity of the Air Base 301 is that we service combat aircraft. And these warplanes have a national scope. I could not say international, because sometimes we become international without saying. So there were particular implications in the war against Boko Haram, with respect to long distance aerial observation. It was necessary to recognize the targets, check that they were appropriate. It was necessary to support ground troops with fire when they were stuck. And that it was principally what was done in Ashigashiya.
USAN: Since the emergence of this force, have the combat aircraft remained on the offensive?
B. TSILLA: The planes remain on the offensive. But you know that the use of the 3rd dimension is enormously expensive. So we don’t go flying for fun. We do training flights and actual operational flights because fuel and ammunition is expensive. You know that Boko Haram has changed its mode of action. They no longer fight face-to-face. They are now in the Kamikaze mode which is, in my opinion, totally crazy. So it's not conventional warfare. But if they come back, we will ratchet our efforts up a notch. Because we still have the capacity. The weapon we used the first time will not be the weapon we use if they come back. We can use something else that does more damage.
USAN: What was the impact of the action on Ashigashia for your men?
B. TSILLA: The day that you have a target in front of you, you pull the trigger and loose the shells on the target; you are content that the work done in training pays off. I'm going to be brutally honest: for me Boko Haram is a good thing. It allows me to actually use the aircraft on a real objective and gives me concrete feedback. It's good for the men to know that this is no longer a joke. It's war.
USAN: And we’ve seen that it’s working. We’ve learned that the Cameroonian army acquired drones. Can you confirm this information?
B. TSILLA: You just asked a journalist's question; I'll answer as a technician. A drone is an aerial device which is controlled from a base. There are mini drones guided by VHF and as soon as VHF range ends, you no longer see anything. But, for such a device in Cameroon, what we actually call combat drones, which can be operated from anywhere; this is a panacea for countries that have a satellite. Or someone can lend you a satellite beam. Cameroon has partners. So we are not obliged to have to have a drone, or else we can borrow a satellite beam.