By Andrew Nsoseka
Irked by human rights abuses in Cameroon, particularly those committed by Government troops in the handling of Anglophone Crisis, some US Senators have moved to introduce an amendment aimed at halting all further US security assistance to Cameroon, except that related to the fight against Boko Haram.
The proposed suspension is intended to last until a time when Cameroon’s military and security forces demonstrate progress in abiding by international human rights standards.
A press statement from Washington, on June 25, noted that US Senators, Dick Durbin, Ben Cardin, Chris Van Hollen, and Tim Kaine introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defence Authorisation Act, NDAA, in which they called for a general halt of all military assistance, except in the fight against Boko Haram.
The Senators’ proposed amendment is to the effect that: “No Federal funds may be obligated or expended to provide any security assistance or to engage in any security cooperation with the military and security forces of Cameroon until the date on which the Secretary of Defence, in consultation with the Secretary of State, certifies to the appropriate committees of Congress that such military and security forces have demonstrated significant progress in abiding by international human rights standards and preventing abuses in the Anglophone conflict; and are not using any United States assistance in carrying out such abuses”.
Commenting on the issue, Senator Durbin said: “Earlier this month at Chicago’s Kovler Centre, I heard devastating stories first-hand from refugees who fled mounting political violence in Cameroon. And President Biya’s long history of jailing journalists and lack of respect for human rights does not bode well for peacefully addressing the country’s colonial-era divisions”.
“That is why I introduced an amendment to the FY2020 NDAA with Senators Cardin, Van Hollen, and Kaine that stops all further US security assistance to Cameroon, except for dealing with Boko Haram, until the Secretaries of Defence and State can certify that such violent repression has come to a halt. On Monday, I told Cameroonian Ambassador, Essomba, that the US stands ready to help when a peaceful path forward is advanced,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senator Cardin noted that: “America’s strength is in our values. We can no longer remain complicit in actions that are used to commit gross violations of internationally recognised human rights. American military assistance can no longer prop up Cameroon’s military and security forces who are attacking innocent civilians.
“While Cameroon is an important partner in combatting Boko Haram, and our amendment will not interfere with those efforts, we must make clear that the violence against the people of Cameroon is unacceptable. Schools are closed. Armed groups are attacking civilians and especially refugees. The health system is breaking down. The Government must make substantial changes that benefit the safety and well-being of the people of Cameroon.”
Van Hollen also cautioned that: “When providing military aid to foreign nations, we must ensure their Governments are not engaging in gross violations of human rights. I am deeply concerned by reports of political violence and repression coming out of Cameroon – we cannot turn a blind eye to these actions. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this amendment, and I urge the Senate to send this clear message to the Cameroonian Government, that these abuses will not be tolerated.”
Senator Kaine, one of the Senators introducing the amendment said: “I am deeply troubled by reports of gross human rights violations by Cameroonian military forces and President Biya’s open contempt for democratic norms. This amendment will send a strong message to the Government of Cameroon that the US will not turn a blind eye to this conduct, and to the Trump Administration that human rights must be prioritised in our bilateral relationship”.