By Boris Esono Nwenfor (Cameroon)
The US government is set to cut millions of security aid to Cameroon over growing concerns of human rights abuses, US officials told CNN.
The officials said the US intends to “terminate” over $17 million in security aid, including funds for radars, four defender-class patrol boats, nine armored vehicles and the withdrawal of an offer for Cameroon to be a candidate for the State Partnership Program- a security cooperation program that teams US State National Guards with host nation militaries. Originally, the Defense Department had intended Cameroon to partner with the Nebraska National Guard.
A planned US funded upgrade to a Cesena aircraft belonging to Cameroon’s elite rapid Intervention Battalion has also been terminated, according to CNN. The battalion which has been previously advised by US troops has been accused of engaging in human rights abuses.
This action comes on the heels of accusations from US Ambassador to Cameroon Peter Henry Belerin who accused security forces of carrying out targeted killings, arbitrary detentions as well as burning villages and looting properties.
Peter Belerin also accused separatist fighters of killing gendarmes as well as kidnapping government officials and burning schools in the restive Anglophone regions.
According to a State Department official via CNN, “We continue to urge the Cameroonian government to take all credible allegations of gross violations of human rights seriously, investigate those allegations thoroughly, hold accountable the perpetrators of such abuses, and disclose the outcome of the investigations to the people of Cameroon”.
“We have informed the Cameroonian government that the lack of progress and clarity about actions undertaking by the government in response to credible allegations of gross violations of human rights could result in a broader suspension of US assistance” the State Department official said whil indicating that the US has “been assured by the government of Cameroon at the highest levels that US security assistance will not be diverted from other than its intended purposes”.
Another State Department official told CNN “it is in Cameroon’s interest to show greater transparency in investigating credible allegations of gross violations of human rights abuses by security forces, particularly in the North West and South West and the Far North Regions”. “The successes of the Cameroon military in part as a result of our training and equipment have yielded long term and sustainable increases in Cameroon’s ability to aid its territory, boarders and come to the aid of its neighbors, in particular North East Nigeria and Central Africa Republic”.
“….For the time being, other programs will continue. We do not take these measures lightly but we will not shirk from reducing assistance further if evolving conditions require it” he said. Such programs include education programs for Cameroonian officers focused on professionalization and peacekeeping as well as to continue to support “select counterterrorism and maritime security programs that have been evaluated to have low risk diversion to the Anglophone region”.
Cameroon’s restive Anglophone regions have been engaged in a bitter confrontation for more than two years now. Separatist fighters are fighting for separation from the dominant French speaking Cameroon which has been under the control of Paul Biya for more than 36 years now. The crisis has led to thousands of Cameroonians to seek refuge in Nigeria; others have taken to bushes while some have gone to neighboring Yaounde, Douala. Thousands of civilians have been victims of the war while security forces and separatists continued to be killed.