Despite announcing plans to trim military support for Cameroon’s government over its alleged human rights violations, the United States will continue partnering on security efforts with the central African country, key U.S. officials said Thursday.
U.S. Ambassador Peter Henry Barlerin assured that the U.S. was “not going to stop security cooperation with Cameroon,” The Associated Press reported him saying after he met Thursday with Cameroon government spokesman Rene Emmanuel Sadi.
“Relations between Cameroon and the United States are excellent and longstanding,” Barlerin said, “and we aim to continue that relationship.”
His comments in Yaounde, the capital, came after it was reported Wednesday that the U.S. government was cutting about $17 million in military aid to the government of President Paul Biya.
Also Thursday, the head of U.S. Africa Command, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Cameroon has “been a good partner with us counterterrorismwise, but you can’t neglect the fact that … there are alleged atrocities,” The Washington Post reported him as saying at a hearing Thursday.
Waldhauser also told the committee that Africa Command would sustain its mission “to train the counterterrorism forces in Cameroon that deal with Boko Haram,” the Islamist militant group.
The Pentagon has roughly 300 U.S. troops engaged in training and aiding Cameroonian security forces.
CNN, citing unnamed U.S. officials, reported that the cutback would eliminate funding “for radars, four defender-class patrol boats, nine armored vehicles, training programs for C-130 airplanes and helicopters,” among other things.
Cameroonian security forces — grappling with Boko Haram in the far north and the Ambazonian separatist movement in two English-speaking regions in the west — have been accused of committing serious violations against citizens.
“Cameroonian security forces have indiscriminately killed, arrested and tortured people, firing on crowds, displacing thousands of civilians, and destroying entire villages with impunity,” Adotei Akwei, an official with Amnesty International USA, said Thursday in a statement responding to the U.S. decision.
Cameroon’s government rejected a 2018 report by the rights group, saying its accounts of torture at the hands of security forces amounted to “a web of false allegations,” as communications minister Tchiroma Bakary was quoted in the Journal du Cameroun.
The Washington Post reported on the U.S. decision Wednesday. It quoted a State Department email that explained the measure was intended to press Cameroon “to show greater transparency in investigating credible allegations of gross violations of human rights security forces, particularly in the Northwest, Southwest and Far North Regions.”
The Amnesty International statement urged the Trump administration to “press other donors of security assistance to review their programs and insist on accountability and reform within the Cameroonian security forces.”
France announced Thursday that it would maintain its support.
“France is bound by a defense partnership agreement that it conducts according to the international standards,” French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters at a daily briefing, Reuters news service reported.
A spokesman for the Ambazonian separatist movement also praised the U.S. move and encouraged other western countries to pull back support, too.
“What the U.S. has done, it came a little bit late, but we appreciate it, and we hope that every European nation (and) Canada will follow suit,” Chris Anu, the movement’s secretary of state, told VOA. “Because if that is not done, the regime in French Cameroon will decimate everything that is in southern Cameroon before the world comes to know about it.”