US cuts military aid to Cameroon over human rights concerns

The United States has cut defense assistance to Cameroon – including plans to supply armored vehicles – due to concerns over human rights violations, an official said on Thursday, February 7.

A State Department official said that the U.S. appreciated Cameroon’s contributions in fighting Boko Haram extremists from neighboring Nigeria but had concerns about a deadly crackdown at home.

“We do not take these measures lightly, but we will not shirk from reducing assistance further if evolving conditions require it,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“We emphasize that it is in Cameroon’s interest 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,” he said.

He said that the U.S. no longer planned to provide Cameroon with nine armored vehicles, four defender-class patrol boats or an upgrade of a Cessna aircraft.

The U.S. will also suspend training and the delivery of spare parts for a C-130 transport aircraft owned by Cameroon, hold back a radar system and withdraw an offer for Yaounde to take part in a program in which individual U.S. states help develop foreign militaries.

According to CNN which first reported the decision to cut assistance on Wednesday, the proposed partnership was with the Nebraska National Guard. That report valued the assistance cut at more than $17 million.

Eighty-five-year-old President Paul Biya has ruled Cameroon for 36 years, winning a seventh consecutive term in October. Authorities recently banned protests after unauthorized demonstrations.

Human rights groups have urged a probe of the majority French-speaking country’s crackdown on an armed revolt by the country’s English-speaking minority in the Southwest and Northwest regions in the north of the country, where they are in the majority.

For years, resentment built among anglophones, fostered by perceived marginalization in education, the judiciary and the economy at the hands of the French-speaking majority. Demands for greater autonomy were rejected by Biya.

Fighting has become a regular occurrence in both anglophone regions since October 2017, when separatists declared independence for the Republic of Ambazonia.

The government has deployed thousands of soldiers in an operation that has killed at least 500 civilians and more than 200 members of the security forces, according to estimates by the International Crisis Group think tank.

Cameroon has since 2014 been fighting Boko Haram in the Far North region near the border with Nigeria. Around 2,000 civilians and soldiers have been killed, and about 1,000 people kidnapped, according to the International Crisis Group.

The State Department official said that the United States was still offering other assistance to Cameroon, crediting its contributions both in the fight against Boko Haram and in restoring security to the piracy-ridden Gulf of Guinea.

With reporting from AFP.

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