US Cuts Military Aid To Cameroon Amidst Allegations Of Gross Human Rights Violations

Cameroon Human Rights Violations
Cameroonian elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) members sit on their military vehicle under a plazard of Cameroon President Paul Biya (Photo: Reuters)

Amidst allegations of gross violations of human rights, the United States government has decided to halt its financial and military support to the government of Cameroon. The announcement was made during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week, where military officials were asked about the situation in the Central African country. Upon deliberation, the State Department and the Congress decided to cut millions in funding, amounting to over US$17 million, in security aid.

The funding was meant to be used to improve Cameroon's ability to defend itself and its territories. This would include the building of new radar systems, nine armored vehicles, four defender-class patrol boats, and funding for various training programs and exercises. The military's flight training programs for C-130s and different helicopters have also been suspended. Cameroon's bid to become a part of the country's State Partnership Program has also been withdrawn. The United State's plans to upgrade Cameroon's Elite Rapid Intervention Battalion have also been scrapped.  

The commander of the United States' Africa Command, General Thomas Waldhauser, mentioned during the committee meeting that he felt that the alleged atrocities cannot be neglected. Despite being a "good partner" in the fight against terrorism, Cameroon officials involved in the human rights violations should be held accountable. Waldhauser along with the United States Ambassador to Cameroon, Peter Henry Barlerin, mentioned that they spoke directly with Cameroon President Paul Biya about the alleged human rights violations.

Barlerin revealed that pro-government security forces were conducting unspeakable atrocities, including the assassinations, illegal detentions, torture, and the burning and looting of villages. The ambassador also accused Anglophone separatists of conducting much of the same atrocities, including the kidnapping and murder of government officials and the burning of public establishments. The violence in Cameroon has all but escalated as the fight between the French-speaking regions and the English-speaking Anglophones continue.

The State Department has asked the Cameroonian government to immediately begin investigations into these allegations and to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. The government has also been asked for the transparency of their responses to the credible allegations of human right violations by their own forces. State Department officials indicated that it would be in Cameroon's best interest to conduct these investigations immediately.

The committee at the hearing also made it clear that funding for ongoing programs that included educational programs and other non-military training will still be continued. Select maritime and counterterrorism programs will also still continue and only programs that have been deemed as low risk will be given funding. 

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