Cameroon(National Times)-Some Senators of the influential United States (US) Upper House of Assembly have petitioned the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo to cause their Government to impose sanctions on Cameroonians suspected of committing gross human rights violation.
“The United States should impose sanctions on individuals found to have committed gross violations of human rights,” the letter addressed to Pompeo reads in part.
The conclusion by these Senators is sourced out of three main circumstances in Cameroon among which are the conflict in the Anglophone Regions the war against Boko Haram and the just ended disputed elections.
Talking about the conflict in the Anglophone Regions and Boko Haram, the Senators said, “Cameroon has become an increasingly important regional counterterrorism partner and the United States has increased its commitment of security assistance in recent years. However, rising tensions in the Anglophone North West and South West Regions, coupled with credible reports of human rights abuses by Cameroonian armed forces in those Regions and the Far North, where Boko Haram is active, have changed the tone of discussion regarding US security assistance.”
The Senators went further to give a more detailed explanation of the gross human rights abuses they claim are committed by Government security forces. “Reports indicate that Government forces are responsible for extrajudicial killings, the burning of villages, torture, and other human rights abuses, including a much-publicised video reportedly showing soldiers executing two women, a child, and a baby they accused of being members of Boko Haram,” they said, adding that, “the violent death of American missionary Charles Wesco underscores the level of bloodshed engulfing the Anglophone areas of the country.”
According to the Legislators, the recent elections in Cameroon were marred by gross irregularities and it was systematically organised to disenfranchise Anglophones. To back their claim, they focused on the report by the Programme Director for Crisis Group for Central Africa which reads, “There is an emerging civil war. Anglophones feel completely disenfranchised, but they didn’t need the elections to tell them that.”
Based on these arguments, the Senators requested the Government of the United States through its Secretary of State to impose sanctions on Cameroonians responsible for these crimes. They also declared that they are considering imposing conditions on US military assistance to Cameroon.
The Senators also said that the situation in Cameroon needs a political solution and their Government should offer to mediate in the conflict between the various groups.
Bearing in mind that the report accused the Government of Cameroon for being principally responsible for the gross human rights abuses in the Far North, the Anglophone Regions and the October 7 Presidential election, it is very much likely that if sanctions were to be imposed on Cameroonians it would specifically target top Government officials.
The Government of the United States has always used sanctions as a soft-power diplomatic strategy to cause individuals and regime to change their strategy towards a particular phenomenon. Usually, these sanctions comprise of travel ban, freezing of asserts and sometimes ban on importation and exportation of certain goods especially military hardware. Such a sanction would be devastating to Government officials in Cameroon given that they frequently travel abroad especially Paul Biya who sometimes spent about a month out of the country.
Most of them have huge bank accounts abroad, family as well and highly depend on goods and services abroad. If these sanctions are imposed it would be impossible for Government officials to contain the shock. For now, there has been no official response from the Government of Cameroon.