WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to halt all further U.S. security assistance to Cameroon, except for dealing with Boko Haram, until the U.S. Secretaries of Defense and State certify military and security forces of Cameroon have demonstrated progress in abiding by international human rights standards, particularly in regards to repression in Anglophone parts of the country. Decades of marginalization of the country’s Anglophone population have led to simmering tensions and government repression.
“America’s strength is in our values. We cannot remain complicit in actions that are used to commit gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. American military assistance can no longer prop up Cameroon’s military and security forces who are attacking innocent civilians,” said Cardin. “While Cameroon is an important partner in combatting Boko Haram, and our amendment will not interfere with those efforts, we must make clear that the violence against the people of Cameroon is unacceptable. Schools are closed. Armed groups are attacking civilians and especially refugees. The health system is breaking down. The government must make substantial changes that benefit the safety and well-being of the people of Cameroon.”
“Earlier this month at Chicago’s Kovler Center, I heard devastating stories firsthand from refugees who fled mounting political violence in Cameroon. And President Biya’s long history of jailing journalists and lack of respect for human rights do not bode well for peacefully addressing the country’s colonial-era divisions,” Durbin said. “That is why I introduced an amendment to the FY2020 NDAA with Senators Cardin, Van Hollen, and Kaine that stops all further U.S. security assistance to Cameroon, except for dealing with Boko Haram, until the Secretaries of Defense and State can certify that such violent repression has come to a halt. On Monday, I told Cameroonian Ambassador Essomba that the U.S. stands ready to help when a peaceful path forward is advanced.”
“When providing military aid to foreign nations, we must ensure their governments are not engaging in gross violations of human rights. I am deeply concerned by reports of political violence and repression coming out of Cameroon – we cannot turn a blind eye to these actions. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this amendment, and I urge the Senate to send this clear message to the Cameroonian government, that these abuses will not be tolerated,” said Van Hollen.
“I am deeply troubled by reports of gross human rights violations by Cameroonian military forces and President Biya’s open contempt for democratic norms. This amendment will send a strong message to the government of Cameroon that the U.S. will not turn a blind eye to this conduct, and to the Trump Administration that human rights must be prioritized in our bilateral relationship,” Kaine said.
In December, Cardin, Durbin, Van Hollen and Kaine joined several other Democratic Senators in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging greater U.S. attention to mounting violence in Cameroon. On Monday, Durbin met with the Cameroonian Ambassador to the United States, Etoundi Essomba Henri.
Full text of the amendment is available here.