The U.S. State Department moved Wednesday to cut security aid to Cameroon after accusations surfaced that its military is responsible for a long list of human rights violations against its citizens.
Some 300 American troops are based in Cameroon, which is considered an important U.S. security partner in central Africa, to fight extremism in the country. Their future, however, is now less certain due to new claims that Cameroon’s armed forces have targeted civilians during operations in the north, southwest and northwest regions. English-speaking insurgents have been fighting Cameroon forces in an effort to start a breakaway country called Ambazonia.
In response, U.S. officials plan to eliminate $17 million in security aid — a cut that would dramatically affect U.S.-supplied military equipment and political assistance, CNN reported.
“We continue to urge the Cameroonian government to take all credible allegations of gross violations of human rights seriously, investigate those allegations thoroughly, hold accountable the perpetrators of such abuses, and disclose the outcome of the investigations to the people of Cameroon,” a State Department official told the Hill.
“We have informed the Cameroonian government that lack of progress and clarity about actions undertaken by the government in response to credible allegations of gross violations of human rights could result in a broader suspension of U.S. assistance.”
The Washington Post also reported U.S. plans to cut security aid, which are connected with an elite Cameroon force called the Rapid Intervention Battalion, which observers say is responsible for numerous civil rights abuses.
Amnesty International answered Wednesday by calling on the U.S. government to do more.
“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, Amnesty’s deputy director for advocacy and government relations, said in a statement.
“The United States must continue to show that it takes human rights violations committed with its aid seriously, through the suspension of all security assistance until the Cameroonian government can show it has not been utilized to commit serious violations of international law and persons responsible have been held accountable.”
The United States condemned militants and Cameroon’s regime in November after more than 70 schoolchildren were kidnapped. They were released several days later.
“The United States expresses grave concern over the burgeoning Anglophone crisis in Cameroon’s northwest and southwest regions,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at the time.
“The systematic intimidation based on ethnic and religious affiliation … must stop,” she added.