The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing about the Crisis in the Republic of Cameroon on Wednesday, June 27. Chairman Christopher Smith opened by stating that U.S. policymakers “must understand the legitimacy of grievances and the social, constitutional and historical context of the present discontent in The Republic of Cameroon.”
Witnesses included two separate panels. The first panel was occupied by Donald Yamamoto, the Acting Assistant Secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs. In his testimony, he spoke of the humanitarian and political crisis occurring in Cameroon. Violence has sprung up since 2016, as the government has responded to peaceful protests by the Anglophone people by “shutting down the internet for over three months, shooting unarmed protestors,” and other unjust and unwarranted arrests. This crackdown on civil liberties has led to worsening death tolls, as data shows that 108 people have been killed from December 31 to April 30, 2018.
Mr. Yamamoto discussed how the U.S. has been inconsistent in addressing the issues and urged to get more access to the 160,000 displaced people without clean water or sufficient food. He also noted that elections are set to take place in October 2018, and that the U.S. will not provide direct assistance unless progress is shown in addressing these humanitarian issues. The only aid that the U.S. is currently providing is for peacekeeping, education, and counterterrorism.
On top of all of this, instability in the neighboring Nigeria and Chad has added to the crisis in Cameroon due to the Boko Haram insurgents. Also about 250,000 refugees from the Central African Republic have fled to Cameroon due to an ongoing armed conflict. Mr. Yamamoto concluded by stressing the fact that the current government’s lack of dialogue on political, economic, and humanitarian reform is the basis for the absence of U.S. aid.
The second panel included three witnesses who all mirrored Mr. Yamamoto’s description of the occurring crisis, and also urged for Congress to take action. The panelists explained in depth about the mass killings of the Anglophone people by the Cameroon military, unlawful politically motivated arrests, and other abuses of basic human rights. A reoccurring idea was dialogue—the U.S. should urge President Biya to pursue dialogue, allow for credible elections, and end unjust killings and abuses against peaceful protests. There is little hope for Cameroon to improve unless civil liberties, freedom of speech, and fair elections are accounted for. Read all testimonies and opening remarks here
By Brandon Beck