By Amos Fofung
US president, Donald John Trump has handed down his first major sanction on Cameroon since his administration took office in 2016 for what he terms “persistent human rights violations” which include extrajudicial killings, arbitrary and unlawful detentions, and torture
The sanction to go into effect come January 2020 withdraws Cameroon from the list of beneficiary countries in Africa who gain economic support under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
As per the AGOA, the United State assists economies of sub-Saharan Africa and to improve trade and investments, economic relations while promoting fair trade between the United States and the region.
In a letter to US Congress on October 31, President Trump writes “in accordance with section 506A(a)(3)(B) of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (19 U.S.C. 2466a(a)(3)(B)), I am providing notice of my intent to terminate the designation of the Republic of Cameroon (Cameroon) as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).”
“I am taking this step because I have determined that the Government of Cameroon currently engages in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, contravening the eligibility requirements of section 104 of the AGOA,” Trump said in the statement.
He regrets the fact that all efforts taken by the US to have the government of Paul Biya respond to the rights abuses have been futile.
“Despite intensive engagement between the United States and the Government of Cameroon, Cameroon has failed to address concerns regarding persistent human rights violations being committed by Cameroonian security forces. These violations include extrajudicial killings, arbitrary and unlawful detention, and torture.”
“Accordingly, I intend to terminate the designation of Cameroon as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country under the AGOA as of January 1, 2020. I will continue to assess whether the Government of Cameroon engages in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, in accordance with the AGOA eligibility requirements,” his letter to Congress reads.
Commitment To Cameroon Remains Strong says US Embassy
In response to the president’s letter notifying Cameroon on his intention to terminate their eligibility for AGOA, the US embassy in Yaounde in a press release said, the President can reinstate Cameroon as a beneficiary of AGOA when it again meets the criteria,”
Beneficiary countries receiving AGOA benefits are subject to review and President Trump found Cameroon not to be in compliance, the Embassy said in the statement.
“In 2018, Cameroon exported roughly $220 million in goods and services to the United States; $63 million was exported under AGOA, over 90 percent of which was crude petroleum” the embassy said adding “The United States is a committed partner and friend of Cameroon, and we will continue to pursue robust and diverse commercial ties, working with other tools at our disposal toward realizing the enormous potential of this relationship for our mutual prosperity and economic growth”.