The United States has removed Cameroon from its preferred trade status under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) because of its human rights record.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced the decision late Thursday in a directive to lawmakers, citing “gross violations” of internationally recognized human rights, which violate provisions of the eligibility requirements for participating African nations. The change takes effect on January 1.
“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,” the White House statement said. “These violations include extrajudicial killings, arbitrary and unlawful detention, and torture.”
The U.S. decision comes less than a month after Cameroon’s President Paul Biya concluded a national dialogue he hoped would demonstrate commitment to ending the West African nation’s political crisis, which began in October 2016 in the country’s English-speaking regions.
Protests led by lawyers, teachers and doctors in the Anglophone territories of the country’s northwest and southwest began peacefully. They appealed to the Cameroonian government to address historic grievances over inequalities between the English-speaking regions and the French-speaking majority that date to the colonial era.
Those protests were met with force, escalating into a crisis from which a full-blown Ambazonia separatist movement emerged. Some 3,000 people have died, according to the opposition MRC party.
While the 86-year-old Biya congratulated Cameroonians on their “success,” the dialogue process was viewed with suspicion by MRC and rejected by Anglophone separatists and some opposition leaders.
“The participants in this dialogue chose as a response to the Anglophones’ demands on the form of the state, to maintain decentralization with a ‘special status’ for the regions concerned,” the MRC said at the dialogue conclusion last month. “Our greatest wish is that this solution really meets the expectations of the populations of these regions. But it is feared that this will not be the case.”
Image: U.S. presidency file