Ambassador Michael Kozak, from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor take questions from journalist in the Briefing Room immediately Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, delivers remarks to the media U.S. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices at the U.S Department of State in Washington DC on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Photo: EMMANUEL IKODOR, TODAY NEWS AFRICA
Ambassador Michael Kozak, from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor take questions from journalist in the Briefing Room immediately Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, delivers remarks to the media U.S. 2018 Country Report on Human Rights Practices at the U.S Department of State in Washington DC on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Photo: EMMANUEL IKODOR, TODAY NEWS AFRICA

The administration of President Donald Trump is “extremely concerned” about rights violations in the central African nation of Cameroon, another senior official said on Wednesday, a day after a top official called on the government in Yaounde to open lines of communications with separatist leaders to end the bloodshed.

“We continue to be extremely concerned about the situation there,” Ambassador Michael Kozak, from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said at a press briefing in Washington DC.

“I mean, not only do you have terrorist organizations, but then you’ve got the dispute between the Anglophone regions and the government – central government.

“We’ve had many discussions with the Cameroonian authorities about the need to investigate and to hold accountable security forces when they commit abuses.  And these are documented in the report.  I think you’ll see that,” he added while briefing journalists on the release of the annual global human rights report.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Ambassador.  My name is Simon Ateba from Today News Africa here in Washington, D.C.  We’ve seen part of the report.  Can you please comment on the human rights situation in Cameroon, Nigeria, and Uganda?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR KOZAK:  Okay.  Well, I will comment on it to the extent of my memory, but the report is going to be more detailed than my memory will be.  But on Cameroon, we continue to be extremely concerned about the situation there.  I mean, not only do you have terrorist organizations, but then you’ve got the dispute between the Anglophone regions and the government – central government.  We’ve had many discussions with the Cameroonian authorities about the need to investigate and to hold accountable security forces when they commit abuses.  And these are documented in the report.  I think you’ll see that.

Cameroon has been embroiled in a bloody battle between armed separatists demanding independence, and soldiers, vowing not to let Cameroon break up.

Hundreds have died, thousands of Anglophones have been displaced to Nigeria while schools have been burned to ashes and several people have been kidnapped.

President Paul Biya of Cameroon, who has been in power for close to four decades, has described the armed secessionists as terrorists, and vowed never to negotiate with armed groups that take up weapons against a sovereign nation like Cameroon.

Anglophones have argued that in a country where they are treated as second class citizens, only independence would bring about true peace.

They have also argued that with soldiers killing their people and reportedly burning villages, they had no choice but to arm themselves.

Authorities have countered the violence claim argument, saying that the armed activists, who are reportedly sponsored from Maryland in the United States, were burning schools and abducting students to curry sympathy from donors and nations around the world.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s top diplomat for Africa, Mr Tibor Nagy, urged Cameroonian authorities to open lines of communication with Anglophone separatists.

Nagy, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs made the call during a telephonic press briefing from Kigali, Rwanda.

He argued that only dialogue, not bloodshed, can end the Cameroonian crisis.

“My heart breaks for Cameroon … I just don’t understand why this crisis goes on and on and on,” he told reporters.

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