Cameroon Lawmakers Have High Hopes for US-Africa Leaders Summit

Cameroon lawmakers say they have high expectations from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit that begins Tuesday in Washington.

The lawmakers hope the U.S. will agree to prosecute more than 200 leaders of the western Cameroon separatist movement currently living in the United States.

Emmanuel Nsahlai, an American-based human rights lawyer of Cameroonian origin, said the vast majority of people who raise funds to buy weapons for separatist forces in Cameroon’s western regions are based in the U.S.

“We have filed criminal complaints against close to 200 major Ambazonia separatist activists, all the major leaders in the U.S. of the Ambazonia Governing Council, and also filed criminal complaints against about a dozen of their non-profit organizations that they created to finance this separatist Ambazonia terrorism and violent crimes,” Nsahlai said.

Ambazonia is the name armed groups want to give to an English-speaking state they hope to break off from Cameroon and its French-speaking majority. The conflict since 2017 has killed 3,500 people and displaced 750,000, according to the U.N.

Cameroon’s government has for years been urging the U.S. and Europe to crack down on separatists operating outside the country.

The separatists say they also want the U.S. Department of Justice to convict people they say have used the separatist crisis to create armed gangs that steal and abduct for ransom.

On November 28, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it had arrested and charged three Cameroonian-born U.S. citizens with conspiracy to provide material support to a plot to kidnap persons and use weapons of mass destruction in Cameroon.

Lawmakers on Monday also said they would like the U.S. military to help Cameroonian troops fighting Boko Haram terrorism on the central African state’s northern border with Nigeria.

In 2016, Cameroon said the U.S. provided war planes and drones that gave vital information to Cameroon’s military against Boko Haram. But in March 2019, the 100 U.S troops stationed in the northern town of Garoua pulled out of Cameroon.

Cameroon is also seeking improved business ties with the U.S.

Kaite Edmond, an economist at the University of Douala in Cameroon, said the volume of U.S. goods traded in Cameroon dropped from about $531 million in 2010 to $130 million in 2019. He said because of gross human rights abuses, former U.S. President Donald Trump excluded Cameroon from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, which constitutes the cornerstone of trade relations between the United States and Africa.

AGOA accords tax-free treatment on almost all products exported by the beneficiary countries of sub-Saharan Africa towards the United States.

Kaite said to boost its economy, crippled by Russia’s war in Ukraine, Cameroon should negotiate its re-admission into AGOA during this week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

Cameroon blames overdependency on petroleum and wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine for economic hardships this year.

Delegations from more than 40 countries are attending the three-day summit. Cameroon is represented by a delegation led by 89-year-old President Paul Biya. Biya is making his first trip outside the country since May, when he went to Europe for a suspected medical check.

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