International rights body, Human Rights Watch, has said United States of America’s termination of the designation of Cameroon as a beneficiary country under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA, should serve as a wake-up call to Yaounde authorities.
In a statement Tuesday, the Human Rights Watch requested for global pressure to end acts of rights abuses including executions, unlawful detention, and torture being perpetrated in the restive North West and South West regions.
They have also said the suspension of Cameroon from AGOA should stir action from other international partners to Cameroon to publicly address serious human rights concerns in the country.
Cameroon lost privileged access to the US market offered under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA, the Rights body said Tuesday.
It added that: “last week, the Trump administration announced it intends to cut trade benefits for Cameroon by January 1, 2020, citing persistent human rights violations in the country”.
AGOA allows sub-Saharan African countries to export to the US without a customs duty, provided the country’s government has established or is making progress toward establishing, rule of law, political pluralism, fair trial and due process standards, and equal protection under the law.
In his message to Congress, President Trump said Cameroon has failed to address concerns regarding government forces’ persistent human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary and unlawful detention, and torture.
Human Rights Watch then said it has documented serious human rights abuses committed by security forces both in the Far North region and in the Anglophone regions since 2017. The rights abuses, they said, include killing of civilians, burning of hundreds of homes, and the systematic use of torture and incommunicado detention.
This is the second time in a year the US has taken action on Cameroon. In February, they recounted that Washington scaled back its military assistance to Cameroon, also citing allegations of human rights abuses. Trump’s recent announcement, Human Rights Watch said, comes after participants at a dialogue in Yaounde had adopted a special status for the two Anglophone regions.
They said President Paul Biya has also released hundreds of political prisoners, including prominent opposition party leader, Maurice Kamto.
“While these are positive steps, the government’s crackdown on political space and serious violations in their counter response to separatist violence continue,” said the statement.
Last week, authorities banned three meetings planned by Kamto’s party, the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, MRC, the group said. Defying the meeting ban, hundreds of MRC supporters gathered in the capital on November 2 before antiriot police violently dispersed them, they added.
“Witnesses reported police severely beat and injured at least ten demonstrators. Thirty-three MRC members and supporters were arrested but released the same day,” the group said.