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US cuts aid to Cameroon over human rights concerns

A State Department official said that the United States appreciated Cameroon's contributions in fighting Boko Haram extremists from neighboring Nigeria but had concerns about a deadly crackdown on a revolt at home.

Cameroon flag. Picture: Pixabay.com

WASHINGTON - The United States has cut defence assistance to Cameroon - including plans to supply armored vehicles - due to concerns over human rights violations, an official said Thursday.

A State Department official said that the United States appreciated Cameroon's contributions in fighting Boko Haram extremists from neighboring Nigeria but had concerns about a deadly crackdown on a revolt at home.

"We do not take these measures lightly, but we will not shirk from reducing assistance further if evolving conditions require it," the official said on condition of anonymity.

"We emphasise that it is in Cameroon's interest to show greater transparency in investigating credible allegations of gross violations of human rights security forces, particularly in the northwest, southwest and far north regions," he said.

He said that the United States no longer planned to provide Cameroon with nine armored vehicles, four defender boats or an upgrade of a Cessna aircraft.

The United States will also suspend training and the delivery of spare parts for a C-130 transport aircraft owned by Cameroon, hold back a radar system and withdraw an offer for Yaounde to take part in a program in which individual US states help develop foreign militaries.

Human rights groups have urged a probe of the majority French-speaking country's crackdown on an armed revolt by the English-speaking minority in the southwest and northwest regions.

The government has deployed thousands of soldiers in an operation that has killed at least 500 civilians and more than 200 members of the security forces, according to estimates by the International Crisis Group think tank.

President Paul Biya has ruled Cameroon for 36 years, winning a seventh consecutive term in October. Authorities recently banned protests after unauthorised demonstrations.

The State Department official said that the United States was still offering other assistance to Cameroon, crediting its contributions both in the fight against Boko Haram and in restoring security to the piracy-ridden Gulf of Guinea.

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