The US is cutting Cameroon from a trade pact over allegations of human rights violations.
President Donald Trump said the West African nation failed to address concerns over its “persistent gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” allegedly committed by Cameroon’s security forces.
The US also cut more than $17 million in security aid and support to Cameroon in February over concerns about its human rights record.
In a letter addressed to Congress on Thursday, Trump cited accusations of torture and extrajudicial killings of citizens by the country’s military as reasons for removing Cameroon from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
AGOA helps sub-Saharan countries improve trade ties with the US. Eligible countries must meet criteria including a good human rights record to benefit from the trade.
“The US government remains deeply concerned about persistent gross violations of human rights being committed by the Cameroonian government against its own citizens,” Deputy US Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney said in a statement.
Cameroon is reeling under the impact of an Anglophone revolt that began in its English-speaking provinces in 2016 after residents complained of being marginalized by the largely Francophone government.
Security forces also have been in a standoff with separatists in these areas, and both sides have been accused of killing and torturing citizens in the crossfire.
Cameroon’s Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Relations Felix Mbayu claimed the sanctions were not linked to its human rights record.
“The simple truth is that the US is unhappy with a certain stance we take with China,” he said.
In February, China wrote off some of Cameroon’s debts. China also is carrying out projects in Cameroon to forge better ties with the government. Unlike China and other world powers, the US was not a major trade partner, Mbayu said.
“The government has no move to make; we have other partners like China, Russia and Singapore who are ready to do business with us… We have no reaction to the US,” Mbayu told CNN.
“The least of our worry now is about the AGOA issue. By the way, it is a very small part of Cameroon’s relationship with the United States,” he added.
The minister estimated Cameroon’s exports to the US under the trade legislation are $5 million, mostly consisting of agricultural and petroleum products he said the US “cannot do without.”
In a statement reaffirming its commitment to West African nation despite the sanctions, the US Embassy in Cameroon valued the country’s export to the US at $220 million in 2018. It added that more than a quarter of the exports came off the AGOA legislation with 90 percent from petroleum exports.