Ambassador Barlerin’s Statement to the Press
As Prepared for Delivery
Following his Meeting with President Paul Biya
The Unity Palace, Yaoundé, May 17, 2018
In addition to transmitting the best wishes of President Trump for Cameroon’s National Day, I discussed with President Biya a number of issues of common interest.
First, the President agreed with me on the importance of welcoming U.S. companies to Cameroon and treating them fairly. U.S. companies have a lot to offer in terms of training and workforce development as well as technology and respect for human rights and the environment. The U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act also makes it a criminal offense to pay bribes, so that the Cameroonian people get the best possible products and services without concern that a share of public funds are being siphoned off.
Second, in the area of health, we have a lot to do but good cooperation in the field of fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and preventing, detecting, and responding quickly to other infectious diseases like avian influenza. I asked for the President’s help in eliminating fees for HIV/AIDS services. Cameroon is one of a very small number of countries that still charges for HIV services. Other countries, including the Ivory Coast and Nigeria, have seen a significant increase in retention rates when fees are eliminated.
In the area of security cooperation, I congratulated the President on our joint efforts to fight Boko Haram and the Islamic State in the Far North. I told him I appreciated the Minister Delegate for Defense’s assurances that U.S. equipment would only be used in the fight against Boko Haram and the Islamic State. I also stressed that U.S. law prevents us from training or working with units against whom credible allegations of gross violations of human rights have been lodged.
In this regard, I welcomed the recent press communiqué that there would be a full investigation of alleged torture of a prisoner by Cameroonian forces and that the guilty would be punished. A recent UNDP study found that 71 percent of those who said they had joined violent extremist organizations did so because of government action such as the murder of a close relative or friend.
On the situation in the Northwest and Southwest, the month of April has proven the bloodiest so things are not getting better. I discussed with the President our view that the two sides in the conflict are simply not listening to each other.
On the side of the government, there have been targeted killings, detentions without access to legal support, family, or the Red Cross, and burning and looting of villages. On the side of the separatists, there have been murders of gendarmes, kidnapping of government officials, and burning of schools. People on both sides of the conflict have engaged in speech that dehumanizes the opposite side.
We continue to call on both sides to stop the violence immediately. I asked the President to use his leadership to encourage both sides to listen to each other. One cannot have a dialogue until both sides are willing to listen to the other’s point of view.
Finally, the President and I discussed upcoming elections. I suggested to the President that he should be thinking about his legacy and how he wants to be remembered in the history books to be read by generations to come, and proposed that George Washington and Nelson Mandela were excellent models. I further praised the President for his efforts in maintaining a diversified economy that has been better able to withstand the challenges of commodity price swings than many others in the region.