Remarks at Genie Militaire Base, Douala

SPEECH BY THE AMBASSADOR PETER HENRY BARLERIN

CAMEROON PEACEKEEPING BATTALION GRADUATION CEREMONY

 Friday, 30 August 2019

Genie Militaire Base, Douala, Cameroon 

His Excellency, Major General of the General Staff,

Honorable Leaders of the Military Community and Guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be here today to honor U.S. friendship and partnership with Cameroon by marking the completion of Cameroon’s peacekeeping training.

The United States and Cameroon share a commitment to stability and peace in the region, and we stand together in support of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic.

The United States has invested in enhancing and sustaining Cameroon’s peacekeeping proficiency and has supported this deployment through our Global Peace Operations Initiative.

Our long-term security cooperation with Cameroon is also playing a leading role in this deployment. The battalion commander, Colonel Samuel Orock Tabot, is a graduate of the prestigious West Point U.S. Military Academy as well as the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. His assignment to lead this deployment is a testament to the seriousness with which Cameroon views its role in regional peace and security.

Cameroon’s continued support to MINUSCA reflects an understanding of conflict as a regional problem, and of security as a collective effort. As Cameroon Defense Forces prepare for deployment, we recognize and thank Cameroon for its continued contribution to this mission.

This upcoming deployment comes at an especially critical juncture.

In the six months since the signing of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation, there have been some positive developments, like the establishment of new peace and reconciliation committees, as well as monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

Increase in trust among different groups, coupled with serious repercussions for agreement violations, have also been incorporated into the peace process.

The Central African Republic looks forward to free and fair elections in 2020 and 2021.

But many challenges continue to threaten forward progress, putting at risk these gains since the peace agreement was signed six months ago. MINUSCA plays a crucial role in ensuring long-term success in the Central African Republic.

In May of this year, when elements of an armed group in Ouham Pendé massacred 39 civilians, MINUSCA responded by urging militants to cooperate with judicial authorities.

Peacekeeping troops prevented reprisals and continued to enforce the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration process.

By continuing to hold armed groups accountable, MINUSCA creates the space in which stability can take root, and peace blossom.

Last month, following a violent clash that left 12 dead, MINUSCA’s intervention decreased tensions in the volatile PK5 neighborhood of Bangui.

These mediation efforts have reduced violence and continue to support the development of a much-needed civil society.

In fact, since the signing of the peace agreement, incidents of violence throughout the Central African Republic have steadily decreased.

Despite this progress, the most vulnerable members of society have paid the heaviest toll, and, more so than ever, require MINUSCA’s support and protection—your support and protection.

Sexual violence against women and children remains at unacceptable levels. According to a recent report, a woman is raped in the Central African Republic every 60 minutes.

This threat to security must be confronted head-on. To contribute to this goal, this year, my embassy’s Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program gave the battalion additional training on the prevention of HIV and gender-based violence.

It is imperative that Cameroon troops display the highest levels of professionalism. Allegations of criminal conduct undermine not only the reputation of Cameroon Defense Forces, but of the peacekeeping mission as a whole.

It is my hope that Cameroon’s peacekeeping troops maintain a high level of discipline during this deployment and sow the seeds of stability and peace in the Central Africa Republic.

Cameroon has shown remarkable hospitality in hosting some of Central African Republic’s citizens displaced by the conflict. We commend this contribution to the humanitarian response.  At the same time, Cameroon’s anticipated MINUSCA deployment to the western sector, frequently a hotbed for conflict, will continue to secure the region and help facilitate the voluntary return of internally displaced persons and refugees.

I would be remiss if I ended my remarks without mentioning the conflict in this country, in the Northwest and Southwest.  It is my fervent desire that the violence from both sides stop, and also that the two sides enter into a open dialogue without preconditions.

I wish the Cameroon peacekeeping battalion a successful deployment, as well as a safe return.

Again, I applaud Cameroon’s commitment to our shared goal of regional stability, and its continued participation in this important mission.

His Excellency the Minister Delegate at the Presidency in Charge of Defense, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much. Godspeed for a safe return, and may God protect you.