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Cameroon’s days as reliable U.S. partner may be numbered

cameroons-days-as-reliable-us-partner-may-be-numbered

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya

The re-election this week of Cameroon’s President Paul Biya — in power since 1982 — could be bad news, not just for Cameroon and the region, but for the United States.

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Cameroon for a long time was regarded as a paragon of stability in a part of the world too often marked by insecurity, civil wars and coups. During the Cold War, the country remained close to France, which served French political and economic interests while also suiting the United States, which appreciated French dominance in the region as a barrier to Soviet influence, not to mention Cameroon’s status as a modest but stable oil producer.

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More recently, in 2013, Cameroon emerged as a valuable counterterrorism partner when the Boko Haram insurgency spilled over from neighboring Nigeria. Cameroon’s military joined the fight alongside regional militaries and with the backing of France and the United States, which boosted security assistance to the country, according to USAID data (the level of aid has since dropped), although as many as 300 U.S. soldiers remain deployed to the country to support and train the Cameroonian military. Cameroon also benefits from French security assistance (in 2013, Cameroon played a key role in France’s military intervention in the Central African Republic as a logistical hub and port of entry). Bolstered by outside help, the Cameroonian security forces have proven remarkably effective.

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The problem is that under Biya, the Cameroonian government is rapidly becoming more authoritarian and bloody-minded, making insecurity worse, rather than better. The country’s days as a reliable partner seem numbered.

UPI

26/10/2018

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