Durbin Joins Risch, Cardin In Condemning In Violence In Anglophone Cameroon

WASHINGTON  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined Senators Jim Risch (R-ID) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) to introduce a resolution calling on the Government of Cameroon and armed separatist groups from the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions to end all violence, respect the human rights of all Cameroonians, and pursue a genuinely inclusive dialogue toward resolving the ongoing civil conflict in Anglophone Cameroon.

“Last year at Chicago’s Kovler Center, I heard devastating stories firsthand from refugees who fled mounting political violence in Cameroon.  And President Biya’s long history of jailing journalists and lack of respect for human rights do not bode well for peacefully addressing the country’s colonial-era divisions,” Durbin said.  “That is why I joined my colleagues to introduce this resolution that calls on the Government of Cameroon and armed separatist groups to end all violence and pursue an inclusive dialogue.  The U.S. stands ready to help when a peaceful path forward is advanced.”

Key provisions of the resolution include encouraging all parties of the Anglophone conflict in Cameroon to:

  • Conclude and uphold an immediate ceasefire;
  • Guarantee unfettered humanitarian access and assistance to the Northwest and Southwest regions;
  • Exercise restraint and ensure that political protests are peaceful; and,
  • Establish a credible process for an inclusive dialogue that includes all relevant stakeholders to achieve a sustainable political solution that respects the rights and freedoms of all of the people of Cameroon.

Along with Durbin, Risch, and Cardin, the resolution was also cosponsored by Senators Todd Young (R-IN), Ed Markey (D-A.), James Lankford (R-OK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Full text of the resolution can be found here.

Since 2016, Cameroon’s security forces have been credibly accused of grave human rights abuses, including suppressing the basic freedoms of expression and assembly, arbitrarily detaining those who challenge the president’s authority, torture, and extrajudicial killings.  Human Rights Watch has documented extensive burning of villages by members of the security forces in the last two years in both the Northwest and Southwest regions, as well as rampant killings of civilians and sexual violence.

In June, Durbin, Cardin, and Van Hollen introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to halt all further U.S. security assistance to Cameroon, except for dealing with Boko Haram, until the U.S. Secretaries of Defense and State certify military and security forces of Cameroon have demonstrated progress in abiding by international human rights standards, particularly in regards to repression in Anglophone parts of the country.  Durbin, Cardin, Van Hollen, and Kaine also introduced this amendment to the FY 2020 NDAA as well.

In June 2019, Durbin met with the Cameroonian Ambassador to the United States, Etoundi Essomba Henri.  In December 2018, Durbin, Van Hollen, Cardin, and Kaine joined several other Democratic Senators in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging greater U.S. attention to mounting violence in Cameroon. 

Durbin has helped advocate for the release of jailed Cameroonian journalists and political prisoners, including musician Lapiro de Mbanga who was jailed for his songs criticizing the country’s dictator.