The US Ambassador to Cameroon, Christopher J. Lamora visited Bamenda, one of the chief towns in the former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons, on Thursday January 25, 2024, as part of his efforts to understand the situation on the ground and promote a peaceful resolution to the ongoing armed conflict in the restive region.
Lamora met with various stakeholders, including government officials, religious leaders, civil society representatives, and journalists, to listen to their perspectives and concerns. He said he was learning a lot about the realities and challenges faced by the people of Bamenda and the surrounding areas, and that this would help him to formulate and recommend US policy towards Cameroon.
“I engage frequently with members of government, members of civil society, et cetera, in Yaounde and elsewhere in the country. But nothing beats coming and talking to people here and more importantly, listening to people here,” he said.
He expressed his satisfaction that in the areas he personally visited, life seemed to be going on normally, and that people had found ways to cope with the situation. He hoped that this would soon be the case for everyone in the entire war-torn former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons, where violence and instability have been rampant for over seven years.
“The United States absolutely stands for rights, and we stand for peace. And we want both. We want there to be peace throughout all of Cameroon, and we want all Cameroonians to be able to enjoy the rights that they have as Cameroonian citizens,” he said.
He reiterated the US position that the only way to end the conflict is through a peaceful and inclusive dialogue that addresses the root causes and grievances of the Southern Cameroons population. He said the US had been consistent and clear on this matter for over seven years, and that it would continue to support any efforts that lead to a lasting solution.
Mr. Lamora condemned the actions of some individuals living in the United States who have been involved in fostering or financing or expressing support for violence in Cameroon. He said the US Department of Justice had arrested, charged, and sentenced several people for engaging in activities that violated US law and contributed to the insecurity in Cameroon. He said the US would not tolerate the use of its territory as a safe haven for promoting violence.
“It is unacceptable to use the United States as a safe haven, to engage in promotion of violence. We have said from the beginning that it is unacceptable, and we have acted on that,” he said.
He said he hoped that his visit would help to build trust and confidence between the US and Cameroon, and that he looked forward to continuing the dialogue and cooperation with all parties.
“Our position is clear as regards what we want the outcome to be. We want the outcome to be peace and the ability of the people of Northwest and Southwest to return to the lives they had prior to the crisis,” he said.
Mr. Lamora said the US government was committed to supporting the development and reconstruction of the affected areas, in collaboration with the Cameroonian government and the local population. He said the US had carefully studied the evolution of what many people refer to as green, yellow, and red zones, indicating the level of security and stability in different locations. He said the US wanted to ensure that any development projects would have a beneficial and sustainable impact on the people, and that they would not be destroyed by violence or instability.
“You want to be sure that if you are going to do major development projects, that it’s going to really have a beneficial effect on the people where they are and that it will be sustainable, that you want to make sure that if you build a certain thing in a certain location today, that it will not be destroyed tomorrow. And that is a very difficult decision on how to sequence that and where. I do not envy the people who have to make those decisions, whether they are from the government or they are local population, about when to do what, where. But in the long term, there’s no question we want to help to rebuild what has been destroyed,” he said.
Mr. Lamora also highlighted the broad-based relationship between the US and Cameroon, which covers security, humanitarian, and governance issues. He praised the cooperation between the US and Cameroon on combating terrorism and piracy in the sub region and said the US had invested millions of dollars in health, education, and food security programs in Cameroon. He said the US was also interested in helping Cameroon achieve its vision for the future, in terms of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.