WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said he would end Cameroon’s preferential trade benefits from Jan. 1, citing what he called the African country’s “persistent gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”
In a letter to the U.S. Congress, Trump said Cameroon had failed to address U.S. concerns regarding extrajudicial killings, torture and other persistent human rights violations being committed by Cameroonian security forces.
“I am taking this step because I have determined that the Government of Cameroon currently engages in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, contravening the eligibility requirements of section 104 of the (African Growth and Opportunity Act),” Trump wrote in the letter.
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney said the U.S. government remained deeply concerned about human rights violations committed by the Cameroonian government against its own citizens.
“This action underscores the Administration’s commitment to upholding the human rights criteria as required in the AGOA legislation,” he said in a separate statement.
Mahoney urged the government of Cameroon to work with the United States and the international community to strengthen protection of human rights under the law and to publicly hold to account those who engage in human rights violations.
In order to qualify for preferential benefits under the AGOA legislation, partner countries must meet certain eligibility requirements, including not engaging in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.
They must also demonstrate continual progress toward establishing the rule of law, political pluralism, establishing internationally recognized worker rights, and the elimination of barriers to U.S. trade and investment.
Sixty-five civil society organizations this week urged the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to address serious and systematic human rights violations in Cameroon.
In a joint appeal, they said violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions has led to 3,000 deaths over the past three years, forcing half a million people to flee their homes, and leaving over 700,000 children out of school.
Cameroon President Paul Biya, who has governed for nearly four decades, is seeking to calm unrest stoked by a disputed presidential election last year and the separatist insurrection.