Nomination: Career Diplomat Peter H. Barlerin to be U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon

Posted: 2:47 am ET
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On July 17, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Peter Henry Barlerin to be the U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon. The WH released the following brief bio:

Peter Henry Barlerin of Colorado to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Cameroon. Mr. Barlerin, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1989. He is currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State, a post he has held since 2016. Mr. Barlerin also served as Deputy Chief of Mission with senior level appointments at the State Department. An economist, he has served at seven U.S. Missions overseas. Mr. Barlerin earned a M.A. from University of Maryland, College Park and a B.A. from Middlebury College. He speaks French, Japanese, Spanish, and Norwegian.

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Vehicle in USUN Ambassador’s Convoy Hits, Kills 7-Year Old Boy in Cameroon

Posted: 3:15 am ET
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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (USUN) Samantha Power is on travel to Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria from April 16-23 to highlight the growing threat Boko Haram poses to the Lake Chad Basin region.

On April 18, while on her way to talk to refugees forced from their homes by Boko Haram in Cameroon, a vehicle in her convoy struck and killed a 7-year old child. The AP reported that the motorcade was traveling at speeds of more than 60mph. The ABC news report says “the cars were traveling around 43 mph.” The NYT report said that the convoy had been driving at more than 40 miles per hour when the vehicle hit the boy. Also that one of the ambulances that was part of Ambassador Power’s motorcade was dispatched to transfer the boy to a nearby hospital.  She later returned to the village, according to NYT, to pay her respects to the boy’s parents:

This time when the convoy arrived in the village, there were no laughing and waving children running on the side of the road. Instead, hundreds of villagers, surrounded by dozens of black-clad Cameroonian soldiers, stood near the road, staring stone-faced at the motorcade.

The State Department spox was asked during the Daily Press Briefing if there is any discussion for the U.S. Government to provide compensation to the family. Below is Mr. Kirby’s response:

“I don’t know about any plans for compensation. I just don’t have an update for you on that. But obviously, we all here are grieving with the family of that young boy who was killed by the vehicle in the convoy. And as I think you saw reported, Ambassador Power, who certainly is feeling this very deeply, visited with the family today to express her deep regrets over what happened. I don’t have any update in terms of next steps here, but we all share in the grief and the sorrow that resulted from this tragic, just terrible, terrible accident.”

 

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US Embassy Yaounde: USG begins deployment of up to 300 troops to Cameroon

Posted: 3:27 am EDT
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Map from CIA World Factbook

According to the latest crime and safety report, no areas of Cameroon are off-limits to official U.S. government personnel.

Travel after dark is strongly discouraged anywhere in Cameroon due to the heightened risk for traffic accidents and increased criminality during the night. U.S. citizens should avoid unnecessary travel to areas bordering the C.A.R. and travel only during daylight hours. Official travel to the Far North and North Regions is thoroughly planned and scrutinized for safety and security and may require coordination with local authorities for additional protection. The U.S. Embassy recommends against travel to the Far North region, including Maroua, because of the kidnapping threat posed by the Nigerian extremist group, Boko Haram. Travelers are advised to exercise extreme caution when traveling to the North region. Border areas surrounding and between Amchide and Fotokol are particularly dangerous.
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Cameroon faces an emergent regional threat to include frequent violent attacks in Cameroon from the Boko Haram movement (in northern Nigeria) that has undertaken a campaign of violence against the Nigerian government and civilians since 2009. Boko Haram took 21 expatriate hostages in Cameroon in 2013 and 2014 and continues to target expatriates for kidnapping. Boko Haram also assassinated hundreds of security forces and private citizens. In May 2014, the government reorganized security forces to better combat Boko Haram. As a result, Boko Haram has responded with attacks on border villages, ambushes incorporating roadside explosive devices, assassinations of local leaders, intimidation, and stealing goods/livestock – all in the Far North region of Cameroon. The imposition of a “State of Emergency” in Nigeria’s northern states has led to another influx of refugees in the Far North region. Cameroon’s traditional stability accounts for its ability to absorb large numbers of refugees, though persistent pressure from its neighbors could lead to ethnic, religious, and/or regional disputes in the near future.
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Throughout 2013 and 2014, the Central African Republic experienced waves of violence, leading to the overthrow of the governing regime and the installation of a transition government aided by an international peacekeeping mission. The U.S. Embassy in Bangui reopened in September 2014 with limited services. Ethnic, religious, and tribal strife and counter-attacks have killed hundreds in C.A.R. and forced thousands to seek refuge inside Cameroon. Border areas around Garoua-Boulai and Kendzou in the east are potential hotspots due to spillover violence from C.A.R. In 2014, Cameroon experienced sporadic incursions by bandits from the C.A.R., and hostage taking by these groups has occurred across the Cameroon border.

Our man in Cameroon is Michael S. Hoza, a career Foreign Service Officer with 29 years of service abroad.  He has served at eleven different Foreign Service posts in Africa, Asia, and Europe; and he also served in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs in Washington, D.C.   He assumed his duties as Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon on August 22, 2014. He was nominated by President Barack Obama on July 31, 2013 and confirmed by the Senate in July 2014.

Below are some photos from Ambassador Hoza’s visit to Rey Bouba in the North Region, where he was welcomed by a representative of Lamido Abdoulaye Aboubakary and members of the community. More photos here.

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Lamido of Rey Bouba representative and community welcomes Ambassador Michael S. Hoza on February 12, 2015. (US Embassy Cameroon/FB)

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Ambassador Michael S. Hoza with Cameroonian security forces on February 12, 2015. (US Embassy Cameroon/FB)

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Ambassador Michael S. Hoza is honored by Rey Bouba community luncheon on February 12, 2015. (US Embassy Cameroon/FB)

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Ambassador Michael S. Hoza is honored with traditional leadership attire by Rey Bouba community members. (US Embassy Cameroon/FB)

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US Embassy Bangui: Escalating Violence, Continue to Shelter in Place

Posted: 1:15 am EDT
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Excerpt from the Warden Message:

Violence and looting continued on September 27 and into September 28 in Bangui. We are receiving reports that many roads remain blocked, including the road to the airport; weapons continue to be discharged by armed persons; and large crowds are forming in several locations in the city of Bangui. U.S. citizens should continue to shelter in place and avoid any non-essential movements. The U.S. Embassy in Yaounde has been designated to provide consular services for U.S. citizens currently remaining in CAR. U.S. citizens who are in Bangui should contact Embassy Yaounde at (237) 22220-1500 to report their location. If you are working for an NGO or international organization, please include that information.

U.S. citizens who have decided to stay in CAR despite the travel warning should regularly review their personal security situation. Embassy Bangui cannot provide consular services to U.S. citizens in CAR at this time. U.S. citizens in need of assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Secretary Kerry announced the resumption of limited operations at the U.S. Embassy in Bangui on September 15, 2014.  U.S. citizens in need of routine assistance are advised to contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon by email to YaoundeACS@state.gov.

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Some of the World’s ‘Forever’ Rulers Are in Town — Meet Their Fashionable Ladies (Photos)

— Domani Spero
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Today is the last day of the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.. According to the White House, this is the first such event of its kind: “the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government.”  The August 4-6 Summit is intended to advance “the Administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa and highlights America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people.”

While Africa’s worst human rights abusers did not get their invitations, repressive leaders who have been in power for some twenty-years or more did, and are also in town to network with CEOs and talk about peace, regional stability, investing in Africa’s future and  enhancing governance. Jeffrey Smith, a senior advocacy officer at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and Todd Moss, a former senior U.S. State Department official argues that “A robust U.S.-Africa policy for the 21st century cannot be built with these remnants of an old guard who play the terrorism or oil card to deflect legitimate criticism and stifle democracy.” Read more of that here. WaPo’s Monkey Cage blog has an interesting table of African leaders invited to attend the summit, sorted by their country’s most recent Polity IV scores, which characterize how democratic or autocratic a state is.

These remnants of the old guard, of course, brought their first ladies with them.How can we ignore them? Here are the six members of that thankfully, shrinking club:

Mrs. Chantal Biya
President Paul Biya has been President of the Republic of Cameroon since 1982

32 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon, and Mrs. Chantal Biya, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

The second wife of President Paul Biya of Cameroon has a fashion style that refused to be ignored. Her pink gown and headdress are enchanting, we dare you to look away. She has a community fan page on Facebook that has more colors than an HTML color chart. Check her out here in 1994 when she married President Paul Biya.  How things have changed.  Her hair now makes news when she comes to town and it even has its very own Tumblr page at http://chantalbiyahair.tumblr.com.  In 2011, PEN USA ran a campaign to protest the imprisonment of author, Bertrand Teyou who wrote the book, La belle de la république bananière: Chantal Biya, de la rue au palais (The belle of the banana republic: Chantal Biya, from the streets to the palace). He was sentenced to a two-year imprisonment for ‘insulting’ the president’s wife.

This couple has been married for 20 years but her husband has been president of Cameroon for much longer; since 1982, so 32 years to be exact. Gosh, remember 1982?  The Falklands War, Menachem Begin & Anwar Sadat in Washington DC.; also ABBA’s final public performance? In any case, she’s here in awesome pinkness. The world has not seen such flamboyance since Imelda Marcos made a splash.

 Mrs. Hinda Deby Itno

Idriss Deby Itno has been the President of the Republic of Chad since  1990

24 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Idriss Deby Itno, President of the Republic of Chad, and Mrs. Hinda Deby Itno, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

 WaPo called the current Mrs. Deby, “the “fourth lady” of Chad or the 13th, depending on whom you ask.” She married President Deby in mid-2000s and “captivated the capital in a way unseen before in this male-dominated society.”Educated in Morocco, France and a college in Montreal, she was reportedly friendly with Brahim, Deby’s son, who “dabbled in college courses.” That’s the presidential son who was killed in Paris in 2007. If this president remains in power until 2019, he’d be in office for 29 years, her age when they got married. Under Deby’s leadership, Chad has been persistently ranked as one of the world’s most poverty-stricken countries, despite abundant natural reserves of oil, uranium and gold according to CBS News.  Mrs. Deby is reportedly known for being well-spoken and for her flowing designer gowns and matching head scarves. Meet the First Lady of Chad in her gorgeous gold and electric blue gown.

 

 Mrs. Constancia Mangue de Obiang

Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been in office since 1979

35 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, and First Lady Constancia Mangue de Obiang, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

Who’s Africa’s worst dictator? Probably not Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe but Equatorial Guinea’s very own “whose life seems a parody of the dictator genre,” according to Peter Maass. He is as much as a “nightmare” as Robert Mugabe, except that his country has oil, lots of oil, and ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, Chevron, and other firms have apparently invested more than $10 billion to extract the black gold. Read his page on CBS’ The World’s Enduring Dictators, he’s a real cupcake. Mrs. Obiang was born in 1952 in the town of Angong, near Mongomo, and according to this, she studied in the school run by nuns in Bata. She was reportedly a graduate of the Martin Luther King University School of Teacher Training. Last year, she was proclaimed “the epitome of perfection”, and “Mother Africa” by a New York-based group. She attended the WH dinner in an embroidered blue caftan.

Chantal Compaoré

Blaise Compaoré has been President of Burkina Faso since 1987

27 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso, and Mrs. Chantal Compaoré, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

CBS describes President Compaoré as a graduate of Muammar Qaddafi’s World Revolutionary Center (a.k.a. Harvard for tyrants).  His country has an unemployment rate of 77 percent (ranked 197th in the world.) Wow! Who’s been editing Mrs.Compaoré’s Wikipedia page? The couple has been married since 1985, so way before that October 1987 coup d’état that killed his predecessor.  Mrs Compaoré attended the WH dinner in her lemon and gold caftan.

Queen Inkhosikati La Mbikiza

King Mswati III has been the leader of Swaziland since 1986

28 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Majesty King Mswati III, Kingdom of Swaziland, and Her Royal Highness Queen Inkhosikati La Mbikiza, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

In 2011, The Times of India reported: “King Mswati III has a Rolls Royce, 13 palaces and 14 wives, and just received a pay increase, even as a cash crisis forced Swaziland to slash spending, feeding anger against his regime.”The World’s Enduring Dictators notes that “His most heinous act appears to be living an opulent lifestyle “fit for a king” while his country languishes in extreme poverty.”According to BBC News, Queen Inkhosikati La-Mbikiza, is the king’s third wife and was chosen at a reed dance where apparently, no one can object to the king’s choice.That BBC News story and this apple green-black ensemble made us weep.

Mrs. Zineb Jammeh

Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh has been the President of the Republic of The Gambia since 1994

20 years

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, President of the Republic of The Gambia, and Mrs. Zineb Jammeh, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. [Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon]

President Yahya Jammeh took control of the country in a military coup in 1994 and has won four re-elections since then. According to her official profile, Mrs. Jammeh was born in Rabat, Morocco in 1977 to Ambassador Soumah, “a well respected career diplomat from the distinguished Guinean Soumah family and Mrs. Soumah who hails from Morocco.” Next year, President Jammeh will be in power for 21 years, Mrs. Jammeh’s  age when they got married.  Her profile says: “Madam Jammeh who holds a Diploma in International Systems and Management is currently involved in an extremely busy career as the Gambia’s beloved First Lady.” Mrs. Jammeh attended the WH dinner in her very understated long, blue dress, overshadowed by her husband’s sparkling white kaftan. We understand that those kaftans had to be “waxed and beaten with wooden mallets to create a stiff shiny cloth” before such clothing can be born.

See the rest of the photos from the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit White House dinner here.

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Senate Confirmation by Crisis Continues: Hoza (Cameroon), Polaschik (Algeria), Andre (Mauritania),

— Domani Spero
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The U.S. Senate appears to continue its trend of headline-triggered confirmations. Today, the Senate confirmed by voice votes the following ambassador to three African posts.

If you missed it, on July 27, WaPo reported that Nigerian Boko Haram militants kidnapped the wife of Cameroon’s vice prime minister. Premium Times citing BBC Hausa reported today that Security Forces in the Cameroun Republic have rescued the wife of the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, Amadou Ali, who was abducted on Sunday by suspected members of the extremist Boko Haram sect.  If that’s not enough bad news, VOA also reported that an outbreak of Cholera has killed 200 in Northern Cameroon and that there are fears that this may be a repeat of the 2010 epidemic, when the country had to deal with 10,000 cases.

Ambassador-Designate Hoza also made the news recently when he was featured and quoted in WaPo’s piece, At Falls Church apartments, would-be ambassadors and families live in limbo. The three other nominees cited in that article, Donald Lu (Albania), Eric Schultz (Zambia), and Amy Hyatt (Palau) are not currently scheduled for a Senate vote.

We have previously blogged about Ambassador-Designate Polaschik when she was the deputy chief of mission who ran the Embassy Libya after Ambassador Cretz left the country due to Wikileaks.  She also led the evacuation of personnel/American citizens in February 2011 and lead the team back into Tripoli when it reopened in September 2011. A few days ago, Algeria was in the news.  Its national airline Air Algerie on a flight from Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou to Algiers had crashed in Mali. Did that prompt the confirmation?

What about Mauritania, what’s going on there?  Issues of interest include al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and Mali refugees. Mauritania just had its presidential election last June. The United States “looks forward to continuing to work with President-elect Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and the Government of Mauritania to promote prosperity and regional security” but that’s going to be difficult without an ambassador there.  Oops! The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is coming up next week, perhaps the U.S. Senate did note Mauritania’s Chairmanship of the African Union, and so we’ve got Ambassador-Designate Larry Andre ready to beam over to Nouakchott, so he could beam back to D.C. for the Summit next week.

Three days to go before Congress breaks for the summer!