Cameroon - Foreign policy



In world affairs, Cameroon became a member of the British Commonwealth in 1995. Cameroon's application was widely seen as an attempt by Biya to lessen the Anglophone criticism of Francophone domination. It remains to be seen if there will be any practical impact for the Republic from this membership. In the meantime, ties with France remain strong, with French financial and technical support constituting the bulk of foreign assistance. In 1996–97 Biya served as chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU, known as the African Union since July 2001), stepping down in June 1997. Though this position gave him an international stage, negative reports of his domestic policies lessened the impact that the office could have provided.

Regionally, Cameroon's diplomacy is focused on border disputes with Nigeria, especially that of the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula. The Bakassi dispute lasted several years and in 1994 was brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. In October 2002, the ICJ ruled in favor of Cameroon, granting it the peninsula. Prior to the ruling, the two governments had pledged to abide by the judgement; following the ruling, however, Nigeria's government stopped just short of accepting the ruling, stating, "The judgement will resolve many outstanding matters between the two states and provide a way forward for both in areas which have caused difficulties in the past." Since the cessation of hostilities in early 1996, Cameroon had detained more than 120 Nigerian prisoners of war and civilians. In 1999, the ICJ declared inadmissible Nigeria's request for an interpretation of the 11 June 1998 judgment concerning the Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameron and Nigeria. At issue beyond the peninsula was the demarcation of maritime boundaries. The deep waters of the Gulf of Guinea hold significant oil reserves within the tri-point boundaries area of Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Equatorial Guinea has requested the ICJ to protect its boundary claims while settling the Cameroon-Nigeria dispute. Although Nigeria and Cameroon had pledged to resolve their differences peacefully, the dialog was tinged with jingoistic rhetoric about fighting for national integrity and sovereignty.

Donors will continue to press Biya on human rights, democracy, and corruption. Amnesty International has been an outspoken critic of the Biya regime. It has issued several reports alleging blatant disregard for human rights—citing arrests, beatings, torture, and continuing detention of opposition supporters.

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