THE US AND FRANCE BATTLE IN YAOUNDE
By Aboudi Ottou, US Africa News. Updated 2015-11-07
Official sources are not very forthcoming on the memorandum of understanding signed Friday, October 30, 2015 between Joseph Beti Assomo, the Cameroonian minister delegate in charge of Defense and General David M. Rodriguez, commander of Africom (The Unitied States forces for Africa). They have only consented to say, "The agreement governed cooperation between Cameroon and the United States in the fight against Boko Haram." This document frames the gift of equipment amounting to several billion CFA francs awarded also on Friday to the Cameroonian army, and the announced deployment two days earlier of 300 American soldiers in Cameroonian territory. But since the announcement, questions have emerged: "What are the tradeoffs to the US military presence in our country? Have Yaoundé’s rulers ensured the interests of the country? What guarantees are there, so there is no multifaceted invasion of our territory, especially in terms of exploiting our subsoil, which is immensely rich? What will it cost us?" Robert Waffo, head of information and media in the SDF Shadow Cabinet, the main opposition party, asks in a newspaper op ed.
According to our information, there would not be an explicit quid pro quo in the signed agreement for this American contribution. A source at the US Embassy in Cameroon speaks of "the gracious offer" before hinting "that does not mean that we have no interest." While the Cameroonian authorities admit that this deployment "will bring a valuable contribution to our defense and security forces, in the fight against the terrorist group Boko Haram", US authorities are being very discreet about their plans. According to geostrategist Alain Fogue, Professor of International and Strategic Relations at the University of Yaoundé II (Soa), the principal objective of the 300 US troops would be to collect a maximum of information on Boko Haram in anticipation of countering their actions against US interests (see USAN’s interview with Alan Fogue ). The mission of American soldiers deployed in Cameroon suggests this is the case. Both the White House spokesman and the Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon, state that the "personnel detachment of the US military are charged with conducting intelligence, surveillance and recognition." The US Embassy explained that the main work of the contingent involves manipulating drones and training Cameroonian soldiers to do this task. Moreover, the city of Garoua, where this detachment is based, houses Air Base 301, one of the most important in Cameroon.
"Vital interest zone"