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Senate Blocks New US Ambassador To Cameroon 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

The US Senate’s delay to approve H.E Michael Stephen Hoza, has made Cameroon void of an Ambassador from President Barrack Obama’S country for close to eight months now.
President Obama nominated Hoza as new U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon on July 30, 2013. He was expected to succeed Robert P. Jackson who came to the end of his diplomatic mission in September last year. As is the tradition in Uncle Sam’s country, Hoza could only take office after the confirmation of the Senate.

Since then, the Senate’s approval is still being awaited. Thus, President Biya’s country has been for many months without a U.S. Ambassador. Last March 1, the U.S Under Secretary of State for African Affairs, David Gilmour, assured President Biya during an audience at the Unity Palace that the new Ambassador will soon be in Cameroon. Yet, the new Ambassador is nowhere to be found in Cameroon. The U.S Senate has not yet approved his nomination.

Following his nomination, the Ambassador-designate to the Republic of Cameroon addressed the Foreign Relations Committee on September 24, 2013, making pledges. “I have seen our diplomatic efforts yield tremendous gains in difficult places and if confirmed I look forward to using my experience in the region to help further U.S. interests in Cameroon as well,” he said. He noted that with one of the largest economies in the Sub-Saharan Africa and a landscape rich in natural resources and biodiversity, Cameroon has the potential to become an economic stalwart and serious regional player.

Despite this rich endowment, and notwithstanding 53 years of relative political and economic stability, Hoza went on; the country struggles to attain food security and to combat disease. Moreover, he underlined, concerns related to human rights, weak governance, and pervasive corruption continues to serve as impediments to meaningful economic growth and development.

Hear him: “Cameroon is a relatively stable country in a region that is less so. Recent events in both Nigeria and the Central African Republic continue to spill over into Cameroon, where an influx of new refugees is taxing local resources. The insecurity in neighbouring countries, compounded with the growing threat of extremism by Boko Haram in Cameroon’s Far North Region, has the potential to threaten Cameroon’s security and stability.”

He said Cameroon has taken a leading role in combating piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and is active in regional and domestic fight against wildlife trafficking. He said: "if confirmed, I will continue to support U.S. efforts to strengthen Cameroon’s military capacity to confront terrorism, piracy and wildlife trafficking and to encourage greater Cameroonian engagement in regional security matters.” If confirmed, Hoza went on, he will work in partnership with civil society and the Government to support efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, enhance transparency and promote democracy, human rights for all persons and the rule of the law.

While situating Cameroon as an important trade partner, Hoza said: “bilateral trade between our two countries exceeded $557 million in 2012 and U.S. exports to Cameroon have more than doubled. Should I be confirmed, I hope to build these gains and further strengthen our economic relationship.” He said achieving this goal as well as Cameroon’s goal of promoting increased U.S. investment in Cameroon, will require continued attention to improving the country’s business climate, addressing corruption and improving transparency

While making reference to the kidnapping of foreigners by Boko Haram, Hoza said the safety and security of American staff and citizens need to be at the forefront of America’s diplomatic mission. “If confirmed, I will ensure that this remains a top priority for the embassy,” he pledged. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair, Ranking Member Flake and other members listened to Hoza’s pledges with keen attention.

But since then, Hoza’s confirmation is still being awaited. There has been no official explanation as to why such a delay which observers describe as undue. With the absence of the Ambassador, the Charges d’Affairs at the U.S. Embassy is the one calling the shots. But observers are asking how far he can go in taking certain critical decisions.

But, unofficial sources told The Post that it is not only the U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon that has been blocked in Washington. They said over 70 U.S. Ambassadors designated to the various countries in the world are yet to be confirmed because of budgetary issues that cropped up at the end of 2013.

While corroborating this view, the Deputy Chair of Cameroon’s leading opposition, SDF Party, Joshua Osih, said the absence of the U.S. Ambassador has no negative bearing on the political life of the country. “As a political party we have been discussing with the Charges d’Affairs at the Embassy. The Under Secretary of State for African Affairs has been coming here very often of recent. So, there is no problem” he explained

“The U.S. Embassy in Cameroon is a well organized watchdog on human rights and governance issues. The absence of the Ambassador cannot be a big handicap,” a Bamenda based Human rights activist Joseph Ayeah Chongsi told The Post.

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