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The Place of Cameroon in US Policy toward Central Africa after the Events of September 11 2001

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par Ibrahim Ndzesop
Institut des Relations Internationales du Cameroun - DESS 2007

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We will present in this general introduction the main questions one should be asking while studying the implications of September 11 (2001) terrorist attacks on global, regional and sub regional issues. Our main preoccupation in this section of our work will be to find hypothetical, methodological, theoretical and analytical frames within which the study will be carried out. In this sense, we will present below the problématique of our research endeavors, as well as tentative answers to such questions. However, it is from the literature review that the problématique precedes. Explanations of methodological and theoretical choices are given as well as the objectives, interests and limits of study.

An overview

Cameroon United States (US) relations are not recent in history. Well before diplomatic and consular relations were established between the two countries in 1960, both peoples had known some kind of contacts from the days of the Slave Trade, when several Cameroonians, in the company of other Africans were deported to work in plantations in the New World. Though the country was officially a member of the Non-Aligned Movement after independence, there were no doubts that it was classified in the US - led Capitalist block.1(*) With the end of the Cold War and the relative marginalization2(*) of the African continent, the US returned to its democratic rhetoric given that democratic and human rights records of many African countries were not encouraging. As far as Cameroon is concerned, we will be investigating the changes that took place in the nature of relations with the US at the turn of the millennium. We will particularly be interested in the reasons for and nature of changes observable from September 11 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attacks. The questions we ask ourselves are, how is the US now ranking its Cameroonian and Central African priorities with respect to security, relief, trade and development assistance and to what extent has Cameroon increased its share of US aid vis-à-vis other countries in the sub-region. Such findings will give us a clue of the extent to which US strategies have shifted after the tragic events of 9/11.

The events that happened on 9/11 have been central in US foreign policy formulation, redefining its goals, limits, enemies and strategies. Owen Harris observed in late 2003 that «9/11 was not a disaster merely to be avenged, but an opportunity to reawaken and, some say, direct America back to its true historical mission».3(*) It is the liberal capitalist democracy mission of changing the world, spoken about by Fukuyama as an End of History? The US being a global super-power, 9/11 has also been important in shaping international relations studies by introducing new concepts while modifying old ones. It has influenced regional studies, the finance market, transportation systems, cultural relations, security questions, and global focus. Since the implications of 9/11 were differently received and managed by every continent, it is interesting to study what it meant for Africa.4(*) If the US is a major world player, and a major partner for Cameroon, what were going to be the implications of these changes in their bilateral relations? After becoming important as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in the years following 9/11, how has Cameroon formulated its US policy if any? In other words, 9/11 has global, regional, sub-regional, sectorial and even Cameroonian consequences.

The place of September 11 in Africa-US policy was well underscored by the then Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs of the US Government in the following way,

A number of key priorities the Bush Administration has for Africa were in place before September 11, as well as after. Yet, September 11 did change our world, and it changed our approach to Africa in terms of how we are going to do business; and in terms of priorities.5(*)

US post 9/11 interest in Africa is underscored by President Bush's consultation with African Heads of State. He met in his first two years of office with more African heads of state than any previous U.S. President did during their terms. We are studying this heightening of relations vis-à-vis the presence of other foreign powers in the region such as France, China and Great Britain, though China seems to pose a more serious challenge to the US in Central Africa than France. Our paper seeks to understand from both internal (within Cameroon) and external (Central African) factors.

This paper studies the changes mentioned above through different diplomatic, economic, military and socio-cultural foreign policy decisions and transnational interactions between Cameroon and the US. But how do we study the change of posture in US-Cameroon relations without reading the context in which these changes appear? The context here is the implications of a post 9/11 grand strategy for the US and the increasing importance of the Central African Sub-region in terms of energy and security imperatives for the Great Powers. The role of CA appears in the general context of growing US interest in Africa which has led the US government to reassess the importance of the continent in which the US Department of Defense now needs «a more acute sense of the strategic importance of Africa. In the post-9/11 world, we have a better knowledge of threats from territories that are likely to be prey to power vacancy».6(*)

If the US avoided confrontation with France during the Cold War in the latter's zone of influence, today the US has become more forceful to the dismay of her former, albeit unreliable ally, because of the growing energy and security importance of CA.7(*) Clinton's administration's proclamation of an end to the myth of Africa as a French backyard marks a turning point that has been exploited and amplified by the 2001 events. This was the subject of the policy of «Trade not Aid» proclaimed in the speech of former Secretary of State Warren Christopher during an African tour in 1996 «...the time is gone when Africa could be divided up into spheres of influence, where foreign powers could consider entire groups of states as their private domain».8(*) From a global perspective, 9/11 has brought about major changes in US military spending. In 2001, the US military expenditure of $325 billion was the same as the next 14 biggest militaries combined. By 2005, the Pentagon was outspending the next 14 militaries by $144 billion.

* 1The Cameroonian government obtained military aid to fight UPC (armed opposition guerillas) militants, the latter being accused, though not without reason, of belonging to the communist camp.

* 2 W. Easterly (1996) «Why Is Africa Marginal in the World Economy?» In: G Maasdrop,

(ed), Can South and Southern Africa Become Globally Competitive Economies?, New York:

St Martin's Press, 1996, pp. 19-30.

* 3 Owen Harris, «Taking on Utopia», Lecture 2, Boyer Lectures, November 23, 2003.

* 4 On how 9/11 was perceived around the world, see two critical books, Eric Hershberg and Kevin W. Moore, (ed) Critical Views of September 11: Analyses from around the World. New York: New Press, 2002; Craig Calhoun, Paul Price, and Ashley Timmer, (ed) Understanding September 11, New York: New Press, 2002.

* 5 See the text of the symposium organized by the African American Institute in Washington, DC on «Is Africa important to the US? Perspectives from the Bush administration», April 24, 2002.

* 6 Pentagon spokesperson, Lieutenant Joe Carpenter declared on September 6, 2006, during a press briefing after the appointment of a military commander for Africa

* 7 We will discuss these issues later, but the Franco-American confrontation has been underscored in several publications by CEAN (Centre d'Etude d'Afrique Noire) on its webpage ( , accessed on 15/11/2006) : Escandell C. P., «Les nouvelles tensions France-Etats-Unis dans le pré-carré africain»; Guichaoua A., «Les `nouvelles' politiques africaines de la France et des États-Unis vis-à-vis de l'Afrique centrale et orientale ("Afrique des Grands Lacs" et République démocratique du Congo-Zaïre)» ; Atlan C. et Lauseig J., «Les Approches Françaises et Américaines du Maintien de la Paix en Afrique»

* 8 Reported by Ndjock Bapah G., La Régionalisation de la Sécurité Collective : Le cas de L'Afrique Centrale. Mémoire de DESS. Yaoundé, Institut des relations internationales du Cameroun, 2001, p. 166.

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