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US Senate Delay Blocks New Ambassador To Cameroon 

By Yerima Kini Nsom
 
The US Senate’s delay to approve a new ambassador to Cameroon has left the Chancery without a diplomatic head for close to eight months now.
President Barrack Obama had on July 30, 2013 nominated Michael Stephen Hoza as new Ambassador to Cameroon to replace Robert P. Jackson who departed in September last year. But since the US Senate has withheld its approval of the diplomat, Hoza has not been able to take up his office in Cameroon.
Last March 1, the US 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 Hoza is not yet in Cameroon. 
Following his nomination, the Ambassador designate to 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 US interests in Cameroon as well,” Hoza had said.
He had noted that with one of the largest economies in 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 not withstanding 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 continue to impede 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 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. 
"If confirmed, I will continue to support US efforts to strengthen Cameroon’s military capacity to confront terrorism, piracy and wildlife trafficking and to encourage greater Cameroonian engagement in regional security matters,” Hoza had said.
He said he would work in partnership with civil society and the government to support efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, enhance transparency, and promote democracy and 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 US $557 million in 2012 and US exports to Cameroon have more than doubled. Should I be confirmed, I hope to build these gains and further strengthen our economic relationship.” 
Hoza had also indicated that he would ensure that the safety and security of American staff and citizens in Cameroon would remain a top priority for the embassy as Boko Haram terrorists threaten to infiltrate the country, making abduction from time to time.
But since Hoza’s pledges, there has been no official explanation as to why Senate has not confirmed him so that he can assume his office in Cameroon.
With the absence of the Ambassador, the Charges d’Affairs at the US Embassy is the one calling the shots. But observers are asking how far he can go in taking certain critical decisions. Unofficial sources told The Post that it is not only the US Ambassador to Cameroon that has been blocked in Washington. They said over 30 US 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.
According to an official of the US Embassy in Cameroon, Hoza, who will soon be confirmed by the US Senate, is currently in Nigeria where he was appointed as the Special Adviser to the US Mission in that country. 
No Negative Impact
While corroborating this view, the Deputy Chair of Cameroon’s leading opposition, SDF Party, Joshua Osih, said the absence of the US 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” said Osih.
“The US Embassy in Cameroon is a well organised watchdog on human rights and governance issues. The absence of the Ambassador cannot be a big handicap,” a Bamenda-based human rights activist, Joseph Chongsi, told The Post. 
Yet, other observers hold that pronouncements on human rights abuses, issues of governance and democracy cannot be the same without a US Ambassador.

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