The United States Ambassador to Cameroon, Janet Garvey, has reiterated US support for freedom of the press and peaceful political reforms in the country. Her remarks come in the wake of a government crackdown on the press and recent protests over political reforms, and the rising prices of fuel and food.
In recent weeks, the government closed two Douala-based broadcaster, TV Equinoxe and Magic-FM, a VOA affiliate. Journalists working for another VOA partner, Ocan City Radio in Douala, have received death threats.
Ambassador Garvey told VOA reporter Ferdinand Ferella that “we will continue urge the government to not harass independent media and to let them function they way they are supposed to. “
She says it’s a difficult time now in Cameroon and that it’s important for the public to have access “to all sources of information.”
There is a move underway to change the current constitution to allow President Paul Biya to run for another term in 2011. Ambassador Garvey says the US supports the right of a country to change its constitution, but says it should be done so “reluctantly, and with the involvement of the entire citizenship of a country.”
She said on the other hand that “there are aspects of the current constitution that have not been fully implemented – [ones] that need to be improved. We are awaiting the establishment of a Senate – that is called for in the constitution. That would certainly help on the issue of succession and some of the other legitimate concerns people would have. “
Garvey said institutions should be developed that permit alternance in government and political leadership. However, she said the US is against changes that would seem to favor a particular party or individual.
The US ambassador said over the past 10 years, Cameroon has made many improvements with regard to human rights and an independent press. She says the US wants to encourage the government to continue in that direction.