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08YAOUNDE236 2008-03-11 12:04:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yaounde
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1. (C) Summary. Cameroon's Foreign Minister on March 5 told
Ambassador that comments about domestic politics, such as the
ruling party's plan to amend the constitution and eliminate
presidential term limits, violate "diplomatic law." He
nonetheless reaffirmed our mutual ties, leaving us wondering
if his statements represented government policy or personal
views. Other Western embassies have received similar
lectures. Ambassador expressed gratitude for the Cameroon
government's assistance to American citizens during the
recent civil unrest, and then presented the Minister a
diplomatic note protesting the March 1 unannounced forcible
removal of peaceful demonstrators from Embassy premises. End

2. (C) Ambassador Garvey on March 5 met with Foreign Minister
Henri Eyebi Ayissi at his request. Ayissi described the
recent civil unrest as having three phases: an economic
protest, which led to violence, destruction and loss of life;
President Biya's February 27 speech to the nation; and
finally, the "current situation."

Commenting on Domestic Politics "Violates...Diplomatic Law"



3. (C) Ayissi said the government (GRC) was "surprised" that
the Ambassador used non-official channels to address
Cameroonian issues, specifically referring to her February 5
public statement about President Biya's proposed
constitutional amendment (reftel). Ayissi continued that
"concerning the statement about domestic politics...a public
declaration from an Ambassador violates the cardinal
principle of relations between two friendly states, and
diplomatic law." The Ministry is here to "remind the
Ambassador of the principles," he added. Ayissi stated that
the Ambassador, during her first six months in Cameroon, had
been mindful of that fact; however, she must "be careful" of
the impressions that public statements may imply. Ayissi
elaborated that the Ambassador's remarks could be viewed as
offering "indirect support" for the recent events. He
expressed his disapproval of her public approach, and
emphasized that she would have his total support through
official/institutional means to express her views. He hoped
that the USG would continue to support and assist Cameroon.
Ayissi closed by stating that the GRC would like to
consolidate the strong will of the two governments for common
and mutual interests.

Clarifying US policy


4. (C) Ambassador Garvey responded by first thanking the GRC
for its assistance in providing security escorts for
departing AmCits during the recent events. She expressed
serious concern about the unannounced, forcible removal of
peaceful demonstrators from Embassy premises by armed
gendarmes, and provided the Minister with a formal diplomatic
note to that effect. Furthermore, she expressed USG concerns
about freedom of press issues and expressed her hope that the
government will explore the underlying causes of the recent
events, working with all sectors of society, and that all
issues will be resolved peacefully and equitably.

5. (C) The Ambassador said that her statements about
amending Cameroon's constitution were not a personal or
Embassy position, but USG policy. She then clarified that
before speaking on February 5, she had expressed USG concerns
to several high-level officials, including President Biya.
(Note: Ayissi seemed surprised at that revelation.) She had
sought to do so with the Foreign Minister, but he was out of
the country in the days prior to her speech. She reiterated
that the USG has no intention to interfere in Cameroonian
domestic politics; however, we wanted to help make sure that
Cameroon "stayed on the right path and moved in the right

Other Embassies Getting Similar Messages


6. (C) Other Western embassies have also been asked to go see
the Foreign Minister. The Acting British High Commissioner

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told Poloff that Ayissi stressed to her that the problems
leading to the civil unrest were economic, not political.
Furthermore, Ayissi added that warnings by Western embassies
to their nationals "damage the image of Cameroon." The Dutch
and German Ambassadors also were called in by the Foreign
Minister (and the Spanish and Canadians have been asked to
come in) with a similar message: do not interfere in domestic



7. (C) The Foreign Minister could be anticipating a possible
response from Western embassies if the President presents a
bill to the National Assembly next week to remove
presidential term limits in the Constitution, as many expect
could happen. He may also be trying to demonstrate his
loyalty to the President and his importance in his own
ministry. Other senior officials have not reacted strongly,
in public or private, to our statements about the
constitution. It is not clear if Ayissi's demarche reflects
a change of approach by the government, or a freelance effort.