Compensation for family of Cameroon boy killed by US motorcade

Samantha Power was travelling near the remote city of Mokolo in April when an armored jeep in her caravan struck a 7-year-old boy who ran onto the road, killing him instantly.

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WASHINGTON // From flour and onions to cash and cows, the United States provided a wide range of compensation to a Cameroonian family whose child was killed by a vehicle in UN ambassador Samantha Power’s motorcade.

In April, when Ms Power was travelling near the remote, northern Cameroon city of Mokolo, an armoured jeep in her caravan struck a 7-year-old at high speed after he darted into the road. Birwe Toussem was killed instantly.

Ms Power, who was at that time visiting the front lines in the war against Boko Haram, returned later that day for a tense and emotionally fraught gathering with Birwe’s family and community members. She promised to compensate them for their loss.

US state department officials said the cash payment was 1 million Central African francs, roughlyDh6,250. Cameroon’s GDP per person is about Dh4,800.

Cameroon’s government, aid organisations operating in the area and the UN — which also had officials in the convoy — contributed another 5 million francs, bringing the total cash payout to more thanDh36,700.

In addition to money, officials said the US government provided a pair of cows; hundreds of kilograms of flour, onions, rice, salt and sugar; and cartons of soap and oil. Still to come is a well that will provide the village with fresh drinking water.

State department spokesman Jeffrey Loree called it a “compensation package commensurate with local custom, as well as the needs of the family and village”.

“This package included a potable water well in the boy’s community that will serve as a lasting memory and some monetary, food, and other support,” Mr Loree said. “US diplomats have visited the family on several occasions following the accident and will continue to provide all support possible.”

Ms Power was on the first leg of a week-long trip through West African countries bearing the scars of Boko Haram’s insurgency. Travelling through territory that had witnessed previous Boko Haram attacks, Ms Power’s motorcade was moving at a fast clip, at times exceeding 60mph. Villagers lined up along the sides of the road to greet the ambassador as US and Cameroonian special forces ensured her security.

But when Birwe darted onto the two-lane motorway, perhaps distracted by a Cameroonian helicopter monitoring overhead, there was no time for the sixth vehicle in Power’s convoy to react.

The vehicle that hit the boy initially stopped, only to be ordered by American security forces to continue travelling through the unsecured area. An ambulance in the caravan immediately attended to Birwe, though it was apparent his condition was hopeless.

* Associated Press