WASHINGTON (AP) — Hoping to make amends for a tragic accident, the United States has provided a wide range of compensation to a Cameroonian family whose child was killed by a vehicle in U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power’s motorcade. The package included everything from cash to cows, U.S. officials said.
The incident occurred in April as Power visited the front lines in the war against Boko Haram. Traveling near the remote, northern Cameroon city of Mokolo, an armored jeep in her caravan struck 7-year-old Birwe Toussem at high speed after he darted into the road, killing him instantly.
Power 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.
State Department officials said the cash payment was 1 million Central African francs, roughly $1,700. Cameroon’s GDP per person is about $1,300.
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Cameroon’s government, aid organizations operating in the area and the U.N. — which also had officials in the convoy — contributed another 5 million francs, bringing the total cash payout to more than $10,000.
In addition to money, officials said the U.S. 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: 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,” Loree said. “U.S. diplomats have visited the family on several occasions following the accident and will continue to provide all support possible.”
Power was on the first leg of a weeklong trip through West African countries bearing the scars of Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency. Traveling through territory that had witnessed previous Boko Haram attacks, Power’s motorcade was moving at a fast clip, at times exceeding 60 mph. Villagers lined up along the sides of the road to greet the ambassador as U.S. and Cameroonian special forces ensured her security.
But when Birwe darted onto the two-lane highway, 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 traveling through the unsecured area. An ambulance in the caravan immediately attended to Birwe, but it was apparent his condition was hopeless.