NGAOUNDERE, Cameroon -- Cameroon's first 800-member peacekeeping battalion and new Peacekeeping Training Instructor Group were honored at a ceremony in Ngaoundere on December 12, 2008.

Mr. Jean Baptiste Bokam, Cameroon's Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence, and U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon Janet Garvey presided over the ceremony, which followed several weeks of training led by representatives of the U.S. armed forces under the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program.

The initiative was geared to assist the Cameroon military in strengthening their forces and improving regional security.

During the graduation ceremony, Garvey remarked, "Because of the ongoing security challenges in central Africa, it is my hope that Cameroon will take advantage of its strategic position and strong potential to play a greater leadership role by deploying peacekeepers in support of a regional mission, whether in support of the United Nations or the African Union."

As part of the training effort, the Cameroon military received equipment donated by the United States, including water purification systems, generators, military radios, office equipment, and uniforms.

Established by the United States in 1997, the purpose of ACOTA is to train military personnel in African nations to effectively participate in multinational peacekeeping operations and deployments in support of the United Nations and the African Union. To date, ACOTA has provided training and non-lethal equipment to more than 43,000 peacekeepers from over 20 African nations.

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