State Dept. pays cash, cows to family of boy killed by Samantha Power motorcade

U.S. Ambassador to United Nations Samantha Power. © Amir Cohen
Relatives of the 7-year-old Cameroonian boy fatally struck by an armored jeep in UN Ambassador Samantha Power’s convoy received a bundle of gifts and cash from the US State Department, two months after the accident.

During Power’s visit to northern Cameroon in April, intended to reach out to people displaced by violence of the Boko Haram terrorist group, the US ambassador’s motorcade ran over Birwe Toussem outside the city of Mokolo, killing him instantly.

Toussem, 7, had darted into the road, possibly distracted by a Cameroonian helicopter, according to the Associated Press. The caravan was reportedly traveling over 60mph at times.

State Department officials say they paid 1 million Central African francs – roughly $1,700 in US dollars – to the bereaved family. Another 5 million francs was provided by the Cameroonian government, aid organizations operating in the area and the UN — whose officials were also in the motorcade – for a total of $10,000 in cash. Cameroon's per capita GDP is about $1,300.

In addition to the money, the US provided a pair of cows, hundreds of kilograms of flour, onions, rice, salt and sugar, and cartons of soap and oil. Washington also promised to build a memorial well that would provide Toussem’s village with clean 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. “US diplomats have visited the family on several occasions following the accident and will continue to provide all support possible.”

When the jeep hit the child, the driver stopped the vehicle, but was then ordered by US security forces to keep going as the area was deemed too dangerous. The boy was found dead immediately by an ambulance riding with the motorcade, the AP reported.

Power returned to the village later that same day to offer her condolences to the family and community.