— -- It’s a blaze designed to warm the hearts of conservationists as well as the visiting U.S. delegation here in Cameroon.
We’re traveling with Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She's on a mission to draw attention to the fight against African jihad.
Power announced $40 million in additional humanitarian resources to the region, bringing the total amount of American aid to nearly $240 million. Power repeatedly emphasized that the battle against Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram is not just a military fight, but one that involves education, development and good governance.
Authorities in the capital city of Yaounde burned 2,000 ivory tusks and 1,700 ivory objects -- the country's first demonstration of its commitment to fight elephant poaching. This part of Central Africa -- once the largest source of illegal ivory -- has seen a 64 percent drop in its elephant population in the past decade, according to the 2015 proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The government stored the high-value contraband ivory under armed guard; it's estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars.
Cameroon President Paul Biya, who's been in power for more than three decades, met with Power to discuss human rights and good governance issues as part of the fight against Boko Haram.
Before her stop in Yaounde, Power traveled to the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon where she met with a teenage girl who was forced to “marry” a Boko Haram fighter.
“She’s told you can marry a monster...or you’ll be killed. Who can make that choice? She’s clearly ashamed. She has nothing to be ashamed of…she’s brave and strong and beautiful,” Power said.
Today's ivory burn drew dozens of dignitaries. The ivory pyre will remain under guard until all the ivory is fully destroyed over the next three days.
Environmentalists point to the vital role elephants play in the African ecosystem. The massive creatures help clear land and act as “mega gardeners” by dispersing seed to maintain biodiversity.