2017 End-Of-Year Message of Maurice KAMTO, the National President of the CRM, to the Nation

Fellow Cameroonians, my dear compatriots,

The year 2017 now drawing to an end has been one of the most challenging our country and our people have experienced in decades. The rampant impoverishment of the overwhelming majority of Cameroonians is further compounded by a budgetary crisis that was foreseeable, and by an unprecedented political crisis that henceforth involves the very survival of our country as a united nation rich in its cultural diversity inherited from colonisation. In short, the Cameroonian Nation finds itself in a critical situation at the eve of an electoral year that is crucial for its future.

President Paul BIYA inherited from his predecessor Ahmadou AHIDJO, in November 1982, a peaceful and stable country in which, after bloody nationalist fights, we were henceforth looking forward to an overall development that could drive the improvement of populations’ standard of living. During the thirty-five years in power, Mr  BIYA, the CPDM and his regime have, through their irresponsible and inconsequent management, destroyed the achievements of the past, starting from the national unity and the living-together. They have transformed the country into a zone of chronic insecurity, assumed tribalism and ethnic hatred. President BIYA and the CPDM have spent more than three decades “selling peace” to Cameroonians, while they themselves have never been peacebuilders. They don’t have anything to offer anymore, now that they have plunged the country into civil war, after having decided to wage a war that was not necessarily a Cameroon war, against Boko Haram. It is now clear to each Cameroonian citizen: it is neither this president nor his regime that can preserve the unity of this country and the national harmony. Like most of his statements, especially “rigour and moralisation”, President BIYA spoke of “national integration “without believing in it. More than ever, the country is divided and the defence of its territorial integrity saw the help of a neighbouring country in the last few years. This Nation could not be humiliated so much, a Nation that was the dominant force of Central Africa is henceforth doomed to looking back on its past glory with nostalgia. Those responsible for this national drama are alive and the Cameroonian people must neither forget nor accept that they hide behind the unacceptable formula: “We are all responsible.”

CRM militants and sympathisers will forever be grateful for the sacrifices made by our brave defence forces and the courageous populations of the Far-North to make sure the Republic stands firm against the terrorists of the Boko Haram sect. It should be recalled that those sacrifices and suffering of soldiers and populations are the dramatic consequence of a serious political mistake made by the regime which, for thirty-five years, has chosen to abandon to diverse predators entire parts of the national territory and the populations that live therein. In fact, busy as it was to protect itself against the people, Mr BIYA’s regime forgot that the country had borders that need to be protected.

Preferring political corruption to farsighted and responsible management of the northern part of the country, the regime placed all its bets on the elite that is indeed under its influence. These CPDM elite specialise in the fabrication of electoral results that are totally unrelated to local political realities; they use and abuse diverse forms of terror to subjugate the population of those parts of the country. With their support, President BIYA has patiently and cynically built a breeding ground for insecurity that the Boko Haram terrorists have just been exploiting.

To the brave populations of the northern part where famine threatens close to three million of our compatriots, and particularly the stricken population of the Far-North, to soldiers who, at the expense of their lives, have so far preserved the integrity of the national territory against those barbarous of modern time, the CRM and myself extend our eternal gratitude, our solidarity and our renewed encouragements!

My dear compatriots,

While the country was still after the Boko Haram terrorists in the Far-North, the Anglophone question, dealt with in the CRM Vision for Cameroon since its creation in 2012, has raucously forced its way onto the national political agenda from October-November 2016.

The denial of the Government followed by its arrogance, by the excessive use of force, judicial terror, mass punitive military operations with ensuing massacres of unarmed populations, have succeeded in transforming legitimate political and social grievances of the North-West and South-West populations into revolts against the regime and finally into a civil war.

I reiterate my absolute condemnation and that of the CRM of any secession project in Cameroon. Likewise, I condemn violence in all its forms, be it the violence by armed and security forces against unarmed populations, even if the latter would express political demands, or the violence by members of secessionist groups that either target soldiers fulfilling their mission of security and protection of the integrity of the national territory, or populations and leaders who reject extremism.

At the CRM, we cannot help feeling that a political agenda is hidden behind the civil war that President BIYA has succeeded in imposing on the Cameroonian people, notwithstanding the well-meant and patriotic advice that we gave him, both publicly and informally, advice from many other national political actors, from friendly countries of Cameroon and from diverse international organisations, especially the UN. In fact, any attentive observer is, to say the least, disturbed by the essentially warlike attitude of the President of the Republic and his Government, in a purely political matter which, on top of that, is in fact just the consequence of his wilful and irresponsible refusal to implement regionalisation inscribed in our Constitution of 18 January 1996. At a time when the national army is already battling at the Far-North front with a gruelling human, economic and financial cost  for the country, when six of the ten regions of the country are fiscally stricken, when Cameroon has gone back to the IMF and at the beginning of a 2018 long election year with important financial commitments, one wonders why the President of the Republic could tip the country into a civil war if it is not because he has chosen the politics of chaos in order to hold onto power, or because he is no longer clear-minded to govern the country. The result is or will be the same in either case: a disaster for Cameroon.

Whatever we will see in the near future as regards this illogical will of the regime to quell the flames of civil war in the two anglophone regions of the country, the CRM once more reiterates its categorical stand against  the shift in electoral calendar no matter the reason. A wanted war, provoked and fuelled by the regime which fears to defend  its record of thirty-five years of unchallenged rule coupled with its recurring mistakes against a people that is now ready to shake off the yoke of dictatorship, could not in any case be invoked to justify the total or partial postponement of the elections scheduled for 2018. 

That being said, no matter the numerous lives of soldiers and civilians needlessly sacrificed and the atrocious suffering imposed on the peaceful populations of North-West and South-West by excessive militarisation and measures of administrative terror, it is still possible to save the peace. For this to happen, as we have continuously proposed to the Government, it is imperative and urgent to organise a sincere national dialogue to thoroughly resolve the anglophone problem. At the same time, we need to look into political, institutional, and electoral reforms that are henceforth unavoidable, given the general situation of the country and the risk of generalised crisis that could emerge with the upcoming elections based on an Electoral Code conducive to massive frauds and
change of results.

This dialogue must be preceded by some prior actions on the part of the regime:

  • release of persons detained or prosecuted under the anglophone crisis;
  • return of the refugees which reliable sources estimate to be in the thousands;
  • an address by President BIYA to our anglophone compatriots in relation to the humiliations that have been unjustly imposed on them since November 2016;
  • a visit of the President of the Republic in the two regions during which he would, if only as a matter of form, discuss with his anglophone compatriots in English, their grievances and their unhappiness as they have, without discrimination, endured all sorts of insults (“terrorists”, “dogs”, “bandits”, etc.) from important personalities of the regime. And those personalities have never been at least called to order.

If he was not capable of conducting such a linguistic and political exercise, he would not only justify by himself the anglophone demands, but he would disqualify himself from the presidential function, in a country where populations have just braved their usual fears to demand to live in full bilingualism as inscribed in the Constitution and their double culture inherited from history. His recent speech given entirely in French to address the Secretary General of the Commonwealth speaks volumes on his will to negate this colonial biculturalism.

Nevertheless, we encourage him to undertake, with respect to our anglophone compatriots this responsibility approach. It is admittedly incompatible with his political management based on arrogance, contempt, complacency towards those he nonetheless gets his legitimacy from. But in the critical situation he and his supporters have plunged the country, there is no other viable solution. 

My dear compatriots,

On 2 June 2017, our country was once more pushed to centre stage with a new tragedy, the assassination-drowning of Mgr. Jean Benoît BALA, Bishop of the Diocese of Bafia, aged 58 years. As often in the past, our revolt has been silent in the face of these indescribable acts of the CPDM regime and its murky practices. The fact that light has not yet been shed on this shocking death, like the outrageous cases of assassination of several bishops, priests and nuns of the Catholic Church of Cameroon, the ritual murder of the young Narcisse Djomo Pokam in broad daylight at Yaoundé Hilton Hotel in 2006, or the theft of Vanessa Tchatchou’s baby that took place in 2011, all of that adequately illustrates the degree of moral decay of the regime that governs us.

A year after the Eséka disaster on 21 October 2016, the sorrow of families and friends of victims remains intense and, quite frankly, the entire Cameroonian people is profoundly upset in their silence. Those who govern the country should demonstrate their compassion and give answers to families who, like that of this lawyer who is desperately looking for his wife, a notary-public, who went missing in this tragedy. They should give answer to those who expect to be put in the picture to do their mourning. Those in power cannot display this much nonchalance and indifference in the face of such distress and suffering of populations they are in charge of. Each of us should draw up a resolution to put an end to such a regime during the upcoming elections, for we can all be victims of such murderous tendencies.

My dear compatriots,

On the economic and social front, the situation of the country is, it must, said, disastrous. As you know, I am not used to excessive vocabulary. At the same time, it is essential that this reality be made clear.

Since the end of 2016 beginning of 2017, the Government has put back the country under the yoke of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) once again. Despite diverse denials, if Cameroon economy is not yet technically gone into recession, the State is on the verge of bankruptcy. This is a return to the beginnings: we remember that, just five years after the accession to power of President BIYA, he turned to IMF when he had just inherited a prosperous country with sound and abundant finances. Cameroonians made sacrifices for over 20 years to get out of structural adjustment. But hardly have they stepped out of the tunnel, the end of which was advertised for several years, that the Government went back into mismanagement, massive debts to fund poorly considered and overcharged projects with questionable efficiency. To that, we can add mistakes of economic policy. And the same President BIYA has, for the second time, put back Cameroon under the IMF financial guardianship. The circle is full. Such a failure in the management of the economy is scarce under the same President of the Republic. Needless to conclude that an objective analysis of the politic and economic management of this regime is henceforth blatant to all:  the slogan "Emergence in 2035" has disappeared because, from the outset, such an objective was beyond possible achievement by this Government that has never reached, not even once in seven years, a growth rate it has set for itself in the Growth and Employment Strategy Paper (GESP) that is supposed to lead us to this paradise. In fact, with a growth rate of nearly 4% in 2017, lower than the one of 2016, in lasting downward trend, our economy shows no sign of growth while poverty and uncertainty become more severe and spread. The smokescreen of the so-called "structuring projects" pompously called "Great Achievements" does no longer impress anyone. Committed to the sectors involved, after three decades without investment on the part of the New Deal, they look like a record of failures. For example: the Mekin dam, which was poorly designed, is still not functional and one even wonders why it is a structuring project ; the Memve'ele dam, built without any connection to consumption poles, is lost in the middle of nowhere and will produce in any case an extremely expensive energy; the Lom Pangar dam that has just been partially launched, has been slow in producing the desired results on energy production in our country, because power cuts are on the increase; the Kribi Deepwater port, a white elephant estimated at some 800 billion FCFA, is still not operational for the so-called “completed” part, and will be oversized when fully completed because it has been planned to process 100 million tonnes while some of the biggest African ports like Tanger-Medin Morocco and Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire process 45 million and 25 million tonnes respectively; the construction of the Nsimalen-Yaoundé highway, on a distance of barely 15 km, is not going well; the Yaoundé-Douala highway is abandoned: not only the first 60 km, announced a long time ago, are not completed, but they begin and end in the middle of nowhere in the heart of the forest. Much worse, its construction breaks the record of prices, because it costs 7 billion per km while a km should not cost more than 2 billion. 

At the social level, despite governmental propaganda, the main quality-of-live indicators of Cameroonians show a sharp decline. At the cut-off year of 2015, the country had just achieved 2 of the 17 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the cu-off year of 2020 we hope to optimally achieve half of these goals. Based on the data from the National Institute of Statistics (NIS), the current regime has produced about 2,500,000 more poor people since 1987. The total number of poor people has reached 8.1 million, the most affected region being the Far-North where poverty reaches 74% of the population. Life expectancy is estimated to have fallen to 56 years. Underemployment reaches 70% of the working-age population. The informal sector, with low productivity, occupies almost 90% of workers. In the public health sector, there have been about 600 deaths for 100,000 births, while poorer countries clearly do better: for example, 550 for Niger, 345 for Burkina Faso, 45 for Cape Verde. Hardly 3 births out of 5 in our country are attended by skilled health personnel, while this figure is at least 4 out of 5 in most countries. Two Cameroonians out of 100 enjoy a health insurance. The number of people with access to drinking water is ridiculously small: the total number of drinking water subscribers was 500,000 in 2016, while that number is more than 700,000 in a country like Senegal that is has 1/3 less people than Cameroon. As regards housing, the deficit is abysmal. It is evaluated at 1,500,000 units, while the Cameroon Housing Company (CHC) has just produced 14,000 houses in 65 years, for an average of 215 houses per year.

My dear compatriots,

Before the "New Deal" regime, the competitive entrance exams into prestigious schools paving the way for public service and recruitments within the public and parastatal administrations were clearly not perfect, but they used to fully fulfil an essential function in the construction of the national sentiment, of social cohesion, of the cultivation of excellence in the spirit of Cameroonian youth. Furthermore, they used to play a crucial role in social progress, giving children from modest families the opportunity to work themselves up to higher spheres of administration, thus making possible the materialisation of the great republican dream for all. It is this system of selection that allowed numerous dignitaries of this country and even of the current regime to get to their social rank of today. But after crossing the river, they broke the bridge behind them. The Biya-CPDM has killed this dream. Henceforth, a young Cameroonian can no longer get into the ENAM, IRIC, ENS, Medical Schools, Police Academy, EMIA, Polytechnic Schools, etc., unless he or she has a certain family name or money to pay for his successful entrance, or his/her godfather is a dignitary of the CPDM. Competitive entrance exams are organised just for the form and results are known in advance. Dynasties organise themselves. In fact, without embarrassment, those who manage the country under this regime now measure their power through the number of children identifiable by their family names and other family members they get “enrolled” as “successful candidates” in the prestigious schools that give access to high administration. The dynastic succession is thus assured. 

In a nutshell, generalised corruption of the regime has destroyed the Cameroon education system, particularly its public university system, which used to be the most performant and the most respected in the whole of Africa. Now, if you want to destroy a country, there is no better way to do it than destroying its education system. Recruitment and promotion of faculty members have followed the same slope. One must hate his/her country to allow such practices to prosper. They occur with full knowledge of the authorities and complete impunity! 

The CRM party commits to save the Cameroonian society from this type of corruption rampant for decades now as well as from all forms of corruption that fatally eat into our society, if the Cameroonian people could put the CRM in power during the upcoming elections.

My dear compatriots,

During his address to the youth on 10 February 2016, the President of the Republic, Paul BIYA, unveiled the project “one student, one computer “which was in line with the “Special Youth Plan.” Following this presidential announcement, the Minister of Higher Education announced that the Government would offer 500,000 computers to State Universities and Private Higher Institutes (IPES) students who were registered in the academic year 2016-2017.

It would be unwarranted to dwell on criminal practices put in place by the Ministry of Higher Education and State universities to extort funds from IPES in this operation, nor to question the criteria that would be finally applied in the selection of beneficiary students, due to the delay in the delivery of the first computers in Cameroon that were only received last 22 December 2017 while the last ones are scheduled for June 2018.

It would be also unwarranted to dwell on the conditions for the award of this important public contract initially announced to be 75 billion CFA francs but which, at the unit price of 300,000 francs revealed by the Minister of Higher Education on 26 December 2017, would probably make Paul BIYA computer the most expensive electronic toy in the world. In fact, at that unit price, the total cost of 500,000 computers would amount to 150 billion. To this exorbitant amount should be added the cost of the Windows 10 operating system by Microsoft, transportation costs and interests to be paid to EXIM BANK. In the end, these computers, ridiculously named "Paul BIYA Higher Education Vision (PB HEV)", will thus cost the Cameroonian people about 200 billion. They are bought on credit while the Government celebrates the signing of a humiliating budget loan agreement of 112.83 billion with the World Bank, laboriously negotiated for a year.

The very idea of getting the computers made abroad, with a loan whose terms we don’t know, to offer them to students who are registered in the sole 2017-2018 academic year and no longer in 2016-2017, clearly shows the lack of patriotism of the new deal regime, its inability to diagnose, then to propose solutions to the serious problems of Higher Education and Research. In fact, after students registered in the 2017-2018 academic year, those who will come after will automatically be excluded from the vision for Higher Education, if any, of candidate Paul BIYA.

How can we fail to mention that students who joyously receive, with a two-ear delay, the so-called Paul BIYA computers are the unemployed of tomorrow who, for lack of employment opportunities, will take the ominous emigration route that leads to Europe through Libya? Like the other youth before them, they will rush for the adventure of despair where, unfortunately, some will end up strangled after their families have been ransomed, and others will be sold or made slaves under cameras.

The conclusion is plain: the Paul BIYA computers do not fit into a vision of a Stateman who would like to make sure his country follows the current trend, by notably facilitating the access of the Cameroonian youth to new technologies based on a well-defined reform of Higher Education. These computers are just part of a coarse and clumsy political marketing operation that is aimed at launching his electoral campaign.  

This sad observation will not leave the citizens of this country indifferent, especially its student youth in the name of whom this shabby farce, which seems to be a scam, is being organised. In fact, in lieu of the expected computers, it is electronic toys that were distributed to the happy few receiving this "gift" on public funds from candidate Paul BIYA; a "gift" on a loan that will cost the Cameroonian taxpayer dearly and will contribute to increase the country’s massive debt burden. This sad joke of Paul BIYA computers proves the economic anti-patriotism of Mr BIYA, of the CPDM and of the new deal regime. In fact, in a country like Cameroon where unemployment is now a factor of serious insecurity, feeding the terrorist sect of Boko Haram, a desperation cause that fuels the Anglophone Crisis and youth suicidal emigration, importing 500,000 computers is a clear expression of a lack of vision for the future. Providing the country with computer assembling plants, if we can’t make them, the President of the Republic could have allowed Cameroon to increase its technological mastery in that field and guarantee the supply of IT equipment of all kinds to current and future generations of Cameroonian students. The set-up of manufacturing plants would have prevented any responsible and patriotic government, concerned with employment, especially that of the youth, from transforming the so-called " Special Youth Plan" into a source of enrichment of the Chinese industry and creation of jobs for  Chinese workers.

Eventually,  Paul BIYA computers prove that Mr BIYA, the CPDM and his regime do not like the Cameroonian youth, but just what they can get from them, namely their exploitation for electoral gains and ultimately for their scandalous and limitless enrichment. We can’t otherwise understand an operation announced in the framework of a "Special Youth Plan" initiated by the Head of State that is transformed into a personalised operation of candidate Paul BIYA for the 2018 presidential election. We can see right through this and the Cameroonian people cannot be fooled. I seize the opportunity to firmly condemn this funding of Mr BIYA’s campaign through public debt. The Special Criminal Court (SCC) must follow with careful attention what appears to be a misappropriation of public funds of about 200 billion, subject to other possible upcoming surprises, by the CPDM natural candidate for the next election.

This operation conducted in collaboration with China gives me the opportunity to denounce the insidious interferences of foreign powers, including that of China that has been going on for several years, in the internal politics of our country. The collusion between the Chinese Government and the CPDM regime against the interests of the Cameroonian people, translating into all sorts of recurrent Chinese "gifts" to this party must end, because it is against the laws of our country and it is not in line with the informed interests of China and Cameroon.

My dear compatriots,

The 2018 year will be an important one due to the challenges suggested by the security, economic, political and social situation of Cameroon. It is above all an electoral year that is crucial for the future of our beautiful country.

The CRM was borne out on the realisation that the opposition, though sociologically the majority in the country, found it difficult to unite against the ruling party that captured the State. For that reason, our party has based its strategy on the union of all forces of reform and of change. In this unitary perspective, in 2015 our party made a written and personalised political offer to political parties and civil society organisations for the creation of common technical secretariat charged with working to propose consensual measures for the improvement of the Electoral Code which proved to be lacking during the double election of 29 September 2013. Those organisations did not even deem it necessary to acknowledge receipt of the letters sent to them, although our approach was marked with humility.

The future of Cameroon and of our people concerns us and must be placed above our personal pride. That is why, overcoming the indifference of the main political leaders of our country to our approach of union, I will, in the upcoming weeks, undertake a national campaign to sensitise them on the urgency of pooling forces in order to finally offer Cameroonians political change they have been waiting for almost forty years.

In this context, from now on, I will meet the leaders of opposition political parties, no matter where they would want to grant me an audience.

I will also talk with important political personalities with no known partisan affiliation, republican anglophone leaders, and heads of Cameroon diaspora organisations, as part of an open approach.

The critical situation of our country imposes the inclusion and pooling of all efforts and experiences. For that reason, it seems to me that it would be necessary to benefit from the experience and ideas of such important personalities, despite their current situation as detainees, as the former Prime Minister, former Ministers of State Secretaries General at the Presidency of the Republic as well as other former ministers and personalities of such experience. Following the same approach, I will meet the business community, different professional corporations so that we would join forces for a Hopeful future for our country.

Within the ruling party, there are many reformist patriots, including the officials who, because they don’t always have the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and talents to help our country, suffer in silence given the mediocre political, social, economic and security results of the almost 40-year old regime. To those patriots concerned with the national recovery, to those officials who are marginalised by the warmongers of the regime because of their clear-sightedness, the CRM reaches out to them for a synergy of ideas and efforts that will be beneficial for our people.

In addition to this inclusive approach, the CRM will keep on demanding, in several ways, consensual reforms of the Electoral Code, essential to protect our country against electoral protests.

My dear compatriots, just as the CPDM natural candidate launches his campaign for the presidential election of 2018, I feel that it is my patriotic duty to Call for your vigilance and your ultimate determination to put an end to the tragic adventure of this president and his regime of suffering and woes, who have methodically destroyed the flourishing economic and social heritage bequeathed by his predecessor, destroyed our dreams of development, lowered Cameroon and its talented, hard-working, gracious and proud people to the rank of a bland ordinary nation, that does no longer count in Africa, a fortiori in the world. This eternal candidate who wants to be an eternal president, is in action only during electoral campaign, and even then, just on picture and though his "creatures" and other captives of all sorts. He is thus on his way for 2018, for an extra term in office that would allow him to reach close to half a century at the helm of the State! 

Dear compatriots, I know you are tired of this old regime that can no longer offer much to you or to your children after thirty-five years of failures! So, I now invite you to make a firm resolution that it is not with your vote that Cameroon will become the laughing stock of Africa and the world in 2018!

The key to change in our country are the voter’s card and the vote. They are powerful tools for expressing our common will to turn the page of 35 years of rampant dictatorship, of nation deconstruction and of economic and social collapse. Those of our compatriots who have not yet done so should rush to the ELECAM branches in their area as from 2 January 2018 to register on electoral lists. It is the last opportunity that is offered to them before next year’s elections. I count on their sense of patriotic duty to give themselves the means to participate in the first great democratic revolution that will take place in our country in 2018; because, with their vote, we will free Cameroon from this regime that has been destroying it so that we could build a nation that would be supportive and attentive to the poorest, cohesive through a living-together built on a sincere dialogue and resolutely placed in the orbit of modernity.

Fellow Cameroonians,

Before leaving you, I would like to tell you that a brilliant future opens up in our beloved and beautiful country, with the expected change of next year. You will leave in a country where concord and trust among Cameroonians are cherished, where patriotic ambition to build a peaceful and united nation, prosperous and righteous, held by technological mastery guide the action of the State. You can count on me so that we could build it together. It is on this commitment that I would like to wish each of you a happy new year 2018.

Long live Cameroon!

The CRM National President
Maurice KAMTO.
Yaoundé, 29 December 2017.