Message of year end 2015 of Maurice KAMTO to cameroonians

Cameroonians,

My dear compatriots from the inside and the Diaspora,

It is with the same pleasure that I submit to what has now become a tradition: to speak to you in this New Year's Eve, so that together we review the past year to better prepare the future of our country.

The past year has not been easy in terms of security. It was rich, sometimes challenging politically. But it was also challenging for us on the economic, social and cultural aspects.

On the security front, 2015 was marked mainly by continued barbaric acts of the criminals of the terrorist sect Boko Haram on our border with Nigeria and in several towns and villages in the Far North region including Maroua and especially the martyr city of Kolofata, and other crimes by armed groups in the border with the Central African Republic. Involved in a war we did not cause, we are fighting with determination these terrorist groups that cause death in many Cameroonian families and destabilize the lifestyle of our people.

Since the beginning of these absurd attacks against our country, the CRM has continued to reaffirm its unwavering support to our forces of defence and security, who are heroically fighting for the Republic to remain standing, and to preserve the integrity of the national territory.

With support from some partners of our country and the support of the people, this year they won unprecedented battles resulting in the death of a significant number of terrorists launched against them and the release of many hostages. They, thus, imposed respect by all of our brave National Army. The CRM, through me, expresses its renewed appreciation and support to our defence and security forces and welcomes the impetus of national unity and solidarity which the people of Cameroon have demonstrated for their Army. While welcoming these victories, we must remain more vigilant and keep away from triumphalism that has led some to already proclaim the end of the war. A war is over when it is over. Not before.

It is particularly shocking and seriously damaging for the image of our country, that while our brave soldiers are fighting on the front, we learn, almost daily in the media, about various cases of embezzlement of significant amounts of public funds. Without denial or clarification from any source whatsoever, the CRM party invites, once again, the Government to do everything possible to shed light on these cases, and let befall the rigors of the law on all those people whose responsibility would be established, as it would violate the code of honour and ethics so dear to the Armies. This is the only way for the nation to maintain the morale of soldiers.

In addition, the CRM regrets that the Head of State, Chief of the Army, has not, so far, found it necessary to go and pay a visit to those wounded in hospitals or to go and pay deserved tribute to soldiers who found death on the field of honour, nor to go to the conflict area to demonstrate his irreplaceable presence, compassion to the bereaved families. The CRM will continue to challenge this unacceptable attitude as long as necessary.

That’s why his own advisers and other staff troubled by this attitude, inexplicable in view of the gravity of the situation, dared a rough photomontage showing the President of the Republic, at the Army Headquarters in Yaoundé, on February 6th, 2015, paying tribute to the 39 soldiers killed on the front, even though he was officially in a "short private stay" in Geneva. This situation is now politically untenable for the Head of State, for his responsibility vis-à-vis the nation. Explanations pertaining to his calendar, or awkwardly trying to make us believe that all actors of civil society, civil servants and government officials who act in this war do so, in his name and place, no longer resist. Just like the farce of "the time of the President" which ends up making him a God, helping neither himself nor Cameroon.

My dear compatriots,

At the end of the legislative and municipal elections of 30 September 2013 and in the light of the many wild frauds and other irregularities that had marred the vote, the CRM had submitted to the Government and ELECAM some provisions of the Electoral Code it is urgent to revise for the credibility of our electoral system. In November 2014, at the 3rd Ordinary Session of the National Assembly, the CRM had filed, through his Member of Parliament, a bill to amend and supplement certain provisions of the Electoral Code. This proposal received no response to date.

The MRC and many other political forces are demanding, among others: the establishment of a single ballot in the absence of integral biometrics; ELECAM reform, in particular its composition, to include representatives of political parties; the prohibition of the distribution of voter cards by ELECAM on the voting day, the requirement that the results records given to representatives of candidates in the polling stations be authentic in the same way that the copy given to ELECAM; the revision of the Constitution to allow voting at 18 and the introduction of compulsory voting in Cameroon. It is in this perspective that the CRM has initiated an awareness campaign called "SAVE PEACE IN CAMEROON BY REQUIRING THE IMMEDIATE AND CONSENSUAL REFORM OF THE ELECTORAL CODE FOR FREE, TRANSPARENT AND DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS ". This campaign will continue as long as a response will not be given to this demand for reform, which is a claim shared by Cameroonian citizens of different political opinions.

The CRM invites all political forces, interested civil society organizations and the entire Cameroonian people to engage with him in this peaceful Republican campaign we initiated to save peace, through democracy, in our country.

At the same time, our party is convinced that in this respect, a concerted approach is the most efficient way, on a subject where national consensus should not be hard to reach. In its Republican approach, the CRM addressed a request for a meeting several weeks ago to the Prime Minister, Head of Government, and to the President of the main political party of the country, the CPDM, for discussing with them the urgency of a consensual reform of the electoral code. We are still expecting their replies.

In any case, I said and I repeat: the President of the Republic, Head of State, because of its unique position in our institutional system is the single person to trigger the indispensable reform of our electoral code. He should do so, in honour of his office, for the political legacy he wants to leave to posterity, for the democratic progress of our country and the peace of the Cameroonian nation to which he is so attached.

Economically, the country recorded a growth rate of 6%, close to the rate of last year. This growth rate shows a certain resilience of our economy in the face of adverse international environment marked by the fall of commodity prices which Cameroon's economy is still largely dependent on. But we are still far from the 7% growth rate targeted by the Government since the adoption of its strategy paper for growth and employment in 2010, and has never approached. This rate of 6% is still too far from the double-digit growth all experts say is essential for at least a decade to allow our country's economic take-off. In these circumstances, the objective of the Government's economic strategy, dubbed "Emergence 2035" will remain an illusion.

Agriculture, which should be the driving sector of the national economy due to its interaction with all other sectors is the subject of soothing speeches rather than a clear strategy with clearly defined objectives. The only sector of farming with a target figure is that of Cocoa. The Government announced that this industry will produce 600,000 tons of cocoa in 2020, tripling the current production of around 200, 000 t. This is serving illusion to Cameroonians because this tonnage will not be reached in view of the increase in cultivated areas. The country's leaders delude the people of Cameroon with windfall figures, as with large posters showing highways, bridges, ports, dams that we would have liked to see completed across the country. We are still waiting for aluminium production in our country to increase from 90, 000 t to 300, 000 t; the beginning of the construction of the fertilizers factory, and so on.

Regarding the management of public finances, the progression of debt in our country remains a concern. At the end of 2015, public debt stand at CFA Francs 4,000 billion representing nearly 25% of our gross domestic product (GDP). It is true that this level of debt remains below the 70% threshold used as a criterion for convergence in the CEMAC zone. Yet, let’s keep in mind that our debt has been reduced to this level because of the significant debt relief obtained in 2006. But we are now seeing an increase, at a breakneck pace, of public debt of the country, especially over the last three years, with an increase of almost 30% between 2014 and 2015.

Indeed, one of the major problems of Cameroon's public debt is the question of its effectiveness. Because of the laxity of the Government in the management of borrowed funds, Cameroonians usually support loads of unused debt.

Another major problem of the Cameroonian economy remains the business climate. It is not attractive. Cameroon is in free fall in almost all the global rankings on the facilitation of business. Thus, it is ranked among the 20 economies most hostile to business development. Instead of dealing with the issue head on, the Government stands against organizations that publish these rankings, challenging their methodology and shout to the plot, as if these barometers were only for our country. At best, it declares its good intentions, multiplies false announcements and lets the bad habits continue.

Thus, like many important issues, the system of economic zones has been in the drawers of the Government for two years. This administrative slowness is not without consequences for the attractiveness of our country. In recent days, in fact, many companies do not know exactly laws pertaining to their activities. If nothing is done soon, our country could face a vast movement of business relocation.

This is time to recall that our economy cannot thrive with the level of corruption confirmed by independent organizations. That our country is the second most corrupt countries in Africa is not good for its economy nor its image. This is an alarm bell and the Government should agree to improve the situation, rather than send the evangelists of the Regime in the media for invectives and wild accusations.

The economic success of our country depends on specific ambitious structural reforms to boost private sector activity and diversify the economy through a more conducive business climate, free from endemic corruption and the establishment of appropriate funding mechanisms in order to boost growth in a sustainable and inclusive manner. The economic progress of Cameroon will also depend on the development of the digital economy to make it an essential part of our industry and on our capacity for innovation. It is about exploring the new opportunities offered by information and communications technology for the development of a knowledge economy and of a cultural economy. Furthermore, it is shown that investing heavily in the digital economy can help to improve the competitiveness of all other sectors of the economy.

My dear compatriots,

The past year saw no significant improvement in key social indicators in our country. Poverty remained very high, as is the unemployment rate, especially among young people. As we announced, the disorderly recruitment of 25,000 young people in the civil service has created more problems in most administrations concerned, especially in state universities, without having a significant impact on unemployment since, again, the private sector is and remains the main creator of jobs in a modern economy.

The low purchasing power of our people is one of the indicators of the difficult social situation of our country. Many of those who are fortunate enough to have a job can barely eat three meals a day, afford medical attention for themselves and their families, or to pay for the education of their children. The Government must seek solutions to this challenge by exploring several avenues, including that of the actual reduction of state expenditures, which, as we know, became a nightmare.

Even socially, one of the major threat for Cameroon remains its hospitals which, by their level of poverty and dilapidation, cause more people to die than diseases themselves. Schools and colleagues, abandoned to parents, without teachers or with miserable staff, have become factories for illiterates.

This is the place to alert about rampant school drop-outs in areas affected by the war against the terrorist and other armed groups, particularly the Far North region. This is a situation that will have countless consequences for the whole of the Cameroonian society in the coming years. It is a national urgency to bring back to school pupils and students in the areas concerned. This should be a major concern for the Government, which must tackle it with determination, to avoid the risk of completely cutting one of the least educated areas of the country from the national education system. I also recall that the Far North is one of the regions of Cameroon with a very low level of access to water, sanitation and hygiene services. According to UNICEF, in Cameroon, 54% of people in this region do not have access to clean water, 35% to basic sanitation and 25% of households defecate in nature, in open air, because of the lack of latrines. This situation is unacceptable in a country with substantial resources such as Cameroon. The Government cannot continue to make excuses for inaction and wait for wells from our international partners in that area or in others. He must take action. A stringent management of national resources makes it possible.

Culturally, the MRC regrets the lack of a national cultural policy. The promotion of ethnic or tribal cultures fostered by the encouragement of isolationism is at the expense of building a Cameroonian cultural identity that transcends cultures of different lands. It is time to open a national debate on the determination and establishment of a Cameroonian national language, in addition to the two existing official languages; to restore a National Cultural Festival which is not just a juxtaposition of ethnic cultures; create a National Music Conservatory, a national theatre, a National Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, the Mecca of distinction for artists, men and women of culture etc.

This is an opportunity to discuss an issue which, although highly political, arose recently over one of our most prolific artists. He is a talented musician celebrated worldwide, who contributes in his own way, to the glittering of the golden star of the national flag. Invited for a decoration from the hands of the Minister of Culture, he has not made the trip, posing again, dramatically, the issue of dual citizenship and highlighting the contradictions of the Government on this issue. Indeed, the celebrated artist was to receive the decoration as a Cameroonian. Yet, he had to travel to Cameroon as a foreigner, because his Cameroonian nationality was revoked when he accepted a foreign nationality. A foreigner decorated as a Cameroonian: this is the contradiction. It is time that the Government addresses this issue of dual nationality, not only to keep a commitment made at the highest level to Cameroonians of the diaspora, but also to give them the legal and diplomatic means to participate massively and more easily to the construction of a country to which they are deeply attached. This is an issue on which a national consensus is possible, including in Parliament.

My dear compatriots,

Finally, allow me to express the deep concern of our Party for the growing contempt of the rule of law, and serious and repeated attacks on public freedoms in our country. This is the place to denounce the violence on our militants on the outskirts of the National Assembly on December 4th. The violence that are imposed on our members in different regions of the country, is part of a political context where the opposition, civil society, particularly the CRM and its militants, see their freedoms of association and expression daily violated by the Regime that exploits the administration and the law enforcement forces for political purposes.

Unlike the CPDM whose last renewal of basic organs have seriously disturbed public order in the national territory, to the point of weakening the authority of the state in certain places and cause, according to the media, the loss of human lives, the CRM makes it a point of honour to scrupulously abide by the administrative procedures for its meetings and public events. Yet, during this past year, all of our public appearances have been grossly hampered by the regime. This must stop! We will not give in to provocations, but we will not let ourselves be intimidated! The Regime must let the CRM go to Cameroonians, the only judges, to offer them its vision for our country, to discuss with them solutions to their many problems for which the Government displays a desperate lack of inspiration.

My dear compatriots,

Let me reiterate a call when I'm about to present you my best wishes for the New Year: Come January, go and register massively on the electoral roll to participate to the sovereign selection, on due course, of those to whom you will entrust the conduct of affairs of our country for years to come.

I wish, each one of you, personally a Happy 2016. May it bring you better health, more happiness and prosperity.

Long live Cameroon!

The National President of the CRM,
Maurice KAMTO.
Yaounde, December 29, 2015