Dec 2016

Fellow Cameroonians,

My dear compatriots from within and from the Diaspora,

The year that is finishing was full of events that saddened our people. It was a year of trials in terms of safety and security of Cameroonian citizens, as well as of our living-together and of the future of our nation-state, like the Anglophone problem that shows up in a worrying way. Moreover, this end of 2016 marks a new regressive turning point in the economic and social situation of our country.

On the Anglophone problem

The year 2016 ended with tragic violence in the North-West and South-West Regions. In addition to rapes, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of confuse young girls hunted down in the slums called student rooms in Buea, massacres of revolted but unarmed populations particularly in Bamenda and Kumba. We have condemned, and strongly condemn again, this unacceptable behaviour because nothing can justify such criminal acts from a Government whose primary mission is to protect people, to hear out their complaints and respond to their grievances.

In a political and social context, which is hostile to the Government because of the irresponsible remarks of certain ministers, the same administrative authorities, who never fail to prohibit CRM meetings and other opposition manifestations have complacently authorised the holding of a CPDM meeting on Thursday, December 08th 2016 in Bamenda. This meeting, which was in reality only a diabolical administrative and political provocation,  as one would expect, turned into clashes and various excesses. In this context of popular uprising, some individuals thought it necessary to provoke Cameroonians by publicly attacking symbols of the Republic. These provocateurs who trampled and then burned the flag of the Republic, a revered symbol charged with an indecipherable mysticism of our common love for our country, should have been arrested and taken to courts for trial and punishment in accordance with the law. Instead, security and defence forces have decided to turn a simple policing operation into an operation of urban war. In a disproportionate and useless outburst of violence, they called  soldiers in reinforcement, even though at no time did the government reveal to the public that protesters were armed; Like in 2008, they killed unarmed Cameroonians.

The claim for federalism is not a crime. There is therefore no justification for the death of Cameroonians who make such a claim. The CRM reiterates its request for the opening of a diligent investigation not only to determine all administrative, police and military responsibilities but to seek and prosecute elements of the security and defence forces who have shot down unarmed compatriots with   weapons of the Republic and in its name have abused and inflicted students cruel and inhuman treatment on campus and in their residences, in particular in Buea.

There is therefore an Anglophone problem in our country, which even those who have been obstinately denying it for years are now obliged to acknowledge. The CRM affirmed it as of its launch in August 2012 and made it a major point of interest in its political programme.

We must approach this question by distinguishing the method from the substance.

Regarding the methodology, the CRM has consistently argued that this issue needs to be discussed and resolved in a republican dialogue, and called on those in charge of the country’s affairs today to set up a framework for this dialogue. The CRM is undoubtedly the promoter of this idea of dialogue as the only adequate approach to address this thorny issue, that it has proposed as early as 2012, reiterated it during its meetings in Bamenda on June 25th 2016 and in Ngaoundere on December 10th 2016. This proposal seems to be shared by all the political class today, and we can only rejoice even if this conversion is too late, especially with regard to the Government. Because we could have avoided the drama that has affected the country because of the many deaths in the Anglophone regions of the North-West and South-West, if attention had been paid to our repeated calls for dialogue.

Concerning the substance, various positions have been expressed, and there is opposition between supporters of federalism with a variable number of federated states and the arrogant champions of a frozen and stifling centralism.

The CRM considers that the desired dialogue should not be pre-empted by unchanging positions prior to its organization. In this respect, he has always made it clear to the compatriots of the Anglophone regions that secession can in no way be a solution to their discontent in the Cameroonian Nation, and that once everyone has agreed on this point which is not negotiable, all propositions can be considered on the dialogue table. In this regard, the CRM holds the current regime responsible for the political crisis created by the uprising of our Anglophone compatriots, since the establishment of Regions provided for in the 1996 Constitution, which confers a large degree of autonomy on decentralized local governments should have made claims from our compatriots in the North-West and South-West not relevant, especially as regards the form of the State. Indeed, the resurgence in a violent form of the demands on the form of the State, which now distorts the terms of the political debate on the worrying future of our country, is the result of twenty years of procrastination, red tape and petty political calculations that paralyzed and still paralyze the full implementation of the 1996 Constitution. This is one of the many consequences of the failure of the government’s policy on decentralization and democratization.

In any event, the CRM considers that a pure return to a federal system with two states, between the former East Cameroon and the former West Cameroon, as has existed in 1961, would be a painful regression in the political history of our country. Indeed, it would be a denial of more than half a century of common history and all that Cameroonians, Anglophones and Francophones, have been able to accomplish together to make our country a singular and proud Nation in Africa and the world.

Beyond allegations concerning the conduct of the Foumban Conference which gave birth to the Federal Republic of Cameroon, we must consider the objective reasons given for the transition to the unitary State in 1972, the fact that the history of the State of Cameroon does not begin with the administrative sharing of our country between France and Great Britain after the defeat of Germany during the First World War. It is all these historical elements, these multiple facts that we must bear in mind, in order to carry out, judiciously and only in the best interest of our country, discussions on the form of the State. In this respect, we must note that this issue of the form of the State is a sovereign matter that only the Cameroonian people must decide on and it cannot be decided upon on the basis of claims from a part of the nation, no matter how legitimate, nor political arrangements between political groups.

On the drama of Eséka,

I once again reiterate the CRM’s sincere condolences to the families of the victims of this tragedy, the exact number of which remains to be debated, in spite of the official figures given by the Government, and wishes the wounded a speedy recovery.

This tragedy brings to light, in a tragic way, the question of the conditions of the privatization of CAMRAIL; in particular the problem is that of corruption that hampers our country. Indeed, it is urgent to shed full light on the exact terms of the concession granted, in complete opacity, to the private group that operates our railway today by leaders themselves making money in the transaction. The 30-day delay given by the Head of State to the Commission of Inquiry created after the tragedy of Eséka is largely over but Cameroonians are yet to be informed of the exact causes of this train accident.

The President of the Republic must make public the findings of the commission, else people  mistrust  with respect to all governmental commissions of inquiry will increase, as was the case following the Nsam disaster, the February 2008 riots, the disappearance of nine people in  Bepanda, the assassination of some religious authorities, the assassination of twenty elements of our defence forces, the disappearance of Ms Vanessa Tchatchou’s baby, the debacle of the Lions in the World Cup organized in South Africa and so on.

This drama of Eséka has revealed the serious shortcomings of the Government in terms of coordination and management of crisis. Suffice it to note, the cacophony created by the Minister of Transport, who, with a disconcerting thoughtlessness, denied the derailment of the train when the disaster had occurred, and did not have the decency to apologize to Cameroonians, preferring, as is customary in the Government, to find scapegoats; the  incapacity of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization in disaster management and timely conveyance of means of assistance at the scene of the disaster; The procrastination of the Ministry of Public Health, which has cost many lives; The more spectacular than effective actions of the ministries in charge of security which have not facilitated the task of justice. Time has come to ask why army helicopters were not used to help victims and evacuate them in time to appropriate hospitals. These helicopters were however mobilized on December 8th 2016 in Bamenda, when it was necessary to repress, in blood, the Anglophone uprising.

On the economic situation of the country,

I could have spoken again this year on the absence of a coherent economic policy, the destruction of businesses and jobs by a bogus tax system, the endemic unemployment which especially strikes young people, the unsustainable pace of debt, the structural deficit of the trade balance and the balance of payments, the increase in poverty, and so on. But the catastrophe we feared and against which we have been constantly raising the alarm for three years has arrived: Cameroon is going to be placed again under structural adjustment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Indeed, following the Extraordinary Summit held on 22 and 23 December 2016 in Yaoundé, it was decided, among others, “to open and conduct bilateral negotiations with the IMF in the near future to better structure adjustment efforts “of the CEMAC states. Less than ten years after reaching the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative in 2006 and last IMF review in September 2008, after 20 years of structural adjustment in sweat and tears, the people of Cameroon are back again in the same disaster; the people must still go through  the same sufferings, we do not know for how long; the people have been called upon, as it has always been the case for a quarter of a century, to tighten their belts again and again without any break or the slightest reward of their inhuman efforts for the past two decades.

With this return to the IMF, the financial miracle that was believed to be found in the so-called “strategic” cooperation with China, simply because the government wanted to disregard requirements of good governance, especially rigorous management of public finances, proves to be an illusion. Similarly, the promise of emergence in 2035, which no realistic person could really believe in taking into account the country’s mediocre economic performance since the adoption of the famous Strategy Document for Growth and Employment (GESP), fades away. Due to the incompetence and carelessness of those who govern us, their tendency to use economic lies as an art of management, the recovery of the national economy has become our myth of Sisyphus. Worse, foreign expertise was used to find the appropriate treatment for our sick economy as if Cameroon lacked talented economists in the country and in the diaspora. How longer will we put our destiny into the hands of others?

For the second time, the same President of the Republic places his country under the supervision of the IMF. This is unprecedented! It’s revolting! This is unacceptable! It is above all evidence of a notorious incompetence which now bursts out in the face of the world. Proof also that the current seven-year term of President Biya is redundant; Because after leading the country through the first structural adjustment plan in which he had plunged it 20 years earlier, he should have stepped down. He could then have claimed to have realized, at least in part, one of his ambitions that was to be the one who brought economic progress to Cameroon. But does he believe himself in what he says? Failing to resign with his government, he now has only one chance to fulfil his other ambition of being the one who brought democracy to our country: to put in place conditions for a peaceful and democratic change in power in 2018, through fair and transparent elections on the basis of a consensual electoral code cleared of the factors of fraud. The CRM has consistently called for the reform of the electoral code. This becomes an imperative necessity in the interest of the President of the Republic.

On the electoral code

It should be recalled that on 4th December 2015, the CRM launched in Yaoundé, and with unnecessary violence by security forces, the campaign “LET US SAVE PEACE IN CAMEROON BY NOW DEMANDING THE CONSENSUAL REFORM OF THE ELECTORAL CODE FOR FREE, TRANSPARENT AND  DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS  “.

On February 4th 2016, this republican and peaceful activity organized in Douala was also stopped, like all activities of our party so far, by the police with such a violence that can only be explained by the administrative and political ostracism decided upon and assumed by the Government against the CRM.

The political objective of our campaign is “peaceful change through ballots” in 2018 or earlier.

As part of this campaign, the CRM has distributed nearly one million petitions in the ten regions of the country. On the Internet, it made it possible for Cameroonians to participate. In spite of various administrative obstructions, police intimidation and even threats against the populations, especially in the hinterland, we collected, in ten months, nearly five hundred and fifty thousand replies favourable to a consensual modification of the electoral code.

It is therefore clear from our campaign that there is a popular support for a consensual reform of the electoral code and of ELECAM in order to prevent our country from suffering from post-election disputes that undermine development efforts in many states, particularly in Central Africa. The Cameroonians’ distrust of our current electoral system was measured by a survey published on 2nd December 2015 by the University of Yaoundé II on behalf of Afrobarometer, a pan-African research network, that conducts surveys in more than 30 countries in Africa. This survey, carried out by an independent body and made public, indicates that more than 50% Cameroonians do not trust ELECAM and the entire electoral system, suspected of bias in favour of power.

Indeed, in a sample of 1,200 adults composed of as many men as women distributed in the 10 regions of the country, in both rural and urban areas, the survey shows that: 53% of Cameroonians do not trust ELECAM; 67% of respondents have reservations about the fairness of the voting count; 21% are even convinced that votes are never evenly counted. In addition, 73% of respondents admit the existence of voters’ corruption; 26% even think that voters are always bribed; 59% believe the government is intimidating the opposition; and for 11% of them, this intimidation is even systematic.

The popular success of the CRM’s national petition campaign for the consensual reform of the electoral system and of ELECAM is thus reinforced by the results of the survey conducted by the University of Yaoundé II. From now on, authorities must consider all political consequences by opening up a real national dialogue, without delay, taking into account dates for next elections, at the end of which the country must have an electoral system guaranteeing transparency, freedom, sincerity and the fairness of the vote. Considering the high level of distrust of Cameroonians vis-à-vis the current electoral system and ELECAM, it would be irresponsible for the Government to take the country to the multiple elections scheduled in 2018 with the same electoral law. The persistence of the regime to refuse this life-saving reform would be an indication of its determination to reiterate the massive and undaunted frauds perpetrated in particular against the CRM during the twin elections of September 29th, 2013, with the risk of a major electoral crisis.

The CRM is already calling as witness Cameroonians and international observers on the many efforts that it has undertaken in a political context hostile to freedom of expression and association in order to avoid post-election disputes dangerous for peace and security of the country. Among these efforts, our draft law of 4th December 2014 that has even never been discussed in committee, more than two years later and in violation of the by-laws of the National Assembly; The national awareness campaign on the importance of revising the electoral code and the composition of ELECAM; The national petition campaign for the consensual reform of the electoral system and the composition of ELECAM, etc. Our party recalls that its members and other Cameroonians concerned about the future of their country will not tolerate any electoral fraud during elections expected in 2018.

With CRM’s members and sympathizers, as well as all Cameroonians who like justice and stand to protect the choice of citizens, we will conduct a peaceful opposition so far unsuspected in case of any attempt of electoral fraud and administrative manoeuvres or other.

The international community is concerned here. Now is the time to take action for countries friends of Cameroon, international organizations such as the Francophonie, the Commonwealth, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the African Union whose African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (CADEG) came into force in 2012 with the ratification of Cameroon, the European Union and the UN. They must take action, by appropriate means and in respect of the sovereignty of our country, to convince the Government of the urgent need to carry out a fundamental reform of the entire national electoral system before the important elections of next year, In order to avoid a serious post-election crisis.

On the war with Boko Haram,

This war, triggered on May 17th 2014, enters its third year. This is an opportunity to congratulate our defence forces on the sacrifices made to date with great success, to bar the way to those armed religious extremists. Although the war is not yet over, members of the Boko Haram sect are now in a defensive mood. To our fallen soldiers, the country will forever be grateful. The CRM reiterates its call for the establishment of a ward of the state status for minor children of soldiers killed in war and the creation of national military cemeteries where the nation would bury its  sons fallen for the flag.

The success of our defence forces must not make us forget abuses often suffered by civilian and innocent populations. The Government must severely punish such abuses, which, though marginal, can tarnish the reputation of the whole army. The sooner it will take action, the sooner it will save the country from the legitimate criticism of human rights organizations whose role is salutary in the knowledge of the unofficial realities of the field, the experience and the feelings of the populations.

It is also the occasion to highlight the terrible sacrifices of our compatriots of the Far North whose life is permanently disorganized by the war. The Government must adopt substantial financial measures to revitalize the economy of this entire region, since extreme poverty is the bed of all extremism.

On the Women’s ACN

The CRM once again congratulates the Lionesses for their brilliant competition. A bright future awaits them. They must therefore keep working. The CRM regrets however that the CPDM and the sycophants of the presidential couple tried to get undue political dividends from this sporting event. The Cameroonians were shocked by the cult of the personality of the past who surrounded this event which should have been a moment of mobilization of the nation in all its components, without exclusion. Regarding the management of this female 2016 ACN, the CRM is once again calling for a full audit in the face of allegations of embezzlement of public funds and clan management that remain in the public opinion.

On the risk of changes of the electoral calendar

The year 2017 is the last turn before the crucial election year of 2018. Indeed, the year 2018 will the year of senatorial elections in April, legislative and municipal elections in September and presidential elections in October. To these elections, one could add, if the electoral calendar was not considered a state secret by the regime, regional elections. This very busy schedule calls for rigorous government organization and planning in terms of both financial resources and project management. Without attributing any intention whatsoever to the Government, the CRM stresses that it firmly stands for the respect of the electoral calendar. It will reject with the last energy any change of this calendar for any reason whatsoever. Neither the war waged against Boko Haram in May 2014 nor the use of a possible electoral reform initiated at the last moment nor budgetary constraints will justify such a shift against which the CRM warns the Government one year earlier. Therefore, it must implement everything during the year 2017, to settle details of all kinds entering into the preparation and the timely and successful organization of all the elections scheduled in 2018.

My dear compatriots,

Those who have ruled Cameroon for more than half a century have led our dear and beautiful country to the wall: the multifaceted political crisis, of which the Anglophone question is one of the most prominent consequences, is now complicated by an announced economic disaster. When incompetence is added to arrogance, one can only expect such a result. When nearly five years ago, I proposed you to work together for the national renaissance, it is because most of the signs of this disaster were already present. The situation has only worsened since then. We have the power to change   our future in peace to which our people is attached: it is the power of vote. Each one of us, by registering on the electoral roll, by withdrawing his voter’s card, by voting in 2018 and ensuring that it is protected, will make a decisive contribution to getting our country out of the nightmare in which it has been plunged for several years, and where it is taken further when we thought we could have a break. It is up to all of us to ensure that the change in power finally arrives in Cameroon in 2018, through elections. It is the royal road to democracy, which removes the errors of transitions and the adventurous shortcuts of accessing to power by force.

Long live Cameroon!

The MRC National President
Professor Maurice KAMTO.
Yaoundé, on 29th December 2016.