May 2021

Soldiers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Officers, General Officers,

Ladies and Gentlemen of the civilian personnel of the Defence Forces,

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Security Forces,

The 20th of May is the celebration of the Unity of the Nation. What is a Nation? A Nation is a population united by history whose will to live and build a common destiny together makes it a people; it is also a territory defined by borders; it is equally a flag and a rallying song called the national anthem. Beyond governments, communities and political organisations, there is a professional body that is both the crucible and the cement of the Nation: it is the National Army and more broadly the Defence and Security Forces. It is the Army, admittedly under the intangible authority of the civil power, which protects the people with whom it is at one with; it is the Army which defends the borders of the Nation and therefore the integrity of the territory; it is the Army which sheds its blood for the flag while singing the national anthem, this great song of rallying and devotion. That is why I felt it was important to address a special message to the Cameroonian army, our army, and more generally to the Defence and security forces, on this 49th edition of the National Unity Day, which is taking place in a special context.

Indeed, since 2014, Cameroon has been experiencing a succession of multifaceted security crises: the repeated incursions of the Boko Haram sect in the Far North Region; the multiple attacks on the borders with CAR; and for four years now, the fratricidal civil war that has been ravaging the North-West and South-West regions.

This insecurity, which has become chronic and has rendered the official propaganda on peace inaudible, is jeopardising the foundations of our young nation. In this context of serious security instability, the Army, and more generally the Defence and Security Forces, have a vital role to play in order to avoid the erosion of national cohesion.

Therefore, on this very special 20th May 2021 National Day, the military and other members of the Defence and Security Forces who put their lives at risk to defend our beautiful common heritage deserve, more than in the past, the Nation’s full attention.

As a result of the historical dysfunctions and the organised misuse of the military institution and security services in our country since independence, some military and security service personnel believe that they are at the service of a regime. This organised political hijacking of the military institution and security services from their essential purpose has ended up installing the false idea that members of the Defence and security forces owe loyalty and fidelity to a person, rather than to the Constitution, to the institutions of the Republic and to the Nation of which they are the emanation.

In my electoral programme during the October 2018 presidential campaign, I had outlined some major axes for the reform, modernisation and professionalisation of our Army.

These axes are based on the definition of a National Defence and Security Policy, which can be modulated according to the national and international challenges as well as the geopolitical and geostrategic stakes of the country. The National Defence and Security Policy is the framework where the strategic orientations of the military, civil-military, economic and particularly industrial actions of the Nation must be set.

The truth is that, since the creation of our army in November 1959, followed by the independence of the East Cameroon on the 1st of January 1960 and the Reunification with the West Cameroon on the 1st of October 1961, this framework has never been clearly defined. The structural difficulties that affect the vital points of our Nation are only the direct consequences of this organised deficit of fundamental citizen and democratic debate.

It is in this context that, despite national and international developments, the government still makes do with the outdated 1967 law on the general organisation of Defence.

The twenty-one decrees relating to the modernisation and professionalisation of the army, issued by the President of the Republic, Head of the Armed Forces in 2001, which are a legal curiosity, do not change anything.

Our Defence and security policy must be based on a double logic: on the one hand, that of overcoming divisions and identity-based closure in all its forms. On the other hand, it is about the sustainable rooting of peace and democratic culture in the entire nation. This must be the major objective of national building.

A Defence and Security Policy that does not place the human being at the heart of its concerns has little chance of achieving its strategic and operational objectives. Therefore, the military condition must be the object of all attention. In this perspective, the adoption of a law on the wards of the Nation is, as I have said on several occasions, an imperative and an emergency. For, is it normal that the minor orphans of men and women who died for our nation continue to be left to their own devices? It is urgent that the State take charge of the schooling and health costs of minor children whose parents lost their lives under the flag.

In the same vein, it is unbearable to see war-wounded abandoned in hospitals or claiming their meagre bonuses, sometimes even in front of the cameras in the presence of their Minister.

There have been errors here and there, and even serious mistakes in the rules of engagement of the operational forces; we must correct them, prevent them, and impose the right sanctions when they are necessary. But having had the honour and privilege of working with some of its components on vital issues for our country, I know and have always said that the Cameroonian Army is one of the best trained and most professional on our continent. I am particularly proud of this Army.

In the Cameroon of tomorrow, we shall place justice, the rule of law, good governance, respect for human dignity, the honour of our soldiers and democracy at the heart of our political action. We are building this Cameroon now on the sufferings of all political prisoners, those of mu party, others from different political parties…whistle-blowers…illegally arrested and arbitrarily imprisoned for months now!

I am committed to providing our country with strategic, operational, and human capacities that will enable it to face its many security challenges. However, the course of the profound change thus set for our Defence and security system is conditional on the Nation’s confidence in its Army and its security services.

This essential trust has yet to be built, as it still appears to many of our compatriots that the military and security institutions remain a quasi-private instrument of political repression in the hands of the person who controls power and his political party.

It is in the wake of this trust to be built with the Nation, and which will be nourished by your moral competence that I invite you Soldiers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Officers, General Officers, civilian Defence personnel, members of the Security Forces, not to feel threatened by the democratic change that has become inevitable in our country.

Under the new power that Cameroonians will freely bring to the head of the country, through fair and transparent elections, there will be no grudge or witch-hunts; for, history teaches us that nations are built on trial and error, and that desires for revenge are the breeding grounds for hatred and renewed vengeance.

This new power that an overwhelming majority of Cameroonians are calling for will be the logical consequence of the inclusive dialogue through which we will find together, as children of the same country, a lasting peaceful solution to the armed conflict in the North-West and South-West Regions, and the emanation of the free choice of Cameroonians on the basis of a consensual reform of the electoral system.

It is with you, in all your diversity, that I wish to lay the foundations of the new Defence and security system of democratic, modern, and ambitious Cameroon.

Do not let yourselves be afraid. Have faith in our common will to work to ensure a better future for our children, our grandchildren, and the generations that will follow.

Soldiers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Officers, General Officers, Ladies and Gentlemen of the civilian staff of the Defence Forces, members of the Security Forces, you can believe me: I will always stand by your side to fight for Cameroon! This is the oath of a patriot.

Long live the Cameroonian Nation!

Pr. Maurice KAMTO
Yaounde May 20, 2021