My dear compatriots;
Here we are at the end of 2019, a year that saw a series of serious political, security, humanitarian and economic events.
In my end-of-year 2018 message, I painted a grim picture of the general situation in our country and I sincerely hoped that it would improve in 2019.
Unfortunately, the situation has worsened. Indeed, at the end of 2019, Cameroon is a disaster-stricken State due to the obsession of Mr Paul BIYA for power. Never has a man sacrificed, for his ego, the life of his compatriots, all social categories combined.
The dramatic armed conflict that the regime has imposed on compatriots in the North-West and South-West regions persists and, despite the evidence that no one can win this war by arms, the government refuses to hold a sincere dialogue to stop it.
The results of this fratricidal war are terrible:
– in humanitarian terms, between 3,000 and 12,000 dead, according to sources, among the civilian population, hundreds of members of the defence and security forces are massacred on the battlefronts, more than 50,000 refugees in Nigeria, hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, a widespread practice of torture and barbaric acts, mass arrests and detentions;
– on the economic and social front, the discontinuance of the activities of many companies established in these regions; thousands of jobs destroyed in a country plagued by high unemployment and a chronic lack of jobs, especially among young people; and the two regions declared « economically depressed areas » by a decree of the Prime Minister, since September 2nd, 2019.
Although from experience Mr Biya has little credibility before international and national opinion on his ability to keep his commitments, we gave him the benefit of the doubt when he announced, on September 2nd, 2019, the organisation of a Major National Dialogue; we believed he was driven by a patriotic awakening in the face of the humanitarian drama and threats to territorial integrity linked to the NWSW situation.
It is with this in mind that the CRM, during the consultations preceding the Major National Dialogue, proposed to the Prime Minister an inclusive and methodical approach aimed at implementing a definitive solution to the crisis in the NWSW. Among other things, this included:
– Release of all those who are detained in the context of the Anglophone crisis;
– Ceasefire negotiated with armed groups;
– Withdrawal of the 3rd category forces from the NWSW;
– Establishment of a Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration Committee (DDRC);
– Emergency humanitarian and financial assistance for the return of displaced persons and refugees and their reintegration;
– Establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission;
– Launch of the BROAD INCLUSIVE NATIONAL DIALOGUE (BIND), with the support of the international community.
The BROAD INCLUSIVE NATIONAL DIALOGUE (BIND) that the situation of the country commands must deal with other issues, including particularly the reform of the electoral system, the reform of our institutions, the guarantee of fundamental human rights and public freedoms and the guarantee of the independence of Justice.
For such a Dialogue to be really useful, effective and successful, a preparatory working group must firstly be assigned the task to resolve certain practical and critical issues, within the framework of the draft texts to be submitted to the approval of the participants at its opening. These include:
– the draft agenda;
– the dates and the calendar of the event;
– the organisation of the Dialogue Bureau;
– the organisation of debates and decision-making procedures;
– the acceptance of the binding nature of the Dialogue’s resolutions;
– the timeline for implementing resolutions;
– the implementation monitoring mechanism.
Regarding the agenda of the Grand National Dialogue (GND), the CRM having noted that it would go beyond the crisis in the NWSW and reach to other questions of national importance, considered that this had to include a number of essential requirements for its success:
– the debates should be conducted by an independent person, enjoying proven experience in conflict resolution and consensually approved by the participants;
– The involvement of the international community and certain powers, including in particular the United Nations, the AU, the EU, the United States, France, Great Britain, Germany, Canada, is indispensable, with regards to the high mistrustful relations between the parties concerned, and in light of the experience of these organisations and powers in resolving conflicts and the credibility they would bring to this process.
– In order to ensure the transparency of the proceedings, the CRM recommended greater media coverage of the GND and the full dissemination of its debates.
Alas! that was without taking into account the nature of the current regime. As always, it used the Grand National Dialogue as a trick to gain time in the face of international pressure, instead of making it a sincere step aimed at finding consensual and lasting solutions to the challenges facing our country, particularly in the NWSW. It therefore ignored the CRM’s proposals, as well as the similar ones from civil society and the international community.
It may be recalled that at the official opening ceremony of this Grand National Dialogue, on September 30th, 2019, the Sultan of the Bamuns delivered a courageous and well-inspired speech, which were in line with the reforms proposed by the CRM and all national and international organisations concerned with the rebuilding of a lasting peace in our country. He also posed the central question of change at the highest level of government. His proposals were badly received by the Prime Minister who, some time before, had himself been publicly disapproved by the Minister of Territorial Administration on the orientation to be given to the dialogue.
The Grand National Dialogue, which was only a monologue and a headlong rush in view of the gravity of the situation in the North-West and the South-West as well as the political climate which prevails in the country, concluded with unimportant resolutions, moreover not binding on the authorities and without any timeline for implementation. These recommendations gave rise to what is now called the Decentralisation Law, as if no such law existed. The great find of the GND is to have discovered, more than 23 years later, that the Constitution of April 18th, 1996 provides in its section 62, para.2, the possibility of a special statute for certain regions of the country.
In view of the heavy atmosphere of mistrust of the NWSW populations vis-à-vis the government and the persistence of the armed conflict which has caused significant human, economic and social damage, this Decentralisation Law undoubtedly comes too late and offers very little for the resolution of the crisis. Today the security and political situation of the country calls for a sincere discussion between Cameroonians on the form of our State; and for it to bear a hope of peace, such a discussion must not exclude the issue of federalism. To make this statement is not to praise secession or separatism. Because, it should be once more emphasised that federalism is not synonymous with separatism or secession. The CRM’s position on separatism is known and constant: secession is not an option! However, we are convinced that we must dialogue with all Cameroonians without exception, including those who defend, for the moment, the secession option, the federalists, the centralists and the diaspora. It is the only way available to the current regime to avoid the risk of implosion of the country. It’s a question of pragmatism: we normally do not try to make peace with those who side with us, but with those with whom we disagree!
Under the new Decentralisation Law, section 246, according to which the future « city mayors » placed at the head of urban communities must henceforth be « native » personalities, adds up to that which states that the heads of regional executives must also be « natives ». Such provisions are a negation of citizenship and democracy. They establish in our country a political exclusion incompatible with the idea of Republic and democratic principles.
In the same vein, should civil and military officials, civil servants and State agents not also be « natives », in order to refine the ethnic polarisation promoted by this infamous law? Obviously, such an approach to citizenship and living together does not fit into our vision of Cameroon.
Let me say how much I share the almost forgotten drama of the populations of the Far North Region, still facing the Boko Haram sect. While welcoming the sacrifices of the bravely engaged soldiers on this front, I cannot help, once again, drawing the attention of senior military and security officials to the serious human rights violations of our compatriots in this region, caught in the crossfire. The judicial chain should take back the rights it should never have given up to security actors.
We will not give way to vain controversies and slanders which are characteristic of those who have failed to meet the legitimate expectations of the people who had trusted them. We are familiar with the sordid manoeuvres of Mr Biya who, at time of reckoning his performance, brandishes the sensitive spectre of nativeness to look away from economic, financial, social and political indicators that coldly enable to show his total failure across the board. His goal is to distract Cameroonians’s attention from the ultimate purpose: our common aspiration to build a prosperous Cameroon for the benefit of all.
In this respect, our conviction is that all our compatriots – whatever their community, religious or social affiliations, their place of residence – have the right to build a rewarding life commensurate with their effort and talents, and earn decent incomes; they have the right to acquire adequate education and vocational training; to access to decent housing, clean water, energy, transport and telecommunications services. Our objective is not to build barriers of hatred between communities, nor to found a society where a tiny minority would unduly enrich themselves at the expense of the greatest number, but to build a nation in which all its components would live in inter-community harmony, fairly enjoying the fruits of the country’s prosperity. This is my ambition for our country, this is the ambition of the CRM. It is this ambition that also underlies the imperative to reform the State, in order to give regional or federated entities and municipalities the means to deploy more effectively in the service of their populations, the State ensuring a balanced development of all the components of the national community.
It is an urgent question of equity between the components of the nation and of social justice, in a country where more than 80% of the population is under 35 years of age, forming a massive youth desperate in the face of the lack of perspective.
It would be tedious to engage in an enumeration of the illustrative elements of the economic and social ruin of our country, in a regime characterised by a high degree of tolerance for corruption aggravated by impunity, a lack of anticipation, a tendency to be controlled by events rather than influencing their course, a lack of objectives and indicators for evaluation and performance monitoring, whether economic programmes or public companies. Suffice it to mention, among the recent cases: the fiasco of the 2019 AFCON and the scandal of embezzlement of the related funds which, surprisingly, did not spark any investigation, much less the sanction of perpetrators; the collapse of public enterprises whose losses amount to hundreds of billions of our francs; the overvaluation of project costs and the exceeding of deadlines in the construction of infrastructures of all kinds, in this case roads, bridges, hydroelectric dams, etc. Just one example: seven years after the start of the Memvele dam project, while Cameroonians were expecting some 230 MW from this dam, which cost 430 billion FCFA (3 times the normal price), they only receive 80 MW.
Fellow Cameroonians, dear Compatriots!
On October 7th, 2018, the presidential election was held. You put your trust in me, but your victory was stolen in conditions of massive and despicable fraud that you witnessed.
Faced with this ELECTORAL HOLD-UP and in view of the country’s serious political problems, the CRM and its allies have launched the National Resistance Plan (NRP), culminating in the organisation of Peaceful White Marches.
These Peaceful White Marches aimed to obtain:
– the end of the civil war in the North-West and South-West regions;
– the recount of the ballots, polling station by polling station, by crosschecking the minutes (PV) with the electoral registers;
– stopping the transfer of power by mutual agreement at the highest level of the State;
– clarifying the fiasco of the withdrawal from our country of the organisation of the 2019 AFCON and of the financial scandal that surrounded it.
The organised Peaceful White Marches resulted in an armed crackdown of unprecedented barbarity in our country, followed by waves of illegal arrests, then to a wave of illegal arrests, acts of torture, massive violations of fundamental human rights, the imprisonment of hundreds of militants and sympathisers and even ordinary passers-by; finally, in acts of judicial barbarism posed by a Justice totally under orders.
The hardships I endured personally as a result of these sad events did not affect me as much as the brutality unjustly inflicted on young people, mothers and many other comrades whose only crime is to have believed in peaceful change through ballot boxes in their country. Some of them are mutilated for life.
From this painful ordeal, the CRM emerged strengthened and determined more than ever to fight to liberate our people. In this situation, our party has shown that solidarity is not an empty word in its Platform. Indeed, for more than nine months, an extraordinary chain of solidarity was formed, from the confines of our campaigns to the diaspora, to provide assistance to the political hostages of the regime that we were, and that some of our comrades remain. In the face of justice that has gone mad, our brave lawyers have demonstrated competence, determination and a sense of exceptional sacrifice. And what about the success of the operation called « Ardoise Rose », designed to support the education of the children of detained comrades, by anonymous Cameroonians from within and the diaspora!
Let the smallest of contributors or donors from within as well as from the Diaspora, the youngest of the collective of our brilliant lawyers, the comrades who sacrificed themselves on the daily basis to ensure the heavy logistics, the families of the hostages who were invaluable moral support here, let them all receive my deep gratitude and that of the party. I have a special thought for those whose families have broken up, for those who have lost loved ones during their illegal detention, and for all those who have lost their jobs or seen their business collapse during their imprisonment by the current regime. Nothing can compensate for what these men and women have unjustly lost. However, I want to tell them that the CRM is doing everything so that they can one day be compensated by the State of Cameroon. The international proceedings initiated in this direction are continuing, while proceedings targeting all those responsible for acts of torture and degrading treatment of our militants and supporters are almost complete.
On October 5th, hundreds of other political prisoners of the regime, including myself, were released. But I do not feel free, because Vice-President YACOUBA MAMADOU « MOTA », Sylvanus MUTAGHA, Serge Branco NANA and twelve other comrades unfairly condemned as part of the mutinies that occurred on July 22nd, 2019 at the Kodengui Central Prison in Yaoundé, remain behind bars.
Nineteen CRM militants who appeared free were arbitrarily sentenced by the Bonanjo Instance Court in Douala, on November 29th, to six months in prison.
Over a hundred militants who have also been granted provisional release appear before various courts in Yaoundé and face the risk of being sentenced to prison terms.
All these lives shattered by the brutal dictatorship that has held our people hostage for almost forty years have been in the framework of a State conspiracy against democracy, which however could not have been achieved without the active complicity of a few officials from the administration, magistrates, and various heads of the security and intelligence services. They brutalised the law as much as militants and sympathisers of the CRM and allied organisations, at all stages of the proceedings; they trampled on the laws of the Republic and refused to lay down the law, held hostage by their respective professional trajectories, their career ambitions, their political and other convictions, and sometimes simply by fear.
Allow me here to salute the exceptional courage of the comrades who mobilised, even though the plan to sentence us to death was already unveiled, to protest the waves of arrests on ethnic bases of January 26th and 28th, 2019. It is also an opportunity for me to express my gratitude and that of the CRM to all those, in the diaspora and in Cameroon, sometimes anonymously, who mobilised to stop the legal wrongdoing of the regime. I especially welcome the exceptional mobilisation of the international community, my foreign colleagues, and the many learned societies for our liberation.
Fellow Cameroonians, dear Compatriots!
On November 10th, Mr Paul BIYA convened the electorate for the legislative and municipal twin elections for February 9th, 2020. This decision, which was made in a critical political, security, social, economic and humanitarian context, is a challenge put to the Cameroonian people. It constitutes an assumed denial of the serious problems facing the country, and in particular of the civil war that has been going on for three years in the North-West and South-West and of the electoral hold-up perpetrated by the regime following the presidential election of October 7th, 2018, while all the right-minded people, all the national and international organisations wishing for the well-being of the Cameroonian people call for the appeasement of the political climate before the holding of these elections.
On November 25th, 2019, the CRM National Council, exceptionally extended to the heads of the divisional federations of the party, took the resolution of the non-participation of the CRM in the twin elections of February 9th, 2020, mainly for two reasons: the persistence of the civil war in the North-West and South-West regions and the refusal of the power to consensually revise the electoral system before any new election. Holding elections in our country under current conditions is, on the one hand, giving the terrible message to the English-speaking populations of NWSW that they are not Cameroonians; on the other hand, go towards a new post-electoral crisis, because the same causes will produce the same effects. The government can only hold its elections – without risk of contesting the results – with its traditional allies and those who rallied to it during the 2018 presidential election. I would add that regarding the war in the NWSW, the government is hiding the real figures on human casualties within the defence and security forces. However, credible sources report losses well beyond the official figures.
There is an interdependence between the consensual reform of the electoral system, the quality of the elections and the return of peace in the English-speaking regions once the civil war has ended. Indeed, is it not the discredit and the lack of legitimacy of the elites of the North-West and South-West, subservient to the current power, one of the major problems that triggered the Anglophone crisis? However, only transparent and fair elections can guarantee this political credit and this legitimacy.
As I have often pointed out, the struggle will be long. But for Cameroonian people to mobilize in order to shorten the time for the expected victory. More than ever, our national liberation fight needs the mobilization of all and the commitment of each, at a time when we embark on Phase III of the National Resistance Plan. This third phase is organised around the following points:
1- Make every effort to obtain the release as soon as possible of our comrades, militants and sympathisers, political prisoners still unjustly detained.
2- Ensure the success of the boycott of the twin elections scheduled for February 9th, 2020, because the holding of these elections will lead to a dead-end and will aggravate the armed conflict in the NWSW as much as the political tensions in the country. It is therefore a national salvation action which goes beyond partisan, linguistic, ethnic, religious, etc. divisions, which does not expose the life of any Cameroonian citizen but offers everyone an opportunity to express disagreement with the conduct of the affairs of the country without taking any risk. Let me recall you that to vote is not compulsory under Cameroonian Laws, and that you will not be expose to any sanction whatsoever if, as I am appealing to you, you decide to stay at home on February 9th, 2020.
3- In the event this regime persists to force through, as usual we will engage the following actions:
a) Firstly, mobilise the populations so that they make their demands heard by all peaceful means;
b) Secondly, accentuate international action at all levels for an effective and more efficient involvement of the international community and of Cameroon’s main bilateral partners in the settlement of the multifaceted crises which seriously affect the country, particularly the humanitarian crisis in the NWSW.
Fellow Cameroonians, dear Compatriots!
At this greatly dangerous moment for Cameroun, some weak minds, seized with panic, spit the venom of hatred. They are victims of their fears. It is at this very moment that our country has the greatest need for women and men capable of elevation of spirit, deep patriotism, empathy for their compatriots to cross the delicate course without sinking into the dementia of security and political chaos. Therefore, faithful to my constant approach of national gathering, I appeal to the best of each inner self to escape national self-destruction, to this tribalistic inclination which is becoming stronger every day, and to work resolutely to build together the new Republic for which our people have been calling for so long. Such a mission cuts across political parties, ethnic cleavages, religious affiliations and beliefs of all kinds. It is to a national awakening that the dramatic situation of our country is urging all its children. We must have the courage to note that the current system has exhausted its possibilities and that Cameroon can expect nothing from it, to agree that it is becoming urgent to resolve the crises that threaten its integrity and cohesion, that it is time to find a new leadership for the country in order to give a chance to the numerous Cameroonian youth, talented, but desperate and futureless under the current conditions.
I know that there are enough human talents and resources in our country to guarantee her a bright future.
Let’s resist! A bright future awaits us! I wish you a happy new year 2020.
Long live peaceful resistance!
Long live Cameroon!
Yaoundé, December 31st, 2019