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Monday, December 31, 2018

Cameroon: This is the full 2018 End-of-Year Message from the Head of State to the Nation

Cameroonians, Cameroonians,

My dear compatriots,

The septennate that has just started should be decisive for our country. It could even be one of the most important moments in our history since our independence.

Let me explain.

Over the past half-century, we have gradually built democratic institutions. We have striven to establish security throughout our territory. We have done everything from an obsolete economic model to a more modern system that is more in keeping with our national interest.

It was of course a long-term work. Some goals, such as the establishment of democracy, have been achieved. Those related to security were only partly due to strong internal and external threats. Finally, others, the most ambitious because they aimed at the transformation of our society, were patiently started.

Unforeseen difficulties complicated our task. In the 1980s, the sharp deterioration in the terms of trade compromised our progress. Ten years later, the global economic and financial crisis has shattered our momentum and slowed our growth. More recently, the decline in oil and commodity prices has had the same effect.

But we did not give up. In the face of adversity, we have developed a development strategy articulated in three stages: great ambitions, great achievements and great opportunities. This last step, we hope, should lead us to the threshold of emergence.

It may be useful to specify what we mean by emergence. In general, the term applies to a change of situation in the sense of an improvement. In its current meaning, it signifies the transition from a state of underdevelopment to that of a developed country. This is how we understand it and that is why I asked that it be erected as a "national cause".

I believe that the coming years will be decisive for achieving this goal. This will require us to tackle three fundamental tasks: restore security, consolidate our economic growth and significantly improve the living conditions of Cameroonians. SECURITY being the sine qua non of civil peace and economic and social progress, it must have priority.

With the situation stabilized in the Far North and under control on our eastern border, it is the context prevailing in the North West and South West regions that will hold most of my attention.

I recently had the opportunity to speak about the issues that concern them. I said and I confirm that I feel the greatest solicitude for the people of these two regions. I am very sensitive to their concerns about their safety and their aspirations for a return to calm and a normal social life.

If the call to lay down the weapons that I launched to war contractors remains unanswered, the defense and security forces will be instructed to neutralize them. I am well aware of the desolation that these insurgents inflict on the populations of these regions. This situation can not continue.

In a spirit of national harmony, I decided, in order to avoid the use of extreme measures, to create a "National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration". This body, under the authority of the Prime Minister, will be responsible for organizing, supervising and managing the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former Boko Haram and North-West armed groups and armed combatants. Southwest wishing to respond favorably to the offer of peace made to them.

This initiative, I emphasize, offers an honorable way out for these ex-combatants as well as a perspective of social reintegration. It should allow a return to calm and a normal life.

On the other hand, measures will be taken as soon as possible to give the territorial communities of our country the skills that will allow them to take a larger share in the management of local affairs. At the same time, the promotion of bilingualism and multiculturalism will be accelerated.

In addition, I intend to continue the dialogue initiated with people of good will for a definitive return to peace.

Paradoxically, the unfortunate events that have been affecting social life for many months in the North West and South West have had an effect that could surprise many of us. The populations of these two regions will have seen the sincerity of the authorities' intentions regarding the delegation of new powers to local authorities and the solidarity of the rest of the nation in their regard. My wish is that, at the end of the day, national unity will be reinforced. It will be essential also to reinforce the RATE OF GROWTH of our economy.

I mentioned above the external reasons that led to its decline. Thanks to the measures we have taken, the economy is recovering little by little. But we will have to do more to stay on the trajectory of emergence.

Without going into the details of our projects, because I have recently spoken on the subject, I will simply recall that we must give one of our priorities to the modernization of our agriculture by raising its objectives of production and diversification and by putting at its disposal the necessary technical means. The outline of this "agricultural revolution" had been defined at the Ebolowa show and still remains relevant.

The same goes for our major industrialization project according to the orientations of our Master Plan. It should be applied as a matter of priority to the processing of our agricultural raw materials in order to gain added value and reduce our imports of goods and services.

We will continue to provide our country with energy infrastructure, both to meet the needs of our agribusiness and our various industrial sectors and to meet the demands of our populations. In hydroelectric dams will be added solar power plants for the electrification of rural areas.

The considerable efforts that have already been made to develop our transport infrastructure (roads, motorways, ports, airports) will be continued, for the benefit of our economy and the mobility of our compatriots.

In addition, by concluding with the IMF in 2017 an economic and financial program supported by an "Extended Credit Facility", we are committed to continuing the implementation of our structural reforms, maintaining our balanced budget and ensuring sustainability of our external debt.

It is in this context that we will have to finance our major projects. For this, we will now have to rely more on financial institutions that use concessional rates more accessible. On the other hand, it is unacceptable that the maturation of our projects takes much more time than in countries of comparable level. These deadlines should be abbreviated.

Some of our problems are that the structures of our economy make us very dependent on the outside world and in particular the prices of our commodities. I have often said that we are in a position to produce a large part of what we import, whether it is agricultural or industrial products. It will absolutely have to be taken into account. The rise of protectionism leaves us little choice.

In the same vein, it is essential that we do more to integrate digital advances into the functioning of our public services and our economy. The upcoming digital society will not wait for latecomers. Once our security is restored and our growth is revived, we have to give our democracy the SOCIAL DIMENSION to be its own.

In recent decades, significant progress has already been made in this direction. It will be necessary to redouble efforts to build a society that guarantees equal opportunities and dignified living conditions for the entire population.

We will continue therefore:

- to extend a quality education system at all levels with a focus on professionalisation;

- to increase the number of health centers, to complete our network of reference hospitals and to finance our social security system;

- to solve the nagging problem of social housing;

- to further improve access to drinking water and electricity, including in rural areas;

- and finally to promote the role of women and young people in our society.

In this way, we will end up reducing poverty, a source of various exclusions that are still present in our country.

A problem that is particularly close to my heart remains to be solved. I want to talk about unemployment, especially youth unemployment. Of course, the state services responsible for finding answers will do what they have to do. But we must be aware that this social scourge that affects most countries of the planet, is closely linked to the level of economic activity, in other words to growth.

That's why we will do everything possible to encourage and stimulate the return of growth that we are currently experiencing.

Cameroonians, Cameroonians,

My dear compatriots,

So that's the triple challenge we face. If we remain united, supportive and committed, I do not doubt that we can take it up.

As you know, our country was committed to hosting the big meeting of African football in 2019. The Confederation of African Football, based on some data, thought it was necessary to make a date shift. We took note of it. As I said before, all the investments related to the organization of the CAN will be made. I take this opportunity to ask you to remain mobilized so that ultimately, the modernization of our road, rail, hospital and sports related to this great event, materialize: our country deserves it.

My dear compatriots,

In these difficult times, believe me, I devote all my strength and experience to the service of peace, unity and progress in our dear and beautiful country.

I count on each one of you to help me.

Happy New Year 2019 to you all.

Long live the Republic !

Long live Cameroon!

Yaoundé, December 31, 2018