My dear compatriots,
You will understand, I am sure, that I begin this traditional message by telling you about the irruption, on our planet, of the coronavirus pandemic. In this regard, the year 2020 will certainly be remembered as a dark year, marked by hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world.
Like almost all countries, Cameroon has been affected. Perhaps less seriously than other states. Despite our efforts, COVID-19 has left many families in mourning and caused serious difficulties in the functioning of our economy and our society.
I take this opportunity to once again salute the dedication of our doctors, nurses, and, in general, our health workers, who have made and continue to be saved so many lives.
It may be too early to try to learn the lessons of this painful episode which, moreover, continues. Is it necessary to remember that the current pandemic is not the first and that history has taught us that epidemics have wiped out entire populations: the most recent having broken out after the First World War.
Should this be seen as the responsibility of man, guilty of exploiting the planet’s natural resources without moderation and of constantly engaging in conflicts that generate massacres and diseases, as well as experiments to develop weapons new? The question must, I believe, be asked. Whatever the answer, it is to the credit of our time to have clearly raised the problem of the relationship between man and his natural environment. This was, it seems to me, the objective of the Paris Conference on global warming, the recommendations of which are still valid.
Either way, we should not rest on our laurels. I have personally observed that most of our fellow citizens no longer respect the protection measures decreed by the Government.
As, everywhere else, we see a second wave of the epidemic, coupled with the appearance of a new strain of the virus that is more contagious, I urge you once again to wear your masks, to wash your hands regularly. and to seek medical attention or other health care personnel in case symptoms appear. This is the only way to save lives and stop the spread of the virus.
My dear compatriots,
The attention that we had to pay for the health situation did not prevent us from devoting ourselves to other essential tasks linked to the management of our country, that is to say:
- ensure security and peace throughout the extent of our national territory;
- consolidate our democratic process,
- lastly, to continue carrying out our development program on the economic, social, and cultural levels.
In recent years, our country has been facing threats from outside, particularly at our eastern border and in the northern part of our territory.
In the first case, they are highway robbers, attracted by easy prey constituted by peaceful breeders and their herds.
In the second, they are now isolated raids by Boko Haram or attempted suicide attacks entrusted to adolescents. The vigilance and effective action of our defense and security forces have significantly reduced the acts of these criminals.
The situation is different in our North-West and South-West regions where armed groups maintain a climate of terror and insecurity. Thus, periodically, they attack isolated communities and also educational establishments to dissuade parents from sending their children there. The list is already long of the atrocities and crimes they have committed. One of the most heinous is the one that took place recently in Kumba, which resulted in the death of 07 schoolchildren and injuries inflicted on several others.
This crime which shocks the human conscience, will not go unpunished. All the culprits will be relentlessly sought and brought to justice. Already, public opinion, and particularly that of our two regions concerned, can realize, if it has not already done so, that these so-called “secessionists” are in reality only assassins, and moreover, murderers of innocent children. It is an understatement to say that the killing of Kumba aroused general indignation.
It is the moment for me to appeal, once again, to the responsibility of the friendly countries which host the sponsors and of the organizations which finance and animate, through various channels, the armed bands in the North-West regions and from the Southwest. All those who, at the end of the investigations, are identified as contractors or accomplices in these heinous crimes, will have to answer for their acts.
However, our Government has never ceased to provide proof of its desire for openness and dialogue by releasing, for example, many former secessionists and facilitating their reintegration into society.
On the other hand, after the holding of the Grand National Dialogue, it accelerated the implementation of an ambitious decentralization policy which notably includes, for our North-West and South-West regions, the accession to a status special taking into account their specificities and aspirations.
I once again urge the young people enrolled in the armed bands to get out of the bush and return to the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) centers in order to find, like their other young compatriots, a normal life.
The insecurity in the North West and South West regions has been too damaging to our country. Our democracy allows the peaceful expression of all opinions, but with respect for laws and regulations. Otherwise, peace and stability would be threatened.
This is the place to congratulate ourselves on the patriotic attitude of those of our fellow citizens of the North West and South West who, not only, are cooperating more and more with the defense and security forces, but also undertake to to fight courageously against these armed bands. They realized that these people are not acting in the interest of the people.
I would also like to salute here the bravery of our defense and security forces, which have not failed in their duty to protect the integrity of the national territory, people, and property. They deserve the respect and consideration of all. I encourage them to persevere and to remain a republican force, respectful of human rights.
In addition, we must regret that some of our compatriots, gathered around a personality whose ambitions had been disappointed during the last presidential election, took advantage of the security and health difficulties to try to arouse an insurrection, falsely. called “peaceful marches”. Thanks to the maturity of the Cameroonian people, these marches have fortunately been little followed.
Is it really necessary to remember that in a democracy, access to political responsibilities is ensured through the ballot box and not through the street, through certain media, or through social networks?
This is precisely the case in Cameroon where the democratic process takes place according to the provisions of our Constitution and according to the rules set by our laws. Recent times have given a good example:
- in March 2018, the mandate of senators is renewed;
- in October 2018, the Head of State was elected with a very large majority;
- in February 2020, legislative elections take place, ensuring the Government a comfortable majority in the National Assembly;
- on the same date, the municipal elections put an end to the system of government delegates in the big cities, now managed by elected mayors;
- in December 2020, the regional elections have just completed the provisions provided for in the decentralization process.
Thus is confirmed, every day more, our political will to carry out the democratic project responding to the real wishes of the Cameroonian people, a project initiated upon my accession to the supreme magistracy and which led, a few years later, to the institution of a multiparty system.
To those who criticize the imperfections of our democracy, I answer that we have only had a few decades to put it in place. The great democratic countries, for their part, did not succeed until the end of several centuries marked by revolutions, civil wars, and even episodes of dictatorship.
For my part, I am well aware of all that remains to be done. But I am convinced that we are on the right track and that soon we can all be proud of our democratic progress.
My dear compatriots,
It must be recognized that the international context – in particular the coronavirus pandemic and the decline in global growth – has not facilitated the good performance of our public finances and our economy during the coming year.
While maintaining our growth objectives, we had to take measures to consolidate the budget and support the economy in order to overcome this difficult course and make possible a recovery policy in 2021.
This is how it was decided to finalize the projects concerning the 2021 African Nations Championship and the 2022 African Football Cup of Nations, to continue the implementation of the reconstruction and development plans of the North-West and South-West regions as well as the Far North.
Despite these efforts, it is foreseeable that our growth rate, which had stabilized around 4% in recent years, will experience a clear erosion in 2020 and that inflation will start to rise again. The impact of the slowdown in the global economy and the evolution of our national situation, particularly with regard to the increase in security spending, have undoubtedly contributed to this.
Nevertheless, it appears that despite the difficulties, the Cameroonian economy has retained a certain rebound capacity. Thanks to the support of our international partners and, in the event of a decline in the pandemic, it is, therefore, possible to believe that a recovery is possible in the months to come.
With this in mind, I would now like to draw your attention to the recent launch of our National Development Strategy (NDS) which replaces the Expired Growth and Employment Strategy Paper (DSCE).
The National Development Strategy defines the main axes of our planning until 2030. This document draws the lessons of past experiences and sets new objectives for the coming decade, in particular a structural transformation of our economy and inclusive development.
It will therefore be necessary to move up a gear to fight poverty, unemployment, and the persistence of the informal sector. We will also have to strive to achieve a growth rate of 8% by carrying out a structural transformation of our economy and improving the efficiency of public spending. Thus, we will keep all the chances of achieving emergence by 2035.
Of course, we will also continue to implement our social development policy which was defined at the start of the current seven-year term, whether it concerns youth employment, education, health, and of the family.
These, my dear compatriots, are the broad lines of action that, despite the difficulties, the Government has endeavored to implement in recent months and that it will continue in the coming years. These will be crucial for our march towards emergence.
I am convinced that we will be able to achieve our objectives, provided that we agree to make the necessary efforts and undertake the necessary reforms.
My dear compatriots,
The year that is ending has not been an easy year. We had to overcome many important challenges. We must remain, as in the past, united and determined. The Cameroonian people have always shown that they are up to the challenges that concern them. It is to be congratulated.
Happy New Year to you all.
Long live the Republic!
Long live Cameroon!
Yaoundé, December 31, 2020
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