GREAT NATIONAL DIALOGUE
(from 30 September to 04 October 2019)
SULTAN EL-HADJ IBRAHIM MBOMBO NJOYA
Mr. Prime Minister, Head of Government, President of the Grand National Dialogue;
Mr. President of the Senate;
Mr. President of the National Assembly;
Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Government;
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Heads of Diplomatic Missions;
Your Majesties the Traditional Chiefs;
Distinguished Personalities in your respective titles and ranks
Ladies and Gentlemen.
The octogenarian who speaks to you today, will be 82 years old on October 27, 2019. That means that he has lived a good part of the history of this country since 1958 when he started to occupy positions of responsibility. In other words, I am witness to all the vicissitudes that Cameroon has gone through even before its independence on the first of January 1960 and its reunification in 1961.
What life taught me during this long journey is edifying.
1- Indeed, all that happens to us on this earth results from the will of God the Almighty. I firmly believe that we are born with our destiny already regulated by Him.
Yes, when the young student Mr. Paul BIYA returned to Cameroon after his brilliant studies in France, nobody – I mean nobody – including he himself, couldn’t imagine for a single moment that he will become the second President of the Republic of Cameroon after President Ahmadou Ahidjo, who was surrounded by great barons of the regime.
But as God predicted by his destiny that he will become the President of the Republic of this country, he has indeed become the president.
2. The second thing that life has taught me is not to be afraid of death, but rather of life, yes, because life is sometimes pitiless, cruel, nasty and yet you have to deal with it.
That’s why today’s meeting is appropriate for me, to make my modest contribution.
I made this introduction to introduce myself in order to avoid any misunderstanding and also to avoid misinterpretations of my words.
I must confess to you sincerely that I was edified by the message of the President of the Republic, addressed to the Nation last 10 September 2019. I appreciated its context and its form.
In my mind, the Dialogue should be a means not only to put an end to the current situation in the North West and Southwest, but also a means to solve other fundamental problems, which are of deep concern to Cameroonians who, however, do not dare to express these concerns clearly and faithfully. I understand them.
It seems to me that the problem in the Northwest and Southwest is not the most difficult to resolve, despite the loss of lives and the disastrous consequences that we all deplore. For the people of my generation who have experienced the liberation of African states from colonial repression, we are heartbroken to see that sixty years after independence, our children and grandchildren have taken up arms to kill in the name of a colonial language and culture; things which we considered a spoils of war, after our struggle for the liberation of our country, Cameroon, and the conquest of our freedom.
I’m convinced that the situation prevailing in the North West and Southwest compared to the one we had in the Extreme-North of our country is surmountable. Indeed, in the Extreme-North of the country, it was an asymmetrical war, remotely controlled from the outside.
It could have been more serious for us because it was not a conventional war which obeys well-established principles.
In this respect, I can say that:
If there is one point I can confidently assert, and one point on which Cameroonians do not agree by a very large majority, is the problem of secession, in the sense that since the advent of reunification, the unity of English-speaking and French-speaking Cameroonians cannot be questioned.
There have certainly been imperfections and sometimes carelessness which have awakened the consciences of all Cameroonians, both nationally and abroad – thank God.
The President of the Republic acknowledged this in his Message to the Nation and stated all the measures that had been taken to respond to certain justified failings that our English-speaking brothers had rightly raised.
For me, I am convinced that those who provoked the problem of secession do not believe it themselves, it is in fact like the story of a son who always asks more of his father, to be sure of to have the minimum.
From the moment we agree that the word secession must be banished from our remarks, there is no longer an insoluble problem in my opinion. As the principle of decentralization has already been adopted, all that remains is to clarify its content and accelerate its implementation.
In this context, I propose that a commission to clarify the contours and contents of a strong decentralization be created. Decentralization models are flourishing elsewhere in the world and in some of our ally nations, notably France (in its own way), Great Britain, the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and so on. This commission, of course, will have to work taking into account the specificities of Cameroon.
With regard to those who have chosen the way of the maquis (insurgents) to express themselves, I can safely say that many are no longer fighting for a political cause. By their behavior, they prove that they have been held hostage by those who live comfortably abroad and who, by way of them, satiate their political fantasies. They are fighting today only for their survival and not for ideology.
When the fighters start kidnapping for ransom, it simply means they are hungry. Surely, they are anxious about the announced Dialogue; a dialogue which they hope will favorably settle their fate which has become precarious.
In this context, I think that we should bring forth, all the positive aspects of the National Committee of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR).
In this regard, I propose that a commission be created composed of the religious authorities and traditional chiefs of the North-West and South-West, who know the terrain better than anyone else and who could contact these fighters directly.
This is to convince them to lay down their weapons, as others have already done, and to reassure them that they will not be prosecuted.
To this end, they will use their formerly rebellious comrades as an example to show that they are now going about their daily activities freely and serenely, thanks to the DDR.
Moreover, in his message on September 10, the President of the Republic recalled that under our Constitution, he is entitled to use a right of grace.
That says it all.
On another level, I think that beyond the problems that present themselves to us today, Cameroonians wish in their great majority, alternation.
Indeed, every human being lives with hope, even if this hope is distant. He tells himself that if he does not see his wish come true, at least his children will see it. I who speak to you today was a member of the Constitutive Committee of 1995, which gave birth to the Constitution of January 18, 1996, providing, inter alia, decentralization.
At that time, it should be recalled, Cameroon had already adopted democracy as a principle of governance, which led to the creation of several political parties.
Once this principle is accepted, we must know that every political party aims for the conquest of power, and if the law does not give it the possibility of aspiring to this ambition, its existence has no reason to exist. That is why we adopted the limitation of presidential terms.
But the political parties created did not understand that when a party is in power, its vocation is to stay there as long as possible. Thus, it has been observed that even in the old democracies where there is a limitation of presidential terms, the outgoing President of the Republic is always trying to ensure that a member of his party succeeds him. They even campaign for him.
In fact, what creates incomprehension in our political formations is that they confuse the duration of a party in power with that of the person who governs.
I continue to think and repeat that the problem that has risen in Cameroon is also that of alternation and some solutions that we propose are:
1- The revision of the Constitution;
2- Limitation of the presidential term to two five-year terms non-renewable;
3- Presidential election in two rounds;
4- The revision of the Electoral Code;
5. Decentralization, which must be speeded up within the six months following this dialogue.
In short, if these proposals are retained, we will have facilitated the task of the President of the Republic. Indeed, when he said in his Message to the Nation on 31 December 2018, “The seven-year term which has just begun should be decisive for our country. It could even be one of the most important moments in our history since our independence”, I do not think that he made this statement coincidentally, he made it purposely to open the doors for the deep structural reforms that Cameroonians long for.
The convocation of this Great National Dialogue is an illustration of this.
Who would’ve believed that!
Thus, apart from secession, one can easily approach all the matters of national life. There is also this possibility of pardon provided for under the Constitution of our country and evoked by the Head of State himself.
For my part, I think that if this Great National Dialogue is a success – what we all hope and wish – I’m persuaded that to express his satisfaction, the Head of State could use this right to grant grace to release the people sentenced in the context of the crisis in the North-West and South-West and why not, those arrested during the post-election events.
All this would come, I am sure, to confirm what President Paul BIYA himself had predicted in relation to this seven-year term; I quote again, “The seven-year term which has just begun should be decisive for our country. It could even be one of the most important moments in our history since our independence.”
I thank you for your kind attention, hoping that my modest contribution can help move the debate forward.