Kah Walla, president of the Cameroon People’s Party(CPP), took to her social media to share a long letter to President Paul Biya. She wrote:
OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF REPUBLIC OF CAMEROON:
The Time is Now for you, Mr President, to take the most important action of your long mandate !
Dear Mr. President,
As we enter the second half of 2017, our country is beleaguered with a plethora of crises big and small. This situation is, of course, not new. Every Cameroonian finds the situation of our country increasingly preoccupying. However, several serious crises facing our nation demand that we call on you to act immediately and with expediency.
While the whole of Cameroon is in a dire situation, three key crises are impacting the lives of millions of Cameroonians and pose imminent danger for our country.
First crisis: The Fight Against Boko Haram
Mr. President, while the Cameroonian armed forces in conjunction with our neighboring countries have done an extraordinary job through the Multi-National Joint Task Force in diminishing the ability of Boko Haram to commit atrocities against our citizens, it is important for us to recognize today, that we are faced with new challenges in this war, notably:
• Renewed and increasing attacks by Boko Haram suicide bombers that have once again put our citizens in the Extreme North in extreme danger. These attacks are an indicator that we still have extensive work to do to eradicate Boko Haram and bring back peace and security to our citizens in this part of the country.
• The risk that the Multi-National Joint Task Force will diminish in effectiveness, given that it has not received the funding required and that a key partner, Chad, is decreasing the resources it dedicates to the MNJTF due to its own internal difficulties.
• The fact that the services to over 223,000 Internally Displaced Cameroonians remain wholly inadequate, making them victims of both Boko Haram and of the State of Cameroon.
• The fact that we have fought this war almost exclusively on the military front, neglecting the social and economic solutions that would attack the root causes of Boko Haram’s ability to recruit and kidnap within our frontiers.
• The Amnesty International report that highlights serious cases of human rights abuses including torture on Cameroonian citizens. It is important to note that many of the abuses in this report had already been reported by Cameroonian NGOs such as REDHAC, two years ago. Mr. President, this report is not our enemy, it is a clanging alarm bell, enabling us to focus on certain key elements in our defense system that are dysfunctional, devastating for our citizens and counterproductive to the fight against Boko Haram.
Mr. President, in order to act for the security of our citizens in this new phase of the fight against Boko Haram, and to bring solutions that will sustainably eradicate Boko Haram and other extremist groups from our country, the Cameroonian People’s Party demands the following.
That a multidisciplinary independent task force be put into place.
This task force will have the responsibility to lead the non-military strategies in the fight against Boko Haram. Its major responsibilities will include:
• Increasing the quantity and quality of services to internally displaced Cameroonians who in number are the greatest victims of Boko Haram and who, if they do not receive assistance are the group most vulnerable to Boko Haram kidnapping and recruiting.
• Ensuring the definition and implementation of social and economic strategies that will attack the root causes of extremism in this region. These strategies must extend to the North and Adamawa regions in order to ensure their sustainability.
• Putting in place a whistleblower mechanism that will enable citizens to denounce human rights abuses and acts of corruption by any state or non-state actors that are involved in the fight against Boko Haram. This will include working with local and international NGOs to establish the veracity of accusations and liaising with the appropriate armed forces offices to ensure that measures are taken to prevent human rights abuses and sanctions are applied when such abuses occur.
• Working with the traditional and religious authorities in the region to develop and implement strategies to fight against religious and ideological extremism.
• Ensuring that all solutions implemented, without exception, take into account the specific needs of women, young people and children who are the greatest victims of Boko Haram.
The members of this multidisciplinary task force should include:
• Internally displaced persons who are victims of Boko Haram
• Members of community watchdog groups who have been involved in the fight against Boko Haram
• Multi-denominational religious authorities who have been involved in the fight against Boko Haram.
• Traditional authorities who have been involved in the fight against Boko Haram
• Local and international NGOs who have been involved in the fight against Boko Haram
• Representatives of grassroots groups in the three regions concerned
The task force should have an equal number of men and women and at least 30% of its members should be between 20 – 30 years old.
The task force must be endowed with the power to ensure that government agencies act in a timely and efficient manner. It will be obliged to develop short-term objectives (6-9 months) as well as medium-term objectives (2-3 years). The Task Force should hold monthly public meetings to render account of it work and give citizens and the media the opportunity to evaluate and contribute to its work.
Second crisis: 2017-2018 School Year in the North West and South West Regions
Mr. President, for the past 10 months, the Anglophone crisis has made our nation quaver, bringing to the forefront problems that are decades old and foundational to our country. The disastrous handling of this crisis by your government has endangered our national unity and fostered the emergence of radical groups who today, propose solutions that could mean the end of Cameroon as we know it. Though this crisis as a whole urgently needs to be addressed, there is one aspect of it that requires your immediate attention.
• It is estimated that over 3 million children in our country were unable to complete the 2017-2018 school year in the Northwest and Southwest regions.
• Despite threats and force used by your government to get children back to the classroom, few of them did so.
• The current calls for children to register for school by your government fail to provide key operational elements.
o What class should children register into?
o What measures have been taken for children to acquire the lessons and knowledge they missed last school year?
o How should schools organize this in terms of supplementary teaching days and hours?
• Parents kept their children away from school for a multitude of reasons. Most importantly, they felt the atmosphere of insecurity was such that their children were not safe. The hyper-militarization of these regions as well as arbitrary arrests and detention, both of which continue to this day, were the key factors in creating this atmosphere of insecurity.
Mr. President, our country cannot afford for millions of children to miss another school year. You hold within your power the ability to give these children back their right to education, in a matter of hours. Please take the following measures immediately so innocent children do not continue to pay for the poor governance enacted your successive governments.
1. Free all those who have been arrested in connection with the Anglophone crisis. All these arrests were carried out illegally without respect of Cameroonian law. Freeing these people will create an atmosphere of détente which will enable dialogue to resume for the resolution of the crisis and most importantly, children to go back to school in a few weeks.
2. Demand that the court dismisses the cases against the Anglophone clergy. These cases were fallacious to begin with and today, it would seem there are no plaintiffs. These cases serve no one and are an absurd barrier to begin the resolution of the Anglophone problem.
3. Sit down with the teachers’ trade unions and determine sustainable strategies to resolve:
a. The immediate crisis of the 2017-2018 school year
b. The fundamental problems that were outlined by the Anglophone teachers in November 2016 and which instead of being solved, led to their arrest and exile.
Mr. President, members of your government have reminded Cameroonians repeatedly in the last few months that education is a right. We now remind you that you, as Head of State, are the guarantor of that right. We are weeks away from the beginning of the school year.
Take the above three measures and guarantee the right to education to millions of Cameroonian children.
Third crisis: The Financial Situation of Cameroon
Mr. President, the recent actions on your part leave us with perplexity and uncertainty as regards the finances of Cameroon. As you should know, the perception of financial uncertainty is catastrophic for the achievement of our common objective of growing the economy of Cameroon and creating jobs. Investors, be they local or international do not put their money into economies where the financial future is uncertain. In this regard, we demand that you take the following key actions and respond to the following questions. Should it be necessary, we remind here that the money in question belongs to Cameroonians.
We need and deserve a public meeting on finances. Your government creates expenses and contracts debts outside of the budgetary process. As such it has become virtually impossible for us as Cameroonians to know the exact state of our finances. This is unacceptable. Kindly convene, or ask your Ministers of Finance and the Economy to convene a public meeting on our national finances that will provide clarity as to the exact financial situation of Cameroon. During this public meeting, the following questions should be answered:
1. What is, to date, the state of Cameroon’s finances in term of revenue, expenses and debt?
2. What justifies our sharp increase in indebtedness over the last 5 years? Though we clearly understand falling oil prices and increased budgets for military expenditure, we need precise information regarding:
a) The use of reserves established when oil prices were high
b) The exact budget for military expenditures
c) The justification for incurring debt for non-productive assets such as computers
d) The justification for creating emergency plans in the middle of the fiscal year, without reference to the national assembly and for problems which were known before the assembly budgetary session
e) The justification for non-reduction of government expenses despite revenues and growth that have been declining for the past 3 years.
3. Government seems to have continuous cash flow issues resulting in delayed payments for government suppliers and late disbursements for investment projects. What is the cause of this? Government being one of Cameroon’s most important economic actors, delays in disbursement slow down the entire economy. We need an explanation for why this cannot be remedied, year after year.
4. Your government has put itself in a position to contract debt from the IMF. The objectives of this debt are cited as “enhancing Cameroon’s competitiveness and medium-term growth potential”. Mr. President, these are laudable objectives. However, your government contracted its first IMF loan in 1997, in 2000 you subjected us to the Highly indebted Poor Country program, in 2017 you have once again contracted an IMF loan. All these loans have the same objectives cited above. From 1997 to date, poverty has stagnated at about 40% in Cameroon, health and education services have decreased in quality and you have been incapable of translating GNP growth into jobs and income for Cameroonians. Mr. President, what do you and your government intend to do differently this time around? What measures will be taken so that this debt which Cameroonians will be paying long after you, is beneficial to us as citizens.
5. In June 2017, you provided budget directives to your government for the 2018 national budget. In these directives, you made no mention of the organization of elections. There are four elections on Cameroon’s electoral calendar for 2018. Mr. President, are you once again playing games with the lives and the future of the 23 million Cameroonians you say we are? Do you intend to hold surprise elections? Not to hold them at all?