- In his address to the Nation on 10 September 2019, the President of the Republic, Head of State, His Excellency Paul BIYA, decided to convene a Major National Dialogue scheduled at the end of September. It will, “in line with our Constitution, enable us to seek ways and means of meeting the high aspirations of the people of the North-West and South-West Regions, but also of all the other components of our Nation.”
- The convening of this great moment of exchange and sharing is the culmination of a process fraught with deplorable events and marked by notable progress. For close to three years, the North-West and South-West Regions have been going through a crisis that not only jeopardises the safety and well-being of the population living there, but also the very foundations of the Cameroonian nation.
- It started in October 2016 with the corporate demands made by lawyers and teachers calling for the translation into English of the OHADA Uniform Acts and the preservation of the specificity of the Anglo-Saxon judicial and educational systems in the two Regions.
- True to an option that he holds dear, President Paul BIYA instructed the holding of a dialogue between the Government and the trade unions to seek solutions to these demands. The measures taken by the Government at the end of the consultations went well beyond the demands of social partners.
- These measures include:
– the translation into English of the OHADA instruments which are now available in the two official languages;
– the creation of a Common Law Section at the Supreme Court to handle appeals filed against the decisions of lower courts in Common Law matters;
– a programme for the recruitment of English-speaking pupil judicial and legal officers and court registrars;
– the launching of the special recruitment of bilingual teachers in secondary schools;
– at the level of the judiciary, the stay of proceedings against some persons arrested in connection with the demands;
- The President of the Republic also created a National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multi-culturalism to, among other things, carry out an in-depth review of all the sources of frustration suffered by our compatriots in the North-West and South-West Regions.
- Decisions were taken subsequently to fast-track the decentralisation process, with the creation of a new ministry devoted thereto.
- Despite the efforts made by the Government, extremists in the diaspora and their local intermediaries hijacked and misrepresented the corporatist claims, turning them into a secessionist plan. Through blackmail, manipulation and various pressures, they began to thwart Government initiatives of dialogue. Subsequently, they formed and maintained a climate of fear and tension in the North-West and South-West Regions, through misinformation, the spread of hate messages and the incitement to violence on the social media. They finally encouraged and financed the creation of armed groups and triggered terrorist attacks against public authorities and the civilian population in the vain hope of achieving their illusory plan of partitioning Cameroon.
- Among the atrocities committed by these armed groups are: threats, intimidation, thefts, kidnappings, racketeering, rape, mutilations, beheadings, assassinations of Defence and Security Forces, administrative authorities and defenceless civilians, destruction of public infrastructure and buildings, and burning of schools and hospitals; school boycotts; etc.
- The atrocities committed by armed groups have forced thousands of our compatriots to seek refuge in other regions of the country, and for some in neighbouring countries where they have been reduced to living under precarious conditions.
- In the face of these intolerable acts, the Defence and Security Forces have taken energetic measures, often at the risk of their lives, to perform their duty of protecting citizens and their property. These measures are currently bearing fruits with the improvement of security and the progressive resumption of economic activities in the two Regions of the North-West and South-West.
- In a bid to calm the situation, the President of the Republic, H.E. Paul BIYA, ordered the discontinuance of judicial proceedings pending before military tribunal against 289 persons arrested for offences committed during this crisis.
- The Head of State extended a hand of peace to members of armed groups, by calling on them to lay down their arms and benefit from the process of reintegration into society. He reiterated his offer of peace in his message to the nation on 10 September 2019.
- A National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Committee was thus set up. And to date, Regional Disarmament Centres are gradually receiving many ex-combatants who willingly accept to lay down their arms.
- At the humanitarian level, President Paul BIYA decided to launch a large-scale Emergency Humanitarian Assistance Plan in the North-West and South-West Regions worth 12.7 billion CFA Francs, financed by the state budget, national solidarity, and foreign partners. He also created a Humanitarian Coordination Centre to implement the Plan.
- The Major National Dialogue convened from 30 September to 4 October 2019, will mainly concern the situation in the North-West and South-West Regions. But it will also focus on issues of national interest, such as national unity, national integration, and living together.
- The Major National Dialogue will therefore rally all the sons and daughters of Cameroon, to reflect on values that are dear to us namely: peace, security, national harmony and progress.
- The Major National Dialogue will also focus on issues that can address the concerns of the population of the North-West and South-West Regions, as well as those of the other regions of our country such as bilingualism, cultural diversity and social cohesion, the reconstruction and development of conflict-affected areas, the return of refugees and displaced persons, the education and judicial system, decentralization and local development, the demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants, the role of the diaspora in the country’s development, etc.
- The dialogue, which will be chaired by the Prime Minister, Head of Government, will bring together a wide range of personalities: parliamentarians, politicians, opinion leaders, intellectuals, economic operators, traditional authorities, religious authorities, members of the diaspora, etc. Representatives of the Defence and Security Forces, armed groups and victims will also be invited.
- Obviously, it will not be possible for everybody to effectively participate in this dialogue, but each person will have the opportunity to make a contribution.
- Prior to the actual holding of the dialogue, the Prime Minister, Head of Government, will carry out broad-based consultations to solicit a wide range of views that will serve as a source of inspiration for the conduct of deliberations. Delegations will also be dispatched to meet the diaspora to enable them to make their contribution to discussions on the resolution of the crisis.
- In this regard, the President of the Republic, H.E. Paul BIYA, is appealing to the patriotism and sense of responsibility of all our compatriots in the country and in the diaspora so that everyone, wherever they are, should seize this historic opportunity to help steer our country on the path of peace, harmony, security and progress.