Monday, December 31, 2012

President Biya's Speech to Cameroonians (Full text English Version)

Fellow Cameroonians,

My dear compatriots,

I told you a year ago that the period starting in 2012 would be devoted to the stimulation of growth which, as you are aware, is indispensable for achieving our objectives, that is, improving living conditions and curbing unemployment. This end-of-year message affords me the opportunity to take stock with you of our efforts and to know where we stand and where we are going.

It is heartening to note that investment is recovering. After a long period, during which national and foreign investors were hesitant to commit themselves, due to the crisis, more and more investors are now expressing interest in various sectors of our economy: energy, mining, agriculture, infrastructure, among others. This is clearly a sign of the confidence they have in us so that, together, we can successfully implement some of our major projects.

The first sector I want to mention is that of energy because it is THE sine qua non for the development of our economy. In recent months, we launched the construction of several dams and hydro-power plants: Lom Pangar and Memve'ele. In early 2013, we will launch the construction of the Mekin dam. Others will follow, particularly when we will have developed the Sanaga River. The Kribi Gas-fired Power Plant will soon complete this system. Thus, we will increase our electricity generating capacity and put an end to shortages which have penalized our people and industries for a very long time. At the end of this process, we should even be able to export energy to less endowed neighbouring countries. Thus, in the medium term, we will have won the energy "battle".

The optimization of our power generating capacity will provide much better conditions for the development of our industrial fabric. Entrepreneurs who could hesitate to commit themselves for lack of assurance about power supply will no longer have reasons to postpone their projects. It therefore appears that we will be able to embark on the second phase of our country's industrialization. Henceforth, we will be able to process our raw materials and, why not, access more advanced technologies. We are already assembling tractors. We may soon assemble cars. Industrial development is the lever for modernity. We will obviously do everything possible to promote it.
Investors are equally willing to support us in implementing our major infrastructure projects. The Kribi Port is a good example. Another is the Yaounde-Douala highway project, whose first section should soon be launched. The second bridge over the Wouri River and the east and west access roads to Douala, whose works will soon begin, will help to improve traffic flow in our economic metropolis. Our road network will be completed or rehabilitated such that all our regional capitals will soon be linked by tarred roads. Part of these works is already underway. We see the benefit that it will represent for the movement of people and goods within our country and with neighbouring countries.
The resources of our subsoil are also rousing the interest of foreign companies vying for their exploitation. Oil exploration and exploitation is making progress. Although at present our expectations in this domain are modest, we cannot rule out the possibility of making new discoveries. Conversely, we have promising natural gas deposits. Part of the gas will be exploited to supply energy like in Kribi, and to satisfy the domestic needs of the population; another part will be liquefied for export. A project of this nature will soon be implemented.
The mining sector is expected to witness intense activities in the coming months. Exploitation of the Lomie cobalt deposit and other associated minerals should start as soon as financing arrangements are completed. The Mballam “iron ore” project entered its final phase with the recent signing of the agreement between Cameroon and CamIron. Negotiations for the exploitation of the Minim-Martap and Ngaoundal bauxite are continuing normally. The Mobilong “diamond” project is in the exploitation phase. It will take into account the rules of the Kimberley Process to which we have adhered and which ensures traceability of diamond from Cameroon. Similarly, strict order will be restored in gold exploitation.
With respect to the mining sector, our attitude should be guided by two concerns: on the one hand, the State – that is the general interest – should derive due benefit from it; on the other hand, our minerals should, as much as possible, undergo primary processing before exportation.
As you can see, and as I indicated to you, Cameroon has become a “vast construction site”, and there is every reason to believe that it will continue to be for a longer time.
Lastly, agriculture, our main source of wealth. At the Ebolowa Agro-pastoral Show, I outlined the major thrusts of what should be a real “agrarian revolution”. I am fully aware that it is a complex issue on account of both the size of the population involved and the number of problems that need to be solved. But I am also aware that agriculture is our development trump card. That is why we must successfully implement our agrarian revolution at all costs. To that end, we need to modernize our methods, provide better training for our farmers, take advantage of scientific progress, secure innovative financing; in other words, move onto second generation agriculture. In so doing, we will not only be able to consolidate our food self-sufficiency, but also to process our agricultural raw materials, export our products, reduce our imports of some foodstuffs and, lastly, create tens of thousands of jobs.
Job creation is our constant concern. The State is playing its role by absorbing many youths into the public service and the security forces. The growth recovery we are experiencing has already triggered some upturn in employment. As an illustration, and according to available statistics, Cameroon’s economy created about 160 000 jobs in the modern sector in 2012. There is reason to hope that with the pick-up in economic activity, the trend will increase. I am aware that the problem is particularly acute among youths, graduates and non-graduates alike. That is why our educational system reform lays emphasis on professionalization.
One of the conditions for renewed growth was the improvement and consolidation of our public finance. Throughout the year that is coming to a close, and in compliance with IMF recommendations, we continued efforts to increase our revenue and better manage our expenditure. We will continue along this path. Concerning the budget, we will, in 2013, implement the transition from resource budget to programme budget based on medium-term objectives, together with measurable indicators that conform to our development strategy. This will enable us to better assess our performance and adjust its course, if necessary.
Regarding this new budget, I will make just a few remarks which, I think, are not unimportant. I will, first of all, point out that it has increased by 15%, which is an expression of our will to give fresh impetus to our economy. I will add that the budget is hinged notably on a 6.1% growth assumption, which means that we are banking on marked progress in economic activity. Lastly, I will point out that the public investment head represents close to 30% of the overall expenditure envelope.
Socially, the Government stayed on the path of continuity in 2012. In the major sector of education, it pursued its infrastructure construction, teacher recruitment and professionalization efforts. It remains true to its objective of providing the widest possible access to knowledge at all levels and ensuring equal opportunities.
With respect to health, mother and child care and pandemic control activities, immunization campaigns, etc. were continued. New outreach hospital infrastructure was constructed and state-of-the-art equipment provided to referral hospitals. In the same vein, there are ongoing efforts to develop a social security system that is accessible to the greatest number of people. The proportion of the population covered by social security is expected to increase from 10% in 2012 to 20% in 2015. These rates are unsatisfactory and should be improved as much as possible.
Moreover, I am not forgetting that the goal of the progress our country can pride itself on is to improve the living conditions of our people. However, in that regard, it must be acknowledged that much remains to be done. Access to water and electricity remains largely inadequate in urban and rural areas. This situation should improve significantly in the short and medium term. Major works are under way and, hopefully, will provide solutions to these shortages. Similarly, low-cost housing in our country is not commensurate with the needs of the population. To offset this shortage, we will soon launch pilot programmes in Yaounde and other urban centres, where our SMEs will have their own part to play. If the results are satisfactory, they would be replicated in our regional capitals.
Still in the social sphere, I would like to address our retirees who have trouble obtaining their pensions. Delays of several months are sometimes noted, which is unacceptable. Instructions given to remedy the situation are already bearing fruit.
Government’s focus on reviving growth did not prevent politics from claiming its place. In a bid to modernize our democratic process and enhance the transparency and credibility of our elections, a decision was taken to recompile electoral registers and introduce biometrics in the production of electoral documents. It is absolutely necessary to carry through this operation on schedule.
I take this opportunity to urge Cameroonians to register massively on electoral registers. To facilitate this process, I have decided that, as from 1 January 2013, national identity cards should be issued free of charge.
The recent adoption of a single electoral code is also geared towards modernizing our democratic process. It was also necessary to harmonize some provisions relating to the Constitutional Council with the Constitution in order to set up this superior court, after the senatorial elections slated for 2013.

Fellow Cameroonians,
My dear compatriots,
Thus, whatever may be said, we are forging ahead resolutely on the path to becoming an emerging country, guided by our roadmaps, like a navigator guided by his compass, watching out for any pitfalls along his way and taking advantage of favourable winds to shorten the distance. Yes, I affirm that the fresh impetus is on course and nothing and nobody can stop it.
Should we therefore rest on our laurels? Definitely not. I am fully aware that we still have to deal with the inertia, incompetence or malice of some people, which all constitute constraints on our recovery. In addition, there is corruption in various forms and public procurement fraud. In this regard, the latest NACC report is extremely revealing. Obviously, the embezzlement of public funds will not go unpunished. I count very much on the Minister of Public Contracts to put an end to such abuses in his sphere of competence.
The said failings are all the more reprehensible as a substantial segment of our population continues to languish in harsh living conditions. Obviously, the huge sums of money embezzled should have contributed to improving their situation in the domains of education and health. How many schools, health centres, and water supply schemes could have been built with the sums embezzled!
Such criminal behaviour on the part of a minority clearly tarnishes our country’s image. It is used by critics in and outside the country who are unwilling to acknowledge the progress we have achieved in recent years. They claim that we are “stagnant” and our very stability is doubtful. Such lack of objectivity can only be due to some kind of political myopia that prevents them from seeing things as they are, and to failing memory which prevents them from having any recollection of the hardships that our people have suffered to overcome unfair terms of trade, structural adjustment constraints and the damage caused by the recent economic and financial crisis.
Well, my dear compatriots, let us show these critics what we are capable of doing. When, in a couple of months, or a couple of years, our country will be dotted with construction sites, dams, power plants, ports, factories and roads, will they continue to say that we are “stagnant”.
But, before concluding, I would like us to spare a thought for all our compatriots who were affected a few months ago by severe floods. They should know that we have not forgotten them and that the recently established Natural Disaster Relief Fund will be there to help them.
On the other hand, I am pleased to announce that within the next few months, the right conditions should be in place for us to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Reunification with all due solemnity.

Fellow Cameroonians,
My dear compatriots,
I am well aware of the terms of the pact we entered into a year ago. We can already see the first achievements. Others will follow in the months ahead. Let us take advantage of the peace and stability our country is enjoying to do great things. I am determined to do so and I urge you to support my efforts. Of course, there will be obstacles, but with the support of everyone, especially the youth, I am sure we will overcome them.
We are a great people, a great Nation. We must show it, now or never.

Let me now extend to you all, my most sincere wishes for health and happiness in the New Year.

Happy New Year 2013!

Long live Cameroon!

When News Breaks Out, We Break In. Minute by Minute Report on Cameroon and Africa

Central African Republic Rebels Ignore Negotiation

 Courtesy of (Associated Press) by  Kirubel Tadesse
BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) - Rebels in the Central African Republic on Monday rejected appeals for them to halt their advances and to negotiate to form a coalition government.
The rebels had been urged Sunday by the visiting leader of the African Union and by President Francois Bozize to stop seizing cities and preparing to attack the capital, Bangui. The Seleka rebels have taken 10 cities in Central African Republic's north in the past three weeks and have moved within striking distance of the capital, Bangui, a city of 600,000.
AU president Thomas Boni Yayi, who is the president of Benin, called on the rebels to enter into negotiations with the aim of forming a government of national unity. Bozize also appealed to the Seleka rebels to halt their advances and said he would agree to bring them into the government.
But the rebels on Monday said they did not trust Bozize's offer.
"We are not convinced of the commitments made ??by President Bozize," said rebel spokesman Juma Narkoyo when reached by telephone. "Bozize has always spoken, but he never keeps his word."
The rebels - who call themselves Seleka which means alliance in the local Sango language - said they would enter negotiations "only if the head of state releases all our relatives they have arrested without reason." The rebels claim that Bozize has abducted more than a dozen of their family members. They warned if Bozize uses foreign troops to protect his government, they may continue their campaign toward the capital.
In response the rebels were told by the African Union that if they seize power they will face sanctions and Central African Republic will be suspended from the organization.
The African Union rejects any attempt to seize power forcefully, said chairwoman of the AU Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on Monday. Any attempt to seize power unconstitutionally will result in sanctions against the perpetrators and their total isolation, Zuma said at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Zuma urged the rebels to immediately end to their military offensive and to commit to dialogue with the view to finding a lasting solution to the recurring instability experienced in the country.
French President Francois Hollande Monday welcomed the efforts by the AU and the group of neighboring states to find a negotiated solution. Hollande called for "opening a dialogue between CAR authorities and all the parties present, including the rebellion." Hollande last week said his government would only protect French interests in CAR, but would not prop up the Bozize government.
Central African Republic has suffered many army revolts, coups and rebellions since gaining independence from France in 1960.
The rebels behind the current instability signed a 2007 peace accord allowing them to join the regular army, but insurgent leaders say the deal wasn't fully implemented.
The rebels have made a rapid advance across the country's north and residents in the capital, Bangui, now fear the insurgents could attack at any time, as the rebels' new remarks contradict earlier earlier assurances that they are willing to engage in dialogue instead of attacking the city.
On Saturday the rebels seized the city of Sibut, 185 kilometers (114 miles) from Bangui. Sibut, a key transportation hub, fell without a shot being fired because the Central African Republic army and forces from neighboring Chad had pulled back to Damara, 75 kilometers (46 miles) from Bangui on Friday, said Minister of Territorial Administration Josie Binoua.
Neighboring African countries have agreed to send more forces to support the Bozize government.
Representatives from the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States, or ECCAS, agreed at a meeting in Gabon Friday to send forces to CAR, but did not did not specify how many troops would be sent or how quickly the military assistance would arrive.
The ECCAS states, with more than 500 soldiers via their regional peacekeeping force in Central Africa, over the weekend warned the rebels to halt their advances.
The neighboring Republic of Congo sent 120 troops from Brazzaville Monday to bolster the regional force, according to a New Year's statement from Congo president Denis Sassou Nguesso.
The ongoing instability prompted the United States to evacuate about 40 people, including the U.S. ambassador, from Bangui on an U.S. Air Force plane bound for Kenya, said U.S. officials who insisted on anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the operation.
The United States has special forces troops in the country who are assisting in the hunt for Joseph Kony, the fugitive rebel leader of another rebel group known as the Lord's Resistance Army. The U.S. special forces remain in the country, the U.S. military's Africa Command said from its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.
The evacuation of the U.S. diplomats came after criticism of how the U.S. handled diplomatic security before and during the attack on its consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. The ambassador and three other Americans were killed in that attack.
China announced Mondaythat it is evacuating its 300 citizens from CAR, although its embassy staff will stay.
French diplomats have remained in Bangui despite a violent demonstration outside its embassy last week. Dozens of protesters, angry at France's lack of help against rebel forces, threw rocks at the French Embassy in Bangui and stole a French flag.
CAR is a landlocked nation of 4.4 million people is one of the poorest countries in the world. The current president himself came to power nearly a decade ago in the wake of a rebellion in this resource-rich yet deeply poor country.
Despite Central African Republic's wealth of gold, diamonds, timber and uranium, the government remains perpetually cash-strapped.

When News Breaks Out, We Break In. Minute by Minute Report on Cameroon and Africa

India Rape Sets off Debate Over Women's Rights

India's army and navy canceled New Year's celebrations on Monday out of respect for a New Delhi student whose gang-rape and murder has set off an impassioned debate about what the nation needs to do to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Indian schoolgirls form 2013
Protesters and politicians have called for tougher rape laws, major police reforms and a transformation in the way the country treats its women.
"To change a society as conservative, traditional and patriarchal as ours, we will have a long haul," said Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Social Research. "It will take some time, but certainly there is a beginning."
The country remained in mourning Monday, two days after the 23-year-old physiotherapy student died from her internal wounds in the Singapore hospital where she had been sent for emergency treatment. Six men have been arrested and charged with murder in the Dec. 16 attack on a New Delhi bus. They face the death penalty if convicted, police said.
The army and navy canceled their New Year's celebrations, as did Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party. Hotels and clubs across the capital also said they would forego their usual parties.
"She has become the daughter of the entire nation," said Sushma Swaraj, a leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
Hundreds of mourners continued their daily protests near Parliament demanding swift government action.
"So much needs to be done to end the oppression of women," said Murarinath Kushwaha, a man whose two friends were on a hunger strike to draw attention to the issue.
Some commentators compared the rape victim, whose name has not been released by police, to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose self-immolation set off the Arab Spring. There was hope her tragedy could mark a turning point for gender rights in a country where women often refuse to leave their homes at night out of fear and where sex-selective abortions and even female infanticide have wildly skewed the gender ratio.
"It cannot be business as usual anymore," the Hindustan Times newspaper wrote in an editorial.
Politicians from across the spectrum called for a special session of Parliament to pass new laws to increase punishments for rapists - including possible chemical castration - and to set up fast-track courts to deal with rape cases within 90 days.
The government has proposed creating a public database of convicted rapists to shame them, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has set up two committees to look into what lapses led to the rape and to propose changes in the law.
The Delhi government on Monday inaugurated a new helpline - 181 - for women, though it wasn't working because of glitches.
Responding to complaints that police refuse to file cases of abuse or harassment brought by women, the city force has appointed an officer to meet with women's groups monthly and crack down on the problem, New Delhi Lt. Gov. Tejendra Khanna said.
"We have mandated that any time any lady visits a police station with a complaint, it has to be recorded on the spot," he said.
Kumari said the Delhi police commissioner sent her a message Monday asking her group to restart police sensitivity training that it had suspended due to lack of funds.
There have also been proposals to install a quota to ensure one-third of Delhi's police are women.
There also have been signs of a change in the public debate about crimes against women.
Other rapes suddenly have become front-page news in Indian newspapers, and politicians are being heavily criticized for any remarks considered misogynistic or unsympathetic to women.
A state legislator from Rajasthan was ridiculed Monday across TV news channels after suggesting that one way to stop rapes would be to change girls' school uniforms to pants instead of skirts.
"How can he tell us to change our clothes?" said Gureet Kaur, a student protester in the Rajasthani town of Alwar. "Why can't girls live freely?"
Some activists have accused politicians of being so cossetted in their security bubbles that they have no idea of the daily travails people are suffering.
Kumari said the country was failing in its basic responsibility to protect its citizens. But she was heartened to see so many young men at the protests along with women.
"I have never heard so many people who felt so deep down hurt," she said. "It will definitely have some impact."
In Geneva, the U.N. human rights chief called Monday for fundamental change in India.
"Let us hope that 2013 will be the year the tide is turned on violence against women in India and all women can walk free without fear," said Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights. "The public is demanding a transformation in systems that discriminate against women to a culture that respects the dignity of women in law and practice," she said in a statement.
Pillay, a South African of Indian origin, urged Indians not to give in to calls for capital punishment for rapists. "However terrible the crime, the death penalty is not the answer," she said.

 When News Breaks Out, We Break In. Minute by Minute Report on Cameroon and Africa

Ex-MINATD Boss, Ferdinand Koungou Edima Dies at 84

At 84, this former Senior Administrator was recognized for his strong decisions even when he took over to oversee Canon Sportive of Yaoundé, he was not just a sport lover but a man who in other ways played a major rule to promote football in the country.
In the mid 80s, it was he who served as patriarch in the Canon of Yaoundé. He was among the most influential personalities alongside Hermann Yene the founder of the Canon Football club and many others. He was looked up to as a\man of principle and rectitude. Besides, Ferdinand Koungou Edima started working as an administrator in the early 60s when he was only 32 years old.  He served as Sub Divisional officer in Ebolowa, and later Senior Divisional Officer of Nkam. He also served as the Secretary General at the Governor’s office in the former Centre South Province. He also served as the Director of General Affairs in the Ministry of Finance. Ferdinand Koungou Edima also served as Governor of the Littoral region before he was appointed Minister of Territorial Administration. He spent over 50 years in the corridors of power.  
He has been a great man who sacrificed his life in the service of the nation, to the point of losing her voice. He died at the Yaounde General Hospital to join his wife Catherine who also died on July 18, 2010. He left government in 2002 following the scandal which led to postponement of the 2002 legislative and municipal.

When News Breaks Out, We Break In. Minute by Minute Report on Cameroon and Africa