AKERE MUNA'S NEW YEAR ADDRESS 2018

My fellow Cameroonians,

As I speak to you at this time of the year, which is traditionally a time for sharing, retrospection and particularly celebration, I feel deep emotion, unconditional love for our country alongside worry and enthusiasm. As this year comes to an end, we have no reason to be merry; it has been a difficult one for our country. We have sufferred a heavy toll... For the first time since our independence, over 10,000 Cameroonians are refugees away from their home; these figures are projected to reach 45,000.

Many others, in the thousands, find themselves in exile. Many families of fallen members of the armed forces will start the New Year orphaned, widowed or just simply bereaved and remain in grief. Many other Cameroonians, in the hundreds, have lost their lives needlessly while expressing themselves and their ambitions for Cameroon. Others remain incarcerated under circumstances that might well have been avoided by the simple choice of dialogue over confrontation and repression. That is not all; some of our children have not been able to go to school, our roads have never been so deadly, our business enterprises are asphyxiated, and our health system is deteriorating.

The country continues to indebt itself heavily, and our youth cannot find work while their parents, who sacrificed for their education, are now entering retirement without any guarantee of a decent life. A glaring example of this is the fact that 4,906 billion CFA of contracted loans are not be used because of the incapacity of the government to conform to the procedures or to get the projects ready. Consequently, since these are contracted loans, we have to pay over 12 billion francs per annum for money we are not using, just to service the loans. This amount of 12 billion CFA in interest could easily build two blocks of classrooms in each of the country’s 360 local government councils. Better still, at a time when the prices of Cocoa and Coffee are falling drastically and many of our hard working farmers are caught up in huge debts from getting fertilizers fungicides and other important products for their cocoa, such an amount could have easily subsidized them in such hard times.

Many small and medium enterprises stand to close because of a fiscal policy whose only concern is about raising money. Thus, the struggling woman who would travel to West Africa to trade will suddenly have to pay about 150% more in airport taxes which in some cases account for 30 to 50% of the cost of the air ticket. No thought is given to the relationship between the cost of the airport tax and the cost of the ticket. Should someone traveling to China pay the same airport tax as someone travelling to Nigeria, Benin or Gabon? Another aspect we will have to discover will be the effect of this sort of policy on Tourism.

In all the well-known indices Cameroon is still considered a very corrupt country. Our very own anti-corruption agency states that the government treasury was robbed of 1,246 billion francs between 2010 and 2015, an equivalent of 75% of the Public Investment Budget of 2016! Yet again, we are paying the price of the inertia of those who govern us, their refusal to listen, their failure to design realistic plans and their lack of ambition to serve the interests of the people of Cameroon.

The breakdown of the State gives us cause for concern. Our national unity is in jeopardy, and it is not because the People have lost faith in their nation. Not at all! It is simply because its custodians, the government, have confused inertia with stability. The message is now clear; sons and daughters of this country, from East to West, North to South want to see the rapid emergence of a New Republic, which keeps its promises and matches their aspirations.

I believe a New Republic will emerge if we reinvent our social pact. We must restore the Cameroonian Dream, the dream of the son of a catechist who becomes president of our country, the dream of a nation fiercely protective of its bilingualism, and the dream of a Cameroon that drives innovation in Africa. This pact will bring about the rebirth of the Rule of Law. All Cameroonians must not only feel unequivocally equal before the Law but must also feel protected by it. It is a fundamental right, and it must be restored without delay. I undertake to address this legitimate and urgent ambition, with your support.

Tonight, I am talking to you, the stakeholders of this new movement.

You, the Physically Disabled;

You, the Youths of Cameroon;

You, the Women of this country;

You, my Brothers, the men of our nation;

And You the Cameroonians of the Diaspora.

It is together that we will rebuild our country.

*****To The Physically Disabled:*****

As we start the New Year We must have a special thought for the Physically Disabled Persons of our Country. For too long they have been treated as Cameroonians apart. The New Republic must be an equitable one that recognises that the physically disabled can contribute to society and must therefore be empowered. There are many professions that can be exercised by many of our disabled brothers and sisters.

*****To The Youths:*****

I have travelled across the country since we launched our movement, and I have had the opportunity to talk with many of you in recent months. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing and generously contributing to our nation building blueprint. I observe with joy and admiration that Cameroonian youths are resilient, in spite of massive unemployment and the absence of a social ladder. You have been able to transform your palpable and legitimmate anger into a driving force for creativity. Digital, commercial and social entrepreneurship is booming. You have used social and solidarity-based economy as a concrete response to social challenges. I have listened to your call for better structural support for your efforts. I am extremely proud of you! I firmly believe that this energy must be accessible to all Cameroonians wherever they may be in our country. It is the role of the State to foster equal opportunities.

We will work together to that end. I am committed to this. I believe I must also remind you of the need to focus this energy towards policy changes. I need your support to achieve our common desire to upturn the status quo.

Young Cameroonian men and women, here and in the diaspora, listening now, know that you are the present and future of Cameroon. You are the most educated and most diverse generation in our country's history. Our nation is waiting for you to take the lead. Let us bring this change about, together!

*****To The Women:*****

Cameroonian women are the key to our society's resilience. They have that drive to grow and never give up that is characteristic of our mothers, daughters and sisters. I am also talking to you, the women. Your sacrifice for this country is visible and well known, but acknowledgement of your contribution is marginal. I share this concern with you, and it is a priority of the action for emergence that I am asking you to undertake with me.

We need more women at every stage of our action to reinvent our social pact. I am speaking of education, our health system, of maternal and child protection, and curbing childhood diseases. I am speaking of our social fabric, of household welfare. I want better assistance for female entrepreneurship. Our country needs you; our movement cannot achieve its goals without your contribution.

Every Cameroonian must applaud the bravery of your children in our armed forces fighting Boko Haram, but I applaud your bravery as well. As you stand by them, and you carry the burden of educating the next generation of our country, I must congratulate you.

Housewife, trader in our cities' markets, professionals in the public and private sectors, members of the diaspora, our movement is also designed for you. You are the cornerstones of the change our country needs. Our ambition to take Cameroon into a new era, where there is gender equality in all decision-making positions, is the responsibility of us all, and yours in particular. Join us, and together we will reinvent a modern status for the Cameroonian woman.

*****To The Public Servants:*****

I would like to address you diplomats, magistrates, civil servants, Police Officers, Gendarmes, military men, doctors, professors, teachers and all those who are employed as civil servants or by the government, you are the backbone that ensures that any society is well run and administered; you are key to the success of the New Republic. You deserve to be treated, fairly and equitably. This will be an imperative in the New Republic.

*****To the Cameroonian worker in general:*****

Finally, to you, farmers, truckers, taxi drivers, motor bike taxis, businessmen, artists, musicians, journalists’, writers, teachers, professors, and generally speaking to all of you Cameroonians who toil silently for the survival of a society that many times appears ungrateful and unappreciative of your contribution, I understand your turmoil. Rest assured that your sacrifice for the nation is appreciated. I share your desire for a society that recognises your efforts and makes room in its policy to facilitate your true emancipation.

*****To The Diaspora:*****

The Cameroonian Diaspora has proven beyond any doubt their competence as well as their capacity and love of their motherland. This remains an asset that we have failed to tap into by any kind of policy. In the New Republic, we will encourage a proactive and inclusive Diaspora. Dual Nationality will be their choice and not the choice of the Government. For those who choose to have a different nationality, a special status will be put in place to facilitate their travel and that of their families to their homeland. In the Economic sector, we must put into place a system which reserves certain contracts for our renowned specialists in the Diaspora especially consultation contracts.

To all of you, Cameroonians, the call for a modernisation more conducive to economic growth is more than urgent. As much as taxation is necessary for the functioning and smooth running of government, it cannot be turned into a policy which stifles business and is driven by hidden lobbyists who protect a corrupt and inequitable process. We need you to foster investments, which will inevitably bring about more employment. It is increasingly difficult for you to serve a system that undermines democracy daily. These are realities that many of you shared with me during our meetings across the country. It is to address these issues that I decided to be a candidate in the upcoming presidential election, for I am convinced that only a peaceful endeavour will produce sustainable solutions to the challenges of modernising the governance of our country.

We need all hands on deck to achieve the much awaited change and combat cynicism. We need to rebuild the reationship of trust.

The voice of our people must be heard in the upcoming elections. Change is now possible. It is our common duty to make it happen!

My fellow Cameroonians,

As this year ends, you must have understood that I am making a solemn call to you, so that under no circumstances should we miss our rendezvous with the destiny of our nation starting with the presidential elections. Cameroon deserves better and we can do better. We can take back the Cameroonian Dream. From January 2, 2018, the electoral registers will be reopened again. Register massively on electoral lists. This is our chance to put an end to this inertia, which has undermined our progress and is now threatening national unity.

I am happy that I have received support from many political parties and many influential political personalities who are prepared to work with us in the building of a new Republic. Being of the Civil Society myself, I must confess that I am overwhelmed by this support and encouragement. I have also received from Civil Society Organisations as well as their leaders, Trade Unions and professional Associations not only their overwhelming support but also their desire to join the platform in building a New Republic. We are working very hard so that this can happen within the first month of 2018.

Together with the NOW movement, we will continue to make sure that Cameroonians not only register to vote, but must indeed vote and ensure that every vote counts. It is a movement through which, in 2018, we will reinvent our social pact together.

On the eve of this new decisive year, a year of hope for all Cameroonians it is my prayer that this time next year we will be celebrating A New Republic. The beginning of a new era brought about by our combined efforts.

Happy New Year 2018!

God Bless Cameroon!

God bless us all!