•The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
•Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
•Representatives of international organizations,
If we were to consider only the proliferation of pockets of tension or armed conflict, we might be tempted to conclude that 2014 was not a good year. On the other hand, we cannot fail to acknowledge that the global economy showed signs of recovery in some parts of the world. This does not, however, mean that the crisis is behind us. In fact, many countries are experiencing an economic slowdown or even stagnation.
Let us take a closer look at the situation.
Unquestionably, the situation in the Middle East has worsened. The Islamic State’s stranglehold on northern Syria and Iraq and its attacks on the Damascus and Baghdad regimes have plunged the region into great chaos. The struggle for power has been compounded by religious or ethnic clashes, pitting Sunnis against Shiites, Muslims against Christians, Arabs against Kurds, etc. The toll is horrendous: destruction, slaughter of innocent people, flight and displacement of populations, weakening of neighbouring States, etc.
The airstrikes launched by the “coalition” appear to have slowed the advance of Islamic State fighters. However, given that the fielding of coalition personnel is ruled out and that for the time being, the United Nations Organization is not directly involved, no prospects for a settlement are in sight. The overriding impression is one of a horrible mess.
Developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are hardly more encouraging. The negotiations initiated have stalled. While the Palestinian Authority seems to have given up mending fences with Hamas and its recognition as a State seems to be gaining ground, there is an escalation in incidents between Israelis and Palestinians, raising fears about the outbreak of another “Intifada”. As time goes by, the prospect of the mutual recognition of the right of both States to exist seems to be fading. How many more tragedies will it take before reason finally prevails?
In the north of our continent, the “Arab springs” have met with varying fortunes. The peaceful outcome of the democratic transition in Tunisia in keeping with the freely expressed will of the people is reason for satisfaction.
Furthermore, one can only hope that a great country like Egypt would return to the path of national concord so that it may play its role on the world scene. For its part, Libya, which is currently torn among multiple factions, can regain its rightful position only if it successfully transcends its cleavages and rebuilds the foundations of its national unity.
Even the “old continent” could not preserve hard-won peace, after enduring the ravages of two world wars. Of course, I am referring to Ukraine, where there is an ongoing fratricidal war whose global repercussions instil the fear of a return to the cold war. No one would benefit from such a prospect. The big powers are duty-bound to use their influence to quell tension between the protagonists and convince them to resume dialogue.
However, permit me to revisit an issue affecting us more closely. In my message to the Nation a few days ago, I mentioned the escalation of attacks by Boko Haram in the northern part of my country and how we have responded.
As you are aware, we have beefed up our defence forces in the region concerned by taking measures to protect our population against repeated terrorist attacks and maintain our territorial integrity. As in many other countries around the world confronted by such threats, we have adopted laws and regulations to prevent and stamp out terrorism. Such is the purport of the law recently passed by Parliament. The law has been welcomed by the large majority of the Cameroonian people who clearly understand its rationale.
Today, I would like to underscore the global nature of the threat we are facing.
Those who tried to subjugate Mali, those who sporadically carry out raids into our country, those who probably influenced some factions in the Central African Republic and those who created chaos in Somalia have the same goals: to establish their authority on the Sahel strip from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and set up their ruthless obscurantist regime therein.
A global threat calls for a global response. Such should be the response of the international community, including the African Union and our regional organizations. We must not delude ourselves. Although weakened by the losses it has suffered, our foe nonetheless remains capable of bouncing back. Its raids in northern Mali and the repeated attacks launched against our territory should convince us of this fact. We must bear in mind that the distance separating a country from the combat zones is no sure-fire guarantee of safety.
Personally, I still believe that the threat posed by Jihadists, Boko Haram and Shebabs may be defeated only through global mobilization. Many have understood this, but are yet to draw lessons from it. I would like to commend the multi-faceted support provided by the United Nations organization, but also some big powers, notably the United States of America, France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and Germany. We thank them for their firm determination to stand by us in this struggle.
Let me now say a few words about my country’s economic outlook within a highly varied global context. Following a recent mission to Cameroon, the IMF commended our efforts, while urging us to continue with our structural reforms and maintain our fiscal discipline.
However, we must also take into account the rather unstable international environment. In the documents prepared during its most recent General Assembly, the international financial organization forecasts that recovery, particularly in Europe, which is one of our leading partners, will be “weak” and “unbalanced”. The IMF is concerned about the “record high” level of the public debt of rich countries and does not rule out the likelihood of a third recession.
The outlook in countries that recorded average growth is uncertain. Furthermore, there is a significant slowdown in the economies of emerging countries. Markets for their part have periodically been edgy.
In such a context, we have no choice but to pursue our growth-based policy which, as you know, hinges on three main pillars, namely:
-development of infrastructure, notably transport and energy;
-modernization of our agriculture; and
-development of industries to process our raw materials.
By so doing, we hope to roll back poverty by creating jobs and improving the living conditions of our populations. By the same token, we will be better-positioned to resist any decline in global economic growth.
Fortunately, the picture I am painting is not entirely bleak. Some parts of the world are more resistant to the economic slowdown than others. Such is the case of the United States of America which is experiencing renewed growth, with employment spin-offs. Much to our satisfaction, this applies to Africa as well.
On the other hand, the international community is very concerned about the Post-2015 Development Agenda that will replace the Millennium Development Goals which, as we are aware, are far from being achieved. The last session of the United Nations General Assembly focused on this problem. We can reasonably hope that the new system that will replace the Millennium Development Goals will better reflect the aspirations and needs of the populations concerned and will hence be more effective.
Global warming which also constitutes a major issue was the theme of a summit held in New York on the sidelines of the recent United Nations General Assembly. It is considered urgent by experts. The last three decades have been warmer than any other since 1850.
Climate disruptions worldwide, Cameroon included, clearly illustrate this. We have ourselves taken measures to contribute to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
I should mention that the last G20 Summit also considered the issue and that, shortly before the summit, China and the United States of America had taken a more positive stance thereon than previously. Hence, the climate conference to be scheduled for 2015 in Paris will be held under the best conditions. It will seek to arrive at a global, binding and equitable agreement.
I believe equitable here means that such agreement would mainstream each country’s level of development and efforts made by some States to preserve their forests. Such is clearly the case of countries of the Congo Basin which is home to the world’s second largest forest reserve after the Amazon, or one of the lungs of the world.
The Paris Summit should also focus on the drying up of Lake Chad. As I suggested recently in Dakar, we believe that this Summit should work out a Lake Chad rescue plan.
If I were to summarize my ideas, I would say that the year that has just ended had its fair share of threats, but also reasons for hope. To cope with this situation, I believe that the international community should promote the values of modern society, namely solidarity and belief in progress.
In the moral sense of the word, solidarity is the obligation for wealthy nations to assist poor countries and forge equitable links with them. This is also what induces big powers and international organizations to intervene in conflict zones in order to end aggression or rescue populations.
Belief in progress is the determination of peoples to establish democracy, guarantee human rights, roll back poverty and provide access to education and health care for all.
That is why I believe that even though in some parts of the world oppression, misery and obscurantism persist, human society will ultimately triumph over tyranny and intolerance.
The hideous attack of 7 January 2015 against a newspaper in Paris shows how far fanaticism can go. I strongly condemn this awful act by supporters of violence and terror. It is clear that under such circumstances, the only response is concrete mobilization and general determination to combat barbarism.
•The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
It is now time for me to thank you for the kind words you have spoken on behalf of Members of the Diplomatic Corps. As you prepare to leave Cameroon, I take this opportunity to commend your actions as Ambassador of your country and as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps. We wish you success in your new position.
•Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Kindly extend our best wishes for the New Year to the Distinguished Authorities that you so worthily represent here.
To you, your families and your loved ones, I extend my most sincere wishes for happiness, health and success.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Yaounde, 8 January 2015