Tazoacha Asonganyi Reacts to President Biya's Speech

Paul Biya’s New Year Speech of 2013: Mountain delivers a rat again!
Prof. T Asonganyi
Paul Biya won reelection for the umpteenth time on October 9, 2011; the nation was informed on October 21, 2011. Later, during his message to the nation on 31 December 2011, we were not only informed that “we now have a roadmap, the Growth and Employment Strategy Paper which sets the objectives for this decade…” and that we are entering our “first phase of a ‘long march’ towards being an emergent country…” like the “new Asian dragons some 30 years ago” that all performed their development miracles during the 30 years of Paul Biya’s reign in Cameroon, but also that Cameroon would be a “vast construction site” in 2012. 
He told Cameroonians that “in the past, government action suffered from lack of entrepreneurial approach and the administration from inactivity. We must overcome this inertia which has caused us so much harm,” “corruption is an insidious and dreadful enemy,” there will be a “new impetus” and many other pronouncements. Again, he told us that the investment budget was increased.
At that time we reminded him that the problem in Cameroon was not so much the size of the investment budget but the manner of its implementation. We have often repeatedly invited him to procure and study the “West Cameroon Financial Instructions” and the “General Orders,” but he seems to think that the solution to his financial management problems lies outside (with the IMF and others) and not inside Cameroon. For example, there was no use telling us that the latest NACC report is extremely revealing. In West Cameroon, the report would be with the Judicial Police or the Attorney General for investigation and judicial action, not with the Head of State who only punishes those he does not like…
This time around in the 31 December 2012 speech, after mentioning his trips to lay the foundation stone for the Lom Pangar and Memve’ele dams, and the increased interest of investors in the riches of the subsoil of Cameroon, he said that these constituted the “vast construction site” he talked about in his New Year speech of 31 December 2011! In other words, when Paul Biya promised that Cameroon would be a “vast construction site” in 2012, those who thought that he meant that towns and cities would be dotted with cranes, and the various roads would be clogged with road construction equipment, cheered, but the speaker knew that they were cheering for what had nothing to do with what he really meant!
Indeed, one of his defining characteristics is that he never says what he means, and never means what he says! He has given all types of names to the routine work of government: “grandes ambitions” [greater ambition], “grandes realisations” [greater achievements], “grande chantier” [vast construction site], you name them!  
Once he was over with telling us that “vast construction site” did not mean what we thought he meant, he fell back to his usual old, impassive and academic declarations and promises, which all sounded like a replay of an old record, or a rehearsal-cum-reiteration of the unfulfilled promises he made in the past, and the “impending” achievements he boasted about in the past, which never came to pass.
It is incredible that a person who has put his finger on a date as faraway as 2035 cannot put a date on any “achievement” or project he claims are around the corner: the “solemn” celebration of the Fiftieth anniversary of reunification, victory over the energy “battle,” linking of regional capitals with tarred roads, the “agrarian revolution,” “in a couple of months or a couple of years when our country will be dotted with construction sites, dams, power plants, ports, factories and road,” etc. Vagueness was the order of the day; numbers, percentages, and proportions were avoided to render a scientific evaluation of government action impossible!
At the end of the year 2012, Transparency International still classed Cameroon as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, with a corruption index of 26%, at par with Bangladesh, Syria, Ukraine, Central African Republic, and Congo at the 144th position of 175 countries evaluated. Further, the World Justice Project 2012 Rule of Law Index that dealt with 97 countries selected from all regions of the world scored Cameroon as follows (1 = best country; 97 = worst country): limited government powers (94/97), absence of corruption (97/97), order and security (75/97), fundamental rights (90/97), open government (95/97), regulatory enforcement (96/97), civil justice (95/97), criminal justice (93/97). Cameroon was the most corrupt of the 97 countries. These organisations must be among those, according to Paul Biya, that lack “objectivity” due to “some kind of political myopia!” To Paul Biya, these “critics” are “unwilling to acknowledge the progress we have achieved in recent years.” Whatever he says about these reports or criticisms, they are based on abundant data from each country collected and analysed scientifically to bring out the results reported. The reports are the documents that the “investors” he is counting so much on will consult, not his vague and baseless declarations in his New Year messages.
If Cameroon has moved from NEO in its different versions to ELECAM, and then to the biometric system of registration of voters, it was a veiled acknowledgement of what is widely known, that the electoral system in Cameroon is one that does not allow the organisation of credible, free and fair elections. Biya acknowledges that biometric registration is ongoing and a new electoral code (cut according to the wishes of Paul Biya without taking into consideration the wishes of the opposition and civil society) has been established. One expected that with what he considers a better electoral environment, he would wait for a new electoral map of Cameroon to be drawn following the upcoming legislative and municipal elections, before he would talk of senatorial elections whose electoral college is made up mainly of councillors and parliamentarians. His talking about senatorial elections without these other elections is an indication of his determination to continue his destructive one-man rule in Cameroon.
This was Paul Biya’s 31st New Year message to Cameroonians. He may make a few more before he vacates the helm of the Cameroon state. As the clock ticks on, his speeches are filled with the desperate effort to create imaginary achievements for himself. Historians are usually said to be selfless servants of the truth; a lie is a lie, no matter how loudly it is argued or how persuasively it is phrased. Therefore it is certain that when historians look back at his reign in years to come, their judgement may be quite harsh for a man from whom Cameroonians expected great achievements, but whose only achievement was that he succeeded to stay at the helm of the state for over 30 years. This may be an achievement in Africa, and for his sycophants, but it falls far short of any great achievement. Even self-serving historians may find it difficult to turn some of the lies fed us each year in some of these speeches into historical truths.

Tazoacha Asonganyi

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