Maurice Kamto gave an interview to the newspaper Le Monde. He talks about his complicated relationship with Macron.
In an interview with Monde Afrique published on October 02, 2021, the national president of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) talks about France, he thinks he must know the historical partner of Cameroon for him who aspires to govern. In addition, he thinks that the situation in Cameroon is not good, we have to think of the after Biya in his presence and he invites citizens to go and register on the electoral rolls and vote when the time comes.
What is your assessment of the state of Cameroon?
For three years, we have not made progress on any front. On the security level, the government wanted to continue to believe that the situation was under control in the English-speaking regions [plunged since 2017 into a conflict between the army and the separatists]. Obviously this is not the case.
At least fifteen soldiers were killed in a single attack on September 16. The defense minister admitted that the secessionists now have equipment that has nothing to do with what they had before. The killings continue because the causes of the war have never been addressed.
I am one of those who from the outset drew attention to the urgent need for a political settlement. What was done in 2019 with the support and enthusiasm of certain partners and what has been called the “great national dialogue” has been nothing but a sham. Everyone admits it today. We took up the idea that I had put forward of granting a special status to the English-speaking regions. At the time, no one had listened to me, but when they brought it out, the idea was over. When people have taken up arms and blood has been spilled, solutions that might have been valid in peacetime are no longer valid.
Take Cameroon’s debt: at 43.5% of GDP, it is not unsustainable. But what is the money we borrow used for? In 2019, we were to host the African Cup of Nations (CAN) football. We were talking about an investment of around 3 trillion CFA francs – over 4.5 billion euros – to build the stadiums and related infrastructure. In the end, we missed the deadline.
Worse: As part of the 2021 fiscal year, the president signed a loan authorization of 50 billion to complete the Olembé stadium. This means that the 3 trillion had already been spent on who knows what and even with that 50 billion, the stage is not over.
In 2021, the donors, to let us face the Covid-19, gave us a three-year deferral on the repayment of interest on the debt. This represents around 230 billion CFA francs. There, it is not the opposition which denounces, but the audit chamber of the Supreme Court which says that there are unjustified expenses, misappropriation of aid or material contributions. In Cameroon, it creates a little turmoil and it’s over. There is a popular resignation to the way the country is run.
Isn’t there also a form of international sluggishness towards Cameroon?
It’s more than sluggishness. There is a connivance that I do not understand. Over the past ten years, I have not heard the international community speak seriously about Cameroon. The overall line is to say we prefer stability. As if the alternation of power was a source of instability! You have to be in Africa to have this type of intellectual contortions.
Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, came in 2019. She has not set foot in the English-speaking areas. She didn’t ask to see us in jail. She received a decoration and then returned to Switzerland. I tip my hat to the Biya diet which is very effective.
None of the international mechanisms were used. The UN secretary general and the chairman of the African Union commission could have appointed a special representative. They did not do it. There are countries where there are infinitely fewer deaths for which the international community is mobilizing. Here, even if we stick to the official figures, we are at more than 3,000 dead, between 600,000 and 800,000 displaced.
Do you feel like you are being kept at bay by France?
I do not know. What I observe is that there is no rush to receive me. I’m not asking to be dubbed, but I regret it. I am a pragmatist. There is a historical partner whom we consider to be a friendly country, who has important interests in my country. So, I cannot aspire to lead Cameroon without talking to him, without him knowing me. I know that economic players will prefer to deal with whoever is there. But from the moment we speak of state interests, we have to take a long-term view.
If the French are not attentive to the dynamics at work in African countries, including Cameroon, they can always wake up afterwards and say that there is a growing anti-French feeling in Africa. But it does not fall from the sky. It depends on how we manage this vast period of transition, including in relations between France and Africa.
Why have lawyers abandoned the defense of your activists in prison?
The lawyers have shown in a report all the proceedings they have initiated and their outcome. None have prospered. They showed the treatment they received in the courts and finally expressed their feeling: since this matter is political, it will not be settled by law and we do not want to be complicit in a judicial masquerade.
To be opposed to Cameroon, is not to be condemned to wait until after Biya?
If I reasoned thus, I would not have committed in 2012 when he was in full possession of his means. I have always wanted the political game not to be based on the death of the other, even if many Cameroonians are in a logic of waiting. It would be terrible because if we start with Biya, we will have to wait each time the leader dies to hope to gain power.
Personally, I am not sure that waiting until after Biya will lead to a change. You can have worse: someone young, fed by this system and who understands that power can be retained by irregular methods. I am convinced that we can fight battles and have results without waiting for Biya’s death. The best proof, we won the presidential election in 2018 and Mr. Biya will never be able to prove otherwise. (…) I don’t have an army, a militia. The only thing I have are the ballot boxes and the only thing I ask Cameroonians is to register and go and vote.