To all the faithful and all men and women of goodwill
Dear beloved people of God,
May the peace of God be with you!
1. Our pastoral mission as Bishops of Cameroon has led us in the past to speak to you, People of God, men and women of goodwill, for the welfare of the citizens and the interest of our nation, each time our country found itself at a decisive turning point of its history.
• In 1959, the Bishops wrote to the citizens about the independence of Cameroon.
• In 1988, we wrote a Pastoral Letter on the commitment of the laity in the life of the nation. We reminded you of the fact that a “well-conducted political activity is a concrete and high form of justice and charity (n° 10)”. For this the laity must engage with love for God and love for men in a spirit of service and generosity for the good of all. In fact, “an authentic democracy, which respects pluralism, is one of the principal routes which the Church travels together with the people. The lay Christian, engaged in the democratic struggle according to the Spirit of the Gospel, is the sign of a Church which participates in the promotion of the rule of the law everywhere in Africa”. (Ecclesia in Africa. N° 112).
• In 1990 the Pastoral Letter of the Bishops on the economic crisis plaguing the country urged you to mobilise against the crisis through hard work, solidarity and reconciliation.
• In 2004, the Letter of the Bishops of Cameroon to all the faithful and all the citizens of goodwill on the “Right and Duty to vote” called your attention to the necessity of involving all citizens in elections as it is expected in a democracy.
• In keeping with the mission of the Church, Mother and Teacher, and aware of our pastoral responsibility in the life of the nation, we turn once more to you, in 2011 when Cameroonian people will be summoned to the polls to elect the President of the Republic.
2. The next election will be in the tradition of democracy to which Cameroon has been committed for over two decades.
• We are pleased that this election, so crucial for the future of our country, providentially fits in the context of the double celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Independence and Reunification of Cameroon.
• Indeed, these historic events argue, in the eyes of all, for the need for the patriotism of citizens, their civic responsibility and their common desire to build a great nation. They also argue for the story of a country that, notwithstanding the difficulties encountered, the youthfulness of its institutions and the evils that are eating up the country (corruption, poverty, unemployment, tribalism, administrative harassment…) has succeeded in building itself on the values of peace, development and unity that we have always sought for.
• In this context, this election demands, more than ever before, the civic maturity of all Cameroonians. It ought to help to ripen the national consciousness of everyone.
3. In order to carry out this current electoral process successfully; it is our duty to bring to your consciousness a few thoughts on the future of our country and on the vote of the citizen.
• Yes! Cameroon’s future is in our hands. Cameroon will be what we would have made it to be, if we do not give in to the currents of our time by exposing it to external interference. What is happening around us calls us to be alert. As citizens we all assume the heavy responsibility of consolidating what we have achieved during the fifty years of our history and of successfully leading our country into the first century of the third millennium. We therefore need the fundamental values that constitute the greatness of nations.
- ·The dignity of every human being which comprises a scrupulous respect for the rights of man, woman and the child; respect for the right of marriage between a man and a woman, and respect for the Sacredness of human life from conception until its natural end;
- Respect of the Common good for a fair distribution of public subsidies and a commitment of the citizens to the safeguarding of the national heritage: that no Cameroonian should feel excluded from the benefits of its growth;
- A solidarity-based economy driven by an environment conducive to the creation of enterprises, free from administrative harassment and supported by the award of credits to entrepreneurs, especially to young people;
- Respect for public property that should be concretised in our country by the repayment of public funds by those who have been convicted of embezzlement. In this case, an amnesty could be granted; prompt justice is strongly recommended. “We urge national authorities to ensure the safety of public property and to recover stolen funds for reinvestment in development projects and in the fight against current poverty in our country (Declaration of the Bishops, Rome, 20 March 2006)
- An integral development to increase growth and investment, to create jobs, fight against poverty in all its ramifications, to mobilise and combine the efforts of all for more welfare, a more honest management of public funds and the creation of more wealth.
- Social security and health care at affordable cost to all citizens;
- National unity in diversity in order to build complementarily and in the openness of all sectors of society to each other through the adhesion of tribes and ethnic groups to this new family which is the nation; and the promotion of national social solidarity as a result of citizen parenthood;
- The promotion of an integrated cultural identity that harmonises the wealth of tradition and modernity, in view of innovations and improvements peculiar to our people;
- Faith in God which, driven by a genuine religious freedom, is the foundation of a Nation at the service of man; for a country that is religiously destabilised builds on shaky ground. “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the labourers labour.” Ps. 127, 1.
- Democracy, which is the best means of people’s participation in the life of a nation, the appropriate framework for freedom of expression and autonomy of political parties and intermediate bodies and the guarantor of civil liberties. The people, in its majority, choose its leaders.
- All these references can contribute to enlighten our vote for the next presidential election.
4. Concerning the subject of voting, it is important to emphasise again the significance and the responsibility of the voters whom we are.
• Voting is a right and a duty of every citizen. Voting is taking an active part in public life of one’s country and in its construction.
• Each ballot is a stone brought for the building of the well-being of all. To abstain from voting is to harm the life of the Nation; to prevent someone from voting is a serious breach of the citizen’s right. In a democracy, the people choose their leaders by voting.
• We are therefore calling on all those who are of voting age to put their names on electoral registers.
• We appeal to members of the committees in charge of the revision of electoral registers and to administrative authorities to work together to issue freely and within the shortest possible time, national identity cards and voter registration cards to all those who qualify to have them. Mobile teams should bring these services to people in the villages and in the neighbourhoods. All forms of harassment in this sensitive area should be avoided as it would be considered a violation of the right to vote.
• We exhort all Cameroonians not to succumb to the temptation of those who believe and proclaim before the elections that “the die is cast” and it is therefore useless to vote. Get set from now to go on elections day to cast your vote as is required by the law (See The Letter of the Bishops, 2004, n°4)
5. We call on:
• all Cameroonians, especially those who are of voting age, to take part in the electoral process, to use the ballot box to demonstrate their civic maturity, to reject strongly all acts of violence, unnecessary provocations, various forms of fraud that distort results, as well as anything that can lead to destabilisation and disorder. The single ballot would better protect the validity of the polls;
• the political, administrative, civil and traditional authorities to work together for the maintenance of peace and the conduct of fair and transparent elections;
• political parties and presidential candidates to respect the electoral process, to preserve peace, to uphold the interest of the Cameroonian people and to see themselves in this pluralistic elections as competitors and not enemies, because politics in democracy should not be a source of conflict and machinations, but a hotbed of debate and competition for the service of the common good. Political parties and candidates should also work for the transparency of the electoral process. Equal opportunities must be given to political parties to campaign;
• Law Enforcement and Military officers to safeguard honour and loyalty to the Republic and its institutions, to the protection of goods and people and to maintain the political neutrality inherent in their duties.
6. We recommend:
• the application of article 66 of the Constitution concerning certain government officials who “must make a declaration of their assets at the beginning and at the end of their mandate or term of office”;
• for Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), that half of its members should come from the civil society and that its functioning be flawless for a smooth electoral process;
• that those who believe in God, should organise prayer sessions for peace and promote social dialogue that helps people to live better together;
• the Christian faithful to proclaim and live the Gospel of love, peace, justice and fraternity;
• for the public and private media to be objective and responsible in their use of the means of information and communication; to use their freedom of expression responsibly and to be aware of the dangers that any manipulation of public opinion can cause;
• that national and international observers be deployed throughout the national territory in order to make an objective and neutral report on the elections;
• that the international community should have great respect for the sovereignty of the State of Cameroon and maintain total neutrality to its election process.
With Mary, Queen of the Apostles, Patroness of Cameroon, we pray that peace; justice and prosperity continue to reign permanently in our country, Cameroon.
Done in Bamenda, on the 30th of May 2011
For the Bishops of Cameroon
+ Joseph Atanga
President of NECC