Excerpts of US Ambassador Janet E. Garvey's "Super Tuesday" speech
We have consistently spoken out against changing executive term limits in other countries, such as in Nigeria, and we would recommend against an effort to amend the constitution when such a move could be perceived as being for the benefit of one individual or group.
Cameroon has made many positive changes in the past decade. You should be proud of your press freedoms, religious tolerance and improvements in human rights. The 2006 Criminal Procedure Code was a major step forward. Cameroon’s role in supporting international peacekeeping, in combating wildlife trafficking, and in hosting refugees shows an ability to adapt positively to a changing world environment. I would like to acknowledge my government’s appreciation for the excellent support we have received from the Government of Cameroon in evacuating our Embassy personnel from Chad this week – it underscores our long and broad-based friendship.
Friends tell each other the truth, and in the spirit of friendship, I would like tonight to offer some thoughts about ways I believe Cameroon can move ahead to a brighter future. As Kofi Annan said, the world around you is moving fast. As we enter a new year, my wish for Cameroon is that you continue to show the wisdom and courage to embrace a future of positive change. I hope 2008 will be a year in which Cameroon continues to demonstrate regional and global leadership. I hope to see continued progress in strengthening the economy – American companies want to invest here, but, like many other investors, they often find Cameroon a very difficult business environment. This does not have to be the case and I would like to work with the Cameroon government to improve the investment climate. It’s time for Cameroon to rise above the bottom rung on international rankings of governance and corruption. I hope to see the kind of inclusive, vibrant democracy which Cameroonians want and so richly deserve. In the spirit of an election night like tonight, I hope 2008 will bring the creation of ELECAM and preparations for a truly free and fair election in 2011.
I look forward to your national dialogue on constitutional change as it plays out over the coming months or years. I know there are many issues you could discuss, including provisions for succession, a possible two-round ballot system, and other matters in addition to the question of term limits.
The United States position is clear – as I have said already – we acknowledge every country’s right to change its constitution and in our experience term limits and periodic leadership change – at least every decade – are healthy for democracy. We have consistently spoken out against changing executive term limits in other countries, such as in Nigeria, and we would recommend against an effort to amend the constitution when such a move could be perceived as being for the benefit of one individual or group.
We believe the kind of very serious decisions involved in changing a constitution should be done through a national conversation in which the voice of every political party, every civil society and business organization, students, teachers, workers, journalists – indeed every Cameroonian, to the extent possible – is heard on a matter of such vital importance. The result of such a dialogue would be a decision that all can accept and support, in peace and brotherhood – and sisterhood!
I was pleased when President Biya himself said recently that there are many more important issues for his administration and the National Assembly to tackle in the immediate future --issues like poverty reduction, improving the lives of Cameroonians in all ten provinces, rooting out corruption in public life, bringing education and health to all Cameroonians. The United States Government and the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon look forward with great eagerness to working with the people of Cameroon on these vital issues, and to listening in, as the Cameroonian people discuss the issue of constitutional change, prepare for the important presidential election three years away, and work in other ways to strengthen your democracy.
I hope that you enjoy watching the results of Super Tuesday come in tonight. Tonight is the beginning of a year of Embassy events and discussions focused on the U.S. election. It always inspires me to watch American democracy in action – and I hope it inspires you too.
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