A New Year wishes ceremony was organized last Friday at State House bringing together accredited diplomats and senior State officials.
It was probably for the umpteenth time that the President of the Republic was hosting a New Year wishes ceremony at State House and even if the ceremony occupies a firm position on the President’s calendar, it can never be routine, given the Republican nature of the event, which requires that all the principal actors of the political scene as well as accredited Ambassadors, High Commissioners and representatives of international organizations come together to commune.
And the best moment in the year is the beginning which provides the rare occasion to make a balance sheet of the past year and to take commitments or engagements for the coming year. The two-prong event began with the arrival of diplomats at State House grounds at about 9.45am. They were congregated at the main building lobby as they steadily came in. At about 10.30, all the guests were already on hand and could then be led to the first floor Ambassadors’ lounge where State Protocol officials placed them in a kind of semi-circle with the Doyen of the diplomatic corps Monsignor Piero Pioppo who is also the Apostolic Nuncio to Cameroon, taking the lead.
A few minutes to 11am, the president of the Republic made his way into the lounge. Then, the Doyen took the floor for a speech in which he explored virtually all aspects of national life as experienced by the diplomats on whose behalf he was speaking. The longest serving head of a diplomatic mission said Cameroon, in 2016 continued to transform its rich cultural and geographical diversity into a great asset which enabled it to consolidate the unity of the nation. He expressed the hope to see this situation bring more peace and more stability so as to guarantee progress and emancipation.
He cited the Eseka train accident of October and without mentioning the current unrest in the English-speaking regions of the country, made mention of the government’s responsible handling of the situations. “Your country showed its capacity to overcome difficulties”, the cleric said before going on to mention some of the diplomatic successes registered by Cameroon, notably the organization of two important economic events – the international economic conference of investing in Cameroon and the extraordinary summit of Central African Heads of State on the financial and economic situation of the region.
He also cited a number of visits by foreign leaders such as the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Materella, Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno, the Senegalese President Macky Sall and the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde. President Biya’s visits abroad (Nigeria twice and the United Nations in New York) also seemed to have particularly impressed the Doyen especially with the gains such visits procured for Cameroon in material and image-building perspectives.
President Biya’s reply to the diplomatic corps acknowledged the credit the diplomatic community gives Cameroon in handling its diversities and insisted that unity forms an integral part of the very existence of the people of Cameroon. Said he “I have repeatedly urged my compatriots to jealously preserve this unity… our diversity forms part of our identity… Our people are committed to these two fundamental values, namely unity and diversity.”
Apparent referring to the unrest in the NW and SW regions, he reassured that “in the spirit of dialogue that I have always advocated, I will, with all my compatriots, continue making every effort to strengthen our desire to live together.” The President also told the diplomats of Cameroon’s readiness to host a number of African bodies including the AU Standby force in Douala and the headquarters of the facility being put up to oversee security in the Gulf of Guinea.
The ceremony ended with light refreshments and as the glasses clinkered, the President left the diplomats, heading for the banquet hall two floors below where the principal State dignitaries were already on hand for the wishes ceremony which began at 12 noon with the Senate President and members of the Senate bureau.
The ritual continued with the national Assembly, the government, members of the ruling CPDM Central committee, leaders of political parties represented in Parliament, business leaders etc.