Between the Law and the Outlaw
“Armed robbers came to my house at midnight” recounted a neighbour “and forced their way in. I was hit on the head with the barrel of a gun and forced to surrender all money and precious belongings. After dispossessing me of everything of value, they then turned to my wife and ordered her to undress. She was raped by the three armed-men in my presence. Since then my world has been torn apart and our marriage is on shaky grounds.”
Another person had this to say; “Ever since I opened this small shop, I have never had sound sleep because of harassment from tax inspectors. The level of harassment this year has surpassed all other years. I have resolved to wind up the business and go and stay at home rather than continue and develop high blood pressure. I prefer to be a poor and healthy man rather than being a rich sick man.” In each of the above cases, the victims do not have a choice but to comply with demands made.
Sometimes ordinary Cameroonians have a feeling that they are caught between two guns, one from the Cameroonian state and the other from men of the underworld. The issue of paying taxes is a civic responsibility of citizens not only of Cameroon but also of most countries of the world. One of the primary reasons why we pay taxes is for the state to use the money to ensure our security. It is generally agreed that never before have Cameroonians been subjected to this type of fiscal pressure as they are witnessing today. As the tax pressure increases, the security situation is apparently deteriorating. One would expect that the increased tax drive would translate into more money for the state to ensure us better security. I do not know what others may say but personally I feel less secured today than I was a year ago.
In the area where I live in Douala cases of armed robbery are reported almost on a daily basis. It is common to hear gunshots in the night. Recently armed robbers have visited most of the businesses within my immediate vicinity. Our own business property was burgled a few days back. Dozens of private homes have suffered similar fate. The feeling of helplessness and frustration is written on almost every resident’s face.
The question on everyone’s lips is “where do we run to?” When Cameroonians think of opening a business, they have many apprehensions among which are security and taxes. If you are particularly unfortunate you may be subjected to a detailed tax audit and be visited by men of the underworld within the same year. Most people that have these twin visitors at short intervals usually ‘fall in the bush’ (go on exile to foreign lands). Those of us that still manage to stay behind have to walk a tight rope between what the law expects from us and the demands of the outlaws. It is a very difficult walk indeed.
Copyrightã2005 by Njei Moses Timah