1 Mar 2008
Cameroonians count their losses
Life returned to normal in most of the restive cities of Cameroon on Friday following four days of bloody protests that paralyzed economic activity in much of the country. Many Cameroonians were surprised by the intensity and duration of the crisis and were not adequately prepared to weather the storm. Everybody has a story to tell about the four days of restricted mobility. Some passengers were stranded midway between their destinations and others were stranded at the airport. People improvised many ways to move very sick people in the absence of vehicles. Somebody recounted an incident where a man was carrying home the body of his sick child (that apparently died on the way to the hospital) strapped to his back in the scorching Douala heat while the wife was walking behind and wailing. In our society dead people are always accompanied by many sympathizers but the unusual circumstances did not allow this solidarity to be manifested.
I drove to some of the hot spots of Douala city on Friday evening and I witnessed the scars left on the face of Douala by the four days of unrest. Heaps of ash and wires from burnt tires littered roadsides and looted and vandalized skeletons of once prosperous businesses stood as a stark reminder of what the fury of an uncontrolled crowd can produce.
In Douala, losses galore
I tried to make a mental balance sheet of the outcome of the strike and all I saw were predominantly losers. Yes there are so many losers that have emerged from this uprising that did not seem to have a defined leader and a defined direction. There are those that have died as a direct consequence of the crisis and others who have perished from indirect consequences (such as inability to go to hospital). The exact number of the fatalities, I do not know. There are also those that have been incarcerated. Other losers are those whose businesses were looted or vandalized and the employees that depended on those businesses for their livelihood. The press is also seen as an indirect casualty as the government clipped the wings of some popular media houses like Equinoxe TV, Equinoxe Radio and Magic FM. Countries like Chad and Central African Republic that depend on Cameroon for maritime imports and exports are also counting their losses.
Above all, Cameroon as a country has swallowed whooping economic loses due to four days of inactivity and associated costs connected to the crisis. Her prestige as a stable country in the sub region has taken a blow and the fall outs are yet to be assessed.
The coming weeks and months are very crucial for this country as the prevailing social tensions require rare ingenuity on the part of the rulers to calm the situation and reassure the ruled especially the youths. Everybody is waiting and hoping for the best while also preparing for the worst.
Also read my first two reports on the protests at these links
First Day of the Fuel Strike
Third Day of Protest in Cameroon
Njei Moses Timah