In 2014, President Paul Biya on a visit to the town referred to Buea as a clean, beautiful town. He was even more charitable when he endorsed the “Legendary Hospitality” pet name with which the town had come to be identified. But in the ebbing days of 2018, the Buea mayoral authorities abruptly changed the Legendary Hospitality sobriquet to “City of Excellence.” Unfortunately however, the town didn’t have a facelift commensurate with the status of the city it had been bestowed with.
Workers of the waste disposal company, HYSACAM had downed tools, following the destruction of their garbage trucks by the so-called Amba boys and the fact that it was increasingly dangerous for them to perform their duties freely, without being hurt by the rag tag army. But a newspaper report had it that the Buea mayor had, by his magnanimity, personally funded HYSACAM and gotten the disposal company back to work.
However, despite the claims of magnanimity and all that, heaps of garbage and other waste material still litter the town, constituting a health hazard. Desperate denizens have resorted to burning their refuse, further compounding the risk of respiratory related diseases. Otherwise, refuse is now dumped at every other street corner. Certain people The Rambler approached thought that municipal authorities ought to have reverted to the pre-HYSACAM era, during which refuse disposal in the town was handled directly by council workers. At that time they claimed, the town wasn’t suffocating from the stench of decay surrounding residential houses as is presently the case.
On a similar note, residents of the town have intensified their criticism of the so called monthly ‘Keep Buea Clean’ campaigns which entails devoting one or two Wednesdays per month for everyone else to come out and clean the town. It should be recalled that on such days, civil servants keep off their offices for at least four hours, ostensibly to participate in keeping the town clean. All business places stay shut while taxis are forbidden from plying the streets.
However, it is an open secret that these special Wednesdays have more or less been converted to public holidays. Offices stay closed throughout; hardly any one engages in the cleanup campaign and the only beneficiaries are local administrators who are known to provide special dispensations for certain cabs to ply the streets against prescribed amounts of money paid, but which is widely believed to be unaccounted for.
It was expected that with HYSACAM’s job of clearing garbage having been compromised by marauding gangsters in the name of an army of liberation, the ‘Keep Buea Clean’ campaigns should have been upgraded and closely supervised to make up for the shortfall. But that is not quite the case. And the situation is gradually but surely getting out of hand. Instead, the only visible form of development in the municipality is the mushrooming of boutiques, courtesy of the local council. Someone recently joked that one out of every three residents of Buea can now be said to be a trader, selling one commodity or the other, going by the uncountable number of boutiques with which the council is littering the town.
Elsewhere, running water is a luxury. Long lines of children and other denizens are often seen trekking long distances to fetch water from brooks and streams. Access roads are practically nonexistent. Respective neighbourhoods are known to contribute money with which they grade their own roads or open up new ones. The banning of commercial biking in the town has made transportation, especially in the peripheries a big social headache. The town council has been conspiratorially silent in the midst of all of these social constraints. But it has been sporadic in ensuring that cars and other automobiles are not carelessly parked in the public space or along the roads as to block free circulation. Those in charge are known to clamp poorly parked automobiles, only having them released against a fee of FCFA 25,000.
That said, if the Buea municipal authorities are really serious about lifting the town to the status of a city and ensuring that it is one of excellence, then they face the urgent challenge of taking crucial lessons in waste management. In which case, the collection, transportation, disposal and recycling of waste ought to take precedence over the proliferation of boutiques.