After many decades of neglect, lying, fake promises and ruthless advocacy genuine construction work on the Kumba-Mamfe
road saw the light of day. About three years ago, work effectively took off on it. This stretch should be ready for commissioning
by the end of the year. Before now, travelers from say Fako or even Kumba to Mamfe were compelled to crisscross at least, two Regions and many other towns before reaching this chief town of Manyu Division in the Southwest Region.
At a particular point in time, it was considered both economically prudent, physically and mentally safe for one to get first to Bamenda before starting out afresh on the Mamfe segment of the trip from Ndian, Meme, Fako in the Southwest including
most other parts of the Littoral. But with the catastrophic stretch between Babadjou in the West Region and Bamenda in the Northwest, people bound for Bamenda prefer making it first to Buea and eventually using the Kumba-Mamfe road still under construction to get to Bamenda. Ninety percent of the tarring is complete. But many hazards and other hitches seem to have been just waiting in the wings for the project to reach completion for them to set in. Vehicular traffic on this road has, in the past few months more than tripled. In the past few weeks countless accidents have occurred, especially between Kumba and Buea. The Buea-Kumba stretch, commissioned slightly over half a decade ago is deteriorating at a rather alarming rate. Logging interests have taken advantage of the relatively good road network and embarked on what is by all means imprudent timber exploitation in the Region. So also are unprecedented highway robberies beginning to be perpetrated, especially between Mamfe in Manyu Division and Batibo in Momo Division of the Northwest
Security imperatives misdirected?
With the regime overly concerned mostly with puncturing a civil disobedience campaign kick-started in the English-speaking Regions of the nation some eight months ago, security priorities and imperatives appear to have been redesigned, reconsidered and targeted at political goals like forcing parents to send their kids back to school. Huge logistics have, as a consequence, been deployed to see to this, with many basic life protection concerns left unattended.
Highwaymen and other hoodlums have been quick to cash in on the apparent lapse, resorting to waylaying unsuspecting,
helpless and hapless travelers; holding commuters and other road users at gun point and relieving them of their valuables. Such was the case some two weeks back between Mamfe and Batibo, when armed robbers harassed, manhandled and subjected
passengers of travel agencies to intense stress in the dead of night.
Hundreds of them lost valuables that included cash amounting to hue millions. Many others victims of the hold-up involving more than 10 70-seater public transport buses were manhandled by the marauders, for many hours. The bandits had opted for a point far away from any village, and knowing that help couldn’t easily be got. They reportedly took all the time in the world to ransack individual luggage and handbags for cash and trinkets. Security forces, we are told, are yet to identify, let alone bring the thieves to justice. The immediate concern of the regime is dousing the Anglophone anger and ensuring that it comes to naught. Special protection for influential timber interests and corrupt Government officials.
A latest phenomenon taking place on the road currently being tarred from Mamfe to Kumba and beyond is the scores of heavy duty articulated trucks competing for space with earth moving equipment, graders, passenger vehicles and other automobile.
These trucks transport timber of all sizes and quality from Manyu Division through Meme and Fako Divisions to Douala where they are shipped overseas. Behind this highly lucrative and often shady business we learnt, are Chinese, Lebanese and French interests. Persistent claims have been established as to how most of these logging companies flout laid down forest exploitation legislation. Their harvesting habits are said to be largely callous, destructive, haphazard with wildlife turning out the worst for it.
While the locals barely exist; while only a few of them effectively eke out a living, these foreign Shylock interests make and casually get away with tens of billions monthly, often with the connivance of overly corrupt top Government brass. Their harvesting methods are haphazard, with reforestation completely nonexistent. Only natural reforestation accounts for what any hopes of any regeneration of Cameroon’s timber, which is ripped by the hundreds of thousands of hectares yearly.
The normal instinct that readily tickles one’s mind when they see such quantum of forest products emanating from their communities is the economic benefits of the logs to the nation’s economy, particularly, the municipal administration of the affected community. However, it is ironical to be faced with the fact that very little or no benefits at all accrue to the people of Manyu Division as the case ought to be.
The Rambler investigated this timber exploitation process and unmasked the evil behind the seemly economic booster. In fact, its nefarious consequences to the population of the Southwest Region out-weigh its benefits to the exploiter and the state. The exploiters and a few cheats in big Government offices reap from what is, in short, an official racket.
Is the Southwest in Sangmelima?
To begin with, strong rumours persist that those logs of timber are all stamped to give the impression that they are harvested from a forest in Sangmelima, in the South Region. This, therefore, implies that any benefit accruing from the exploitation would be directed to the Sangmelima municipality rather than the suffering farmers of Upper Bayang and Eyomujock, whose cocoa farmlands suffer in the process of felling and transporting of the timber. Maybe, just for the sake of this exercise, there is now a short cut that links Sangmelima to Kumba then to Douala? However, The Rambler couldn’t independently ascertain this claim. Someone gave to believe that what looks like Sangmelima that is stamped on the logs is actually the name of the exploiting company. The dicey issue here now is, why would the name of an exploitation company be conveniently stamped on timber logs?
To worsen it all, the articulated heavy duty trucks conveying the timber are always heavily escorted by either police or gendarmes, ostensibly to prevent them from being routinely checked at different check points and secondly to prevent the truck drivers from attacks by disgruntled villages who feel cheated. These are security operatives paid monthly by tax payers money to safeguard the lives of Cameroonians; but they are seen more to be protecting the pecuniary interests of private moneybags colluding with local Government brass. A victim of the holdup along Mamfe-Bamenda road wondered if it wasn’t more prudent for security details to be accompanying and protecting ordinary Cameroonians exposed to highwaymen at night instead of big necks that do nothing but thieve timber, ruin forests, destroy the ozone layer and bring about untold hardship to locals.
Climate change challenges
F u r t h e r m o r e , Cameroon has in recent years joined the international community to fight against climate change which of course, is gradually becoming a global crisis. One of the causes of climate change we are told by scholars is deforestation. That is exactly what the Manyu Division is experiencing. Timber trees which take approximately 200 years to grow to full maturity, are mercilessly harvested, pulling down at least 100 other smaller trees each time one of them is felled. In the process, no programmed concomitant replanting exercise as prescribed by legislation is effected. Reforestation suffers and precious timbers are exposed to extinction.
Crushing punishment, accidents on new road Also, given the heavy nature of the trucks and the timbers combined, road engineers have been arguing that the lifespan of the new Kumba-Mamfe is most likely to be very short. The consequence is that while local inhabitants will very quickly resort to suffering the effects of bad roads, the exploiters and their henchmen would be most likely enjoying in highbrow neighbourhoods in either the economic or political capital. As if that is not bad enough, the truckers hardly even respect the recent law restricting heavy duty automobile to circulating only at night. These truck drivers have repeatedly caused accidents and frequent congestion experienced on major highways elsewhere in the country. The phenomenon of recent, has been drifting to the Kumba road, ostensibly because of the high presence and recklessness of these timber truckers.
In fact apart of money paid to the Government by these timber exploiters probably another economic gain which one can advance from the activities of the truck drivers is that they get into sexual markets with prostitutes, which of course is a double edged sword as the result of such activity is unwanted pregnancies and spread of diseases and all that goes with it.They thus, endangering the lives of those living along the road corridors.