Frequent power blackouts sinking Cameroon’s economy

By Achaleke Ashley*

The issue of tempestuous power outages in Cameroon has begun attaining unbearable levels, leaving many a citizen to opine that the country has fallen apart completely. Cameroonians are being deprived of a necessity. Bribes are taken daily regarding this issue, be it in Buea, Bamenda, Mamfe or any other town in Cameroon. The litany of woes associated to this phenomenon of regular power outages that have made electricity supply epileptic in some communities and comatose in others is a veritable cause for concern.

Citizens pay bills daily but do not get the end product as per bills paid. Light is rather infrequent in most parts of the country. Managers would rather be seen gallivanting around during working hours instead of being at their duty posts. Insipid speeches and other banal propaganda more or less light up the nation a lot more than functional turbines, kilowatts and megawatts. Cameroonians are subjected to offering huge bribes just to ensure they are supplied with electricity. Cameroon is a blessed land with so many areas where big rivers, dotted all over the national territory can be harnessed to supply electricity for its citizens. There are other nations on the African continent with less means of generating electricity but they seldom face shortages, let alone outages. Botswana is one such, where good governance exists, where there is zero tolerance for corruption and ineptitude and whose institutions work almost with the accuracy of a Switch watch.

Decayed poles dangle precariously, constituting huge deadly danger for denizens. Transformers are of fictitiously low capacity, yet quixotic speeches and promises are regularly made to the effect that every nook and cranny of the nation “has either seen the light” or would be connected to a functional grid before the start of an ostentatious soccer jamboree. Hardly anything is done ensure the comfort of citizens who now celebrate a rare shining bulb or fluorescent tube. Assurance speeches and propaganda are spewed even as lights flicker and go out, sometimes leaving certain big towns in pitch darkness for months. Hardly have the citizens been apologized to, when their electrical appliances were blown or when their homes were burnt, thanks to electrical power fluctuations. Yet, disconnections are hurriedly carried out when one defaults in paying one’s bill for the month.   Poles decay and eventually crumble before ENEO staffers start fidgeting. Little attention is turned towards this and more, but workers find pleasure in petty offerings to fill their pockets with no work done in return.

Electricity is a basic necessity and if one is deprived they rather feel uncomfortable, with businesses crumbling. Some nursing mothers are in need of electricity to be able to nurse their babies; others use it to store their beverages or perishables in their refrigerators. The instability of light generally causes the destruction of phones, television sets, radios among others. Some could lose their houses due to the force in which light is brought back after it is cut off.

Individuals grope in darkness daily, while technicians fold their arms, blaming everything else on bureaucracy. They act like they do their work whereas the work done is not satisfactory. It is ironical that with one of the highest potentials of hydro-electrical power potential in the continent, the most that Cameroonians have enjoyed in this sector so far are the speeches that promise heaven but deliver hell.

Electricity is important to every individual in particular and every sector of the economy in general. This inconsistency of power supply has been for a while and consumers begin to wonder if their suppliers are aware of the huge losses incurred and overall damage done to the national economy. The simple replacement of rotten poles are suggestions laid out by consumers and also the replacement of transformers to ones of high capacity to supply its consumers. This costs practically very, very little to achieve. But corruption, inertia and a general work ethic that is daily sinking the nation has almost always ended in spending the pound to catch the penny.

The same bureaucrats refraining “emergence by 3035” in every other speech, are either shamelessly unaware or criminally compromising on what pivotal role electricity power supply plays in every facet of national development.

*Siantou journalism student on internship

Military brutality getting out of hand

It is no longer news that the military assaults or even kill civilians in the Anglophone part of the country for very incomprehensible reasons; what is strange is the fact that, they no longer molest only the energetic young men but just anybody. They now accuse just anyone of being an accomplice of their opponents; ‘Amba boys.’ It is either they accuse one of supplying them with food stuff, arms or simply having something to do with them.

On Thursday, January 24 in Muea, a locality in Buea Sub-Division, the military indiscriminately molested civilians; the young, the old, men and women alike on the very casual unverified excuse that they have ‘something’ to do with the ‘Ambazonian Fighters.’

Going by Gerald Alioh, one of the victims, it was about 9:30am when his dad and he were heading to a relative’s house in the Muea neighborhood when the soldiers, dressed in mufti stopped their car, ordered them out. They were made to sit on the ground and tortured. Alioh explained, “They asked me out of the car and before I could step out, one of them kicked me on my buttocks, the other fetched for a solid stick and gave me serious lashes on my back. They also made my dad who is over 65years old to sit on dust after one of the soldiers slapped him on his jaw. My dad suffered an injury in his mouth because for some time now he has been having problems with his teeth.”

The Buea city dweller noted that, like others, the militia accused them of working in collaboration with the ‘Ambazonian Forces’. “They said it was elderly people like my dad who are sponsoring ‘Amba boys’. After interrogating us, the military boys insisted that we must bring to them the person to whose house we were headed. We had to reach him on phone and he came, and that was when they left us, not after they had also beaten that my uncle up too for no reason,” the victim stated.

Another victim of military brutality, Emmanuel Neba told ‘The Rambler’ that, he was walking past when the men in uniform called him and just started commanding that he should provide the ‘Shut Gun’ which he was in position of. He said he was lost because he had no idea of what they were talking about but they didn’t listen to him. On the contrary, he said they started beating him, claiming that they have been told that he is the one transporting weapons to the ‘Amba boys.’

“The more I tried to explain that I was innocent, the more they got annoyed and were kicking me on every side; it was God who rescued me from them otherwise, they might have even killed me and no one will ever know what happened to me,” Neba said.

Such cases abound. There are also times when the military will just invade a neighbourhood and arrest randomly; those arrested will in the end pay FCFA 25,000 each, at least before regaining their freedom. The people say their only wish is for God to intervene so that a lasting solution is found to the ongoing crisis.

By Nester Asonganyi

How war victims are adapting to bush life

“Life is gradually becoming very normal for those who fled into the bush especially in Munyenge, in the Southwest Region due to unrest and insecurity that has highly hit their area,” says a Cameroonian youth. For almost a year now living in the bush, Oforka Rebecca a 24 year old lady recounts how they fled into the bush and how life has been for eight months now.

“Military people have settled in our area and there are constant shootouts between warring parties, endangering the lives of natives, so we ran into the bush. One Sunday morning we were home and suddenly heard as people were heading to our village. We were not even aware of their mission or motive but we just ran into the bush. After that they came and were burning houses because they wanted to make their camp in Munyenge. Documents of people were burnt, houses as many were rendered homeless even at the moment,” she narrated.

Oforka added: “They were shooting to scare off people so that they could establish. Their reason, according to what we heard was that they got information that our land is a training ground for ‘Amba boys’ but which is not true. Even though the boys are actually in Munyenge, the truth is, they live far away in the bush and only come out when they want to operate.  Most of us don’t even know where they live particularly because they don’t even permit people to go close to them except if one is a member of their group.

“Bullets were flying over our heads while we were even scampering for safety into bushes.”

How life was during the first month in the bush

“It really wasn’t easy for the first one to two months living in the bush. During that period, life was just so tough, as many fell ill and died since our bodies were still to adapt to that of regular animals in the bush; no good source of drinking water, mosquito bites but gradually life became very normal.

Life at present in the bush

“Life in the bush at the moment is even better than our houses to the extent that even if we are asked to go home, we would even prefer the bush.All activities that took place normally in the village also take place in the bush. People do their businesses only in the bushes. They buy from Muyuka and sell in the scrubland, and others do their traditional marriage there, birthday celebrations just to name but these.

“We also have mosquito nets that were provided by the Government before the crisis, so we took them to the bush and built our small huts since we cultivate mostly cocoa. We put our mattresses on ovens designed to dry cocoa and sleep.

“We also have cocoa buyers who stay with us and buy cocoa then transport to Douala. There are tailors, shoe menders, we go to church and do everything as in the village.

How marriages are done in the wild

Questioned on how marriages are carried out in the bush, she stated that if a man and woman wish to get married, the two families meet, if they approve the union, they then organize a small area still in the bush where people will meet, eat and drink and life moves on normally. The only difference from home according to Oforka is potable drinking water because we just have but small streams which farmers used to use to spray their cocoa but we now use it as a source of drinking water. So most us do suffer from malaria and typhoid which is being caused by our surroundings and poor hygienic methods.”

Health units in the bush

“We also have small health units. The nurses and doctors who were with us before the war also ran into the bush and have built small health centers were people visit when sick or for child birth, except when the cases are bad that they are referred to the hospitals in the towns. The hospital bill is also very expensive and the absence of a medical laboratory to run tests makes life difficult because for complex situations which require that a test be done, they are referred to hospitals in town.”

Number of deaths and unfriendly surrounding

“We have recorded cases of snake bites because of the surrounding and the lack of electricity since we use but bush lamps at night. Snakebites are very common and almost inevitable in our area. We have been in the bush now for about eight months and about 20 people have died while in the bush. A majority of them died and there was no means taking them to the village so most of them were buried in the bush but when it is possible for burial to take place in the village, we go bury the corpse then do the entertainment in the bush.”

Natives caught in the web of military and Amba

“Apart from the military we also face challenges with the ‘Amba Boys.’ They are noted for suppressing farmers. They demand huge sums of money from poor farmers. They demand high amounts from those they think have money, for others who have their bush guns, they forcefully take their guns, but we are gradually coping with them.

“We are caught up in the web of the military and ‘Amba.’ Most often we bewail that it would have been better that we remain and suffer the way we had been before the crisis than running from all fronts, both the military and ‘Amba.’

“Most people are even scared of going back to the village because the military can arrive at any moment and no one knows his or her fate in such situation. There have been times when people ran back and homes were searched, people taken out and killed. That is why most people are scared of going back to the village.

Even though we are being suppressed by ‘Amba,’ if opportunity is given for us to choose between the ‘Amba’ and the military we would choose the ‘Amba’ because they don’t shoot us with guns but the military does and very casually.”

Respect of imposed ‘ghost town’ in the bush

“While in the bush we still do respect ‘ghost town.’ There are days that they will inform us of a three day ghost town dubbed “mami water ghost town” and on such days, we just wake up make our food and eat, then sit in our huts but when it is evening, we can open our market centres.”

On how a common market centre was created in the bush, she stated that it started by the help of a pharmacist who one day displayed drugs on a land belonging to no one and as people saw him; they started building their market sheds which has now become a big market centre. The 24 year old girl added that for those who don’t have land in the bush, they have built their own houses by the market side while others stayed back home alerting those in the farm by phone or ringing of bells whenever the military is around.”

Councilors created to dissolve disputes

She revealed that in the bush, councilors have been created who settle disputes amongst settlers in the bush and that like in towns; they have names of different localities in the bush. Some areas she said have been dubbed Dubai and the market named ‘number one water.’

“We really want the crisis to come to an end because I as an example, my education has stopped for the moment. I pray the Government makes things better for people to live peacefully. Even if we were asked to go back to the village, I don’t even know where we would live because our houses have been burnt down,” Oforka lamented.

By Relindise Ebune

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