364 Mondays Lost to Ghost Towns

Tuesday the 9th January 2024 makes exactly seven years since the first ghost towns were respected in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon.

First declared by the Cameroon civil society consortium, made up of teachers and lawyers who had tabled grievances in the latter part of 2016, the ghost towns were highly respected throughout English-speaking Cameroon.

For what many thought will last just for that Monday, ghost towns have been respected over the last seven years.

Transportation into and out of major cities have remained blocked. Seeking medical care on Mondays is a far-fetched reality.

If mathematically calculated, a total of 364 days have been lost to ghost towns. This means one full year of zero economic activities have been lost.

Other political observers think the time is even longer as more days have been lost due to impromptu ghost towns.

When Tasang Wilfred was in-charge of the consortium, ghost towns span from Mondays to Wednesdays each week, 10 days prior to the 11th February youth day, CPDM anniversary day on March 24th, Labour day on May 1, National day on May 20th, Teachers Day on October 5th. 

Prior to the start of every school year, lengthy periods of close to 10 days are observed as ghost towns. Same thing happens to the Independence day of Southern Cameroons on October 1.

This civil disobedience has created a difficult economic situation in the North West and South West Regions. The economies need to jumpstart again as several businesses have either folded up or relocated to other regions.

The Education sector which was a major attraction before October 2016 has been the hardest hit.

In March 2023, OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) published these remarks

"In January 2023, the situation in the North-West and South-West regions (NWSW) remained tense, with continued violence and targeted attacks. Armed confrontations and the increased use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continued leading to the death, injury, and displacement of civilians.

"More than 15,130 people were displaced from their places of origin due to violence and targeted attacks. Most of the current displacements within the NWSW are pendular, with the majority of the displaced persons returning to their place of origin once the security situation allows. Areas most affected by these displacements include Manyu and Meme divisions in the SW, and Menchum, Momo and Mezam divisions in the NW.

"Access to education remained a challenge with a high demand in urban areas due to high influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from rural areas and continued acts of violence or threats against school staff, students, and premises. Humanitarian access remained challenging with partners reporting over 52 incidents. Bureaucratic impediments, demands for illegal payments, repeated lockdowns and roadblocks, diversion of humanitarian aid, kidnappings, and the sustained use of IEDs in public spaces and main roads frequented by humanitarian actors in both urban and rural areas, made programming and delivery of humanitarian assistance very challenging. Humanitarian organisations suspended their interventions in Small Ekombe, (Meme division) for about 14 days due to demands of NSAGs for illegal payments in that area. Access to communities around Ndop subdivision in the NW and beyond have remained difficult due to a ban of movement roadblock imposed by NSAGs on the Bamenda-Ndop axis since 27 November 2022. However, humanitarian access, though challenging, has remained possible.

"Health care providers, services, and facilities as well as patients remained vulnerable with continued threats and violence from parties to the conflict." OCHA reports.

They have been indiscriminate lockdowns in some Divisions of the North West spanning three months. Boyo Division, Momo Division and Ngoketunjia went for more than three months with limited or zero access to the area through the road.

Referral patients to the Mbingo Baptist hospital in Boyo Division could not get there while food stuffs produced in the villages could not access markets in urban centres.

In his 31st December 2023 speech, Cameroon's President Paul Biya stated that the situation is improving and prescribed more collaboration between the civilian population and the defense and security forces. 

Unfortunately, the celebration of the feast of nativity and the welcoming of the new year which fell on a Monday were celebrated at a low key.

Sporadic gunshots could be heard in Bamenda on Christmas day which greatly hampered the movement of persons.

The ghost town phenomenon continues in some parts of the North West and South West Regions. In Buea, Limbe and Nkambe, movement of persons and goods is very possible on Mondays meanwhile in other places, only the brave can dare.


Ndi Tsembom Elvis

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