( The Genuine Worries of Global Information Network, GLOBINET*)
mmorality, perversion and depravation are vices that any sane person or community will shun and stay away from, except the cousins of the evil one. These vices are all embodied in one word called corruption, a phenomenon that has long become the pseudonym of Cameroun. The long yearned-for ring road is so far at an advanced stage, covering the Baba 1, Babessi, Jakiri to River Bui (Kumbo) stretch. As if this silver linen in a thick cloud is irritating the authorities in hell, some nasty development has been noticed on the entire stretch from Bamenda to even Nkambe- poor old abandoned Nkambe. That development is called “Routiers” in the parlance understood in our Camerounaise context as Traffic Police!
The Ugly Picture:
Long before the ongoing work on the Bamenda Ring Road, passengers travelling on it paid for three things at a go: first, they paid for the bad state of the road, as the driver had to pay boys on the bad spots to push the cars; second was paying to make up for what the driver will “bribe” the “Chefs Oficiers” on the way with; third, they paid for the normal travelling in the vehicle.
Let us take, for instance, a passenger travelling from Nkambe to Bamenda. The official rate we learn is cfa 3000, but what was being paid until recently was cfa 6000. Here is how the other cfa3000 is shared. From Nkambe to ndu, GLOBINET saw gendarme officers and police at two check points, then there is the so-called “Road Safety”. From ndu to jakiri, you have five check points, with two of those “Road Safety” guys. From Babessi to Bamenda, you have four control points and one “Road Safety” check point. In all, we have eleven (11) police/ gendarme checks, and four “Road Safety” points!
According to GLOBINET’s findings, at each check point, the driver doles out a thousand francs (cfa1000) to the police/gendarme controls (each force to take cfa500…while each of the “Road Safety” crooks get five hundred francs! This entails that the driver doles out eleven thousand francs to the supposed security guys in uniform, and two thousand francs to the “Road Safety” people. In which case, if a small five seater car loaded only at the regularized acceptable four passengers at cfa 3000, he will collect 12,000frs, fuel it and on return trip could end up with a balance of less than 7000frs…everything being equal.
So, what the driver resorts to is to double the load, double the fare, take seven passengers at 6000frs each, making 42,000frs. After giving out 13,000frs, to the highway authorized robbers in uniform, and fueling the car for say 17,000frs, he is left with 22,000frs from which the park boys squeeze out 7000frs as “camp”, with the Municipal council having less than 500frs. If he were to make an immediate return trip, he benefits as the “Control Security” will shut their eyes to him! In all these arrangements, the loser is the state and the travelers! Isn’t it?
Enter the ‘Notorious Routiers”
Just as travelers on the Ring Road were breathing an air of relief and raising their hands in thanksgiving to God when the fare dropped from 6000frs to 5000frs, Bamenda-Nkambe, the agents from hell have yet unleashed a bitter one once more-true to what Jesus Christ insinuates in John 10:10(a)- that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy. Otherwise, what accounts for the sudden introduction of these “luxurious” looking guys in smart neat uniforms called “Routiers” ( Traffic Police ). Hitherto, they had taken permanent abode at a dangerous spot on the rough climb from Bambili to Sabga…less than 500meters from another gang up at the Sabga Plateau. They come in as early as 5a.m. in two beautiful luxurious expensive cars and a huge state bike, sit in these cars smoking and sipping some expensive wine with a pencil a notebook and a whistle. The regular customers know the rules. Whether your car is in order or not, whether you are overloaded or not, you stop some ten meters away from them, step out of the car ( most times the driver tells the 7th passenger to put his left foot on the brakes!!!) runs over to the ‘officer’s car, and simply drop your thousand francs. If you pretend to have forgotten, they blow their whistle and you stop, and if luck fails you, you pay 2000frs!
Passengers have been grumbling and wondering why a state of law like Cameroon will allow this open vice to ensue. Last February, a 4-seater car was overloaded to its brim, with 8 passengers, and it passed this point, performed the usual diabolic ritual as well as with the other gang up at Sabga, and three kms away, somersaulted killing four of the passengers on the spot, the other five occupants later perished in hospital simply because the driver had lost control due to overload. CRTV’s Morning Safari had called for these officers who were on duty that morning to be charged to court for having “closed their eyes” when this car passed their check points! Up to this day, nothing has been done, because these officers are obeying instructions from above!
Paradoxically, instead of punishing them or removing them from the road, the authorities have multiplied these check points on the Ring Road for no other purpose than extorting more monies from drivers…and by extension from the poor passengers. ( The Matthew Effect “ to those who have, more will be added…” Now, we can spot them, with brand new sophisticated bikes and cars at Nkar, Kakar and Binshua doing the same disastrous work like those at Bambili. They are arrogant, fierce and lousy. They understand two languages… French and a thousand francs!
One would have taken them to be some new toll gates on the newly constructed road, yet what of those in Ndu and Nkambe with yet very poor roads. And to think that drivers have oncemore added 500frs to make up for what they have to give to these fellows! Since they came around, how many vehicles have they intercepted for violating the highway code or being out of order to merit additional points on the Bui and Donga Mantung stretch. GLOBINET’s findings indicate that less than two transport vehicles are charged to court each year for one or other illegal motives. So, the one conclusion is that the state of Cameroun is openly endorsing bribery and corruption, yet pretending to fight them.
Addressing the Syndrome:
In 1998, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Cameroon stated that corruption has attained a suicidal level in our country. It is accepted today as a normal way of life, so much so that those who practice it no longer feel the slightest guilt. There is this girl at GBHS Bamenda who keeps coming late to school on Wednesdays and Fridays. When the Master of Discipline sought to get the reason why, she revealed that her father goes to “work” on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When he returns at night, she is forced to do the ironing and straightening of all the monies he squeezes from the drivers on the highway. She just fell short of calling the father a highway robber! She even said she had queried her dad as to whether he gives receipts to all those who give him the cash, and he replied that it is a deal from the top in Yaoundé and that if he doesn’t “work hard” to bring at least cfa500,000frs a day, he will not be eligible to be in that sector which he “bought” with money! She said her dad keeps 10% of what he collects and hands the rest to his immediate next boss who keeps his share and sends the rest up, until the Big Man in Yaoundé gets his own national share!
From the above analysis, we agree with the Durban Commitment that “while corruption bears with special cruelty upon the world’s most poor, it also debases human rights and destroys confidence in democracy and the legitimacy of governments”. 99.9 % have no respect for these guys on the roads, and worse still, they loath them like hell. GLOBINET notes that the factors that facilitate the spread of these horrendous activities of extortion, or petty corruption is greed and poverty. When these are presented to Mr. Head of State, he brings in the concept of “onus of proof”.
Isn’t it time we put in place an Ombudsman’s office to hear citizen’s complaints headed by Civil society Organizations like GLOBINET? It is time we adopt a “Zero Tolerance policy where officials caught in fraudulent activities are instantly dismissed or imprisoned. We recall that Botswana was rated the least corrupt African country, yet it is not the richest country in Africa. It is the nation with the best governance policy. It has an arsenal of measures very rigorous anti-corruption approach with an autonomous Directorate on corruption and Economic crime. It is GLOBINET’s wish that collective interest should always supersede individual interest. What is going on is undermining the government in the eyes of the people. We can only conclude that lack of morals and ear of the deity has been sacrificed at the shrine of material gains. Like OAS’s Secretary General, Garira Cesar, GLOBINET holds that fighting against corruption is a fight for social justice, because the poor are corruption’s biggest victims. It is time we stop this phenomenon the best way we can, and we have to start by doing away with these obnoxious and offensive acts of our so-called security guys on our highways.
· Global Information Network (GLOBINET) is a Human Rights Communication and Information Unit, affiliated to the African Commission on Human and peoples’ Rights, Banjul, The Gambia. Its Regional Coordinator for West Africa is Martin Fon Yembe, Publisher of The Frontier Telegraph, Vice President of CJA-Cameroon.
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