By Tapuka Gerald, May 11, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Kumba – Two months to come, the historic town of Mamfe in the Southwest Region should be fully delivered from isolation. Construction work on the famous Kumba-Mamfe road project – The Cameroon Journal can authoritatively report, is almost over. For decades, one of the cries of the people of Manyu Division with Mamfe as chief town has been the tarring of this road which leads to Kumba and most of the South West Region. Year upon year, past Cameroon administrations played pawn with the people over the construction of the road.
Each time elections were by the corner, the CPDM gov’t drove bulldozers and literally abandoned them on the stretch of road to get residents thinking that work on it was about starting. Nothing ever happened. In fact, during the reign of Amahdu Ahidjo, Cameroon’s first President, the road was once on record as tarred. But again, it was just politics.
In President Biya’s 35 years of power, he promised again and again getting the road tarred, but none of the promises was fulfilled, not until the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Central African States Development Bank BDEAC, showed up to foot over 70% of the bills. Even so, it was only in 2014 that real business started on the road project.
Construction for the 151 kilometres road was divided into two phases. The first phase stretched from Kumba to Nfaitock with China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) in charge, while the second phase – Nfaitock-Batchuo-Akagbe stretch was given to another Chinese company – the Jiangsu Provincial Transportation Engineering Group Co. Ltd (JTEGC). Work on both phases went on simultaneously.
Suh Eric, one of the contractors at the site who spoke to The Cameroon Journal, said, they are 95 percent done, that only about 5 km are left around Nguti to be completed. He said that they are mainly doing finishing touches at the moment and building a weighing station at Ikiliwindi, one of the villages along the road.
“The road is already passable; you can see for yourself. It takes less than 4 hours to go to Mamfe now and drivers can now leave Kumba for Mamfe and back the same day, an unthinkable thing in the past,” Suh told our reporter with visible excitement. Asked whether they will meet the dateline of the project slated for end of 2017, he ecstatically responded that, in the next one month the work will be done.
Testimonies from villagers and users of the road
The Cameroon Journal met with many villagers who live along the highway and they greeted us with such exhilaration as if to proof that they are already enjoying the fruits of the new road. To them, thanks to the construction, their lives have already been transformed dramatically. “We now transport our goods at cheaper rates to Kumba. Previously it used to be hell here. It is also possible to see a car or bike at any time to go to Bamenda or any other place,” villagers told The Cameroon Journal.
A bike rider whose name we could only get as Andre, confessed that he can now ply the road peacefully. Because of the good state of the road, he said, he has bought farms at Etam, one of the villages along the road. Some drivers told us how in the past, they used bushy tracks, especially during the rainy season to get to Mamfe. “At times there was no road, everything was blocked and we will use the bush just to get to Mamfe,” a driver recounted the miseries of the past.
But until now, the only problem on the Kumba-Mamfe road wasn’t just the poor state of the road. There was a bigger challenge – traders were being attacked by armed robbers along the road. Some of them narrated how thieves would take advantage of the fact that very few vehicles plied the road to attack them especially when they were still on the way to buying goods. “We also suffered our own share of ‘coupeur des routes’,” one said. In such situations, they (traders) were always helpless since it could take hours for another vehicle to come by. Moreover, security forces dared not go after robbers because of the bad state of the road.
For the three years that the project has been on, workers and contractors disclosed to the Cameroon Journal the many challenges they have been facing on the road. One of the major challenges they said, comes from drivers of clandestine cars (clando) and some private drivers who are always in a hurry. They won’t respect the temporal
signs. Suh Eric recounted a story about a private car that was stopped because heavy bulldozers were on the tracks. “Immediately, the driver came out of the car with an automatic pistol asking them to clear the way very fast. There was great commotion that day,” he said. “Every day when we come to work, we don’t know what will happen; whether somebody would be knocked down by cars that don’t respect the signs or workers, or another armed person would come by.” Another worker said.
Financing the Project
The Kumba-Mamfe road project is being financed by the African Development Fund (ADF), the Central African States Development Bank (BDEAC) and the state of Cameroon to the tune of 68.8 billion FRS CFA. The ADF is covering 43% of the total sum, BDEAC, 29% and the government of Cameroon, 27%.
The road will greatly facilitate economic activities between Cameroon and Nigeria, two greatest trading partners in the West and Central Africa regions. Nigeria depends on Agricultural products from Cameroon while manufactured goods from Nigeria have their markets in Cameroon. With completion of the road, Nigerian industries would also be able to target the Central Africa Republic market. Moreover, produce from inland South West region can now reach Limbe or Douala ports easily for exportation. Moreover, Mamfe will now be connected to Buea the regional capital via Kumba and some parts of Lebialem and Kupe Muanenguba divisions would have been dis-enclaved, thanks to the road.
What was once described as a myth is finally reality, we witnessed how the once nightmarish Kumba-Mamfe road has become a jewel and a catalyst for economic and social progress.