By Ngala Hans, Dec. 12, 2016
Cameroon Journal, Bamenda – Uneasy calm has returned to Bamenda after riots that turned deadly last Thursday, though the town remains heavily militarized.
Residents woke up Saturday morning to sounds of loud shots, which came from around Mile 2 Junction, a popular point in Bamenda and one of the routes to Atanga Nji’s Ntabessi house. Irate youths had sworn to bring down the house to ashes but for the heavily armed security men guarding the building.
Starting December 8 morning, many residents began leaving the town, especially the student residential vicinity of Bambili that is host to Bamenda University. It was literally deserted when the Cameroon Journal visited. Only a few persons could be seen dotted here and there. Some could be seen boarding the few brave taxis that were working with all their belongings. One student who gave us his names as Musa Nji, a Level 200 Telecommunication Engineering student explained why he wasn’t leaving, “My parents live in Mbalmayo and the roads from here
to Mbalmayo are terrible. Not only that, it costs a fortune to travel from Bamenda to get down there. I better just hang around and hope that tensions cool down. There are thirty rooms in this hostel building but as we speak, just two of us are left in the building. I and a lady who lives upstairs. She was talking of traveling tomorrow, so I may be the lone person left” Musa explained with a quivering voice.
He added that many students’ hostels had been gassed or watered for no reason by security forces. “Just this morning, we heard a loud bang outside and before we knew it, smoke filled the entire building and we realized it was teargas. We simply stayed indoors for fear of going outside and getting hurt. I don’t know what these people want from us,” he said with visible anger.
Just a few meters from the hostel where Musa lives is the campus of the National Polytechnic, Bambui which was literally vacant when the Cameroon Journal got there. Just one security
was on site and no one else. Musa who had spoken to us earlier mentioned that foreign students from the Gambia and Equatorial Guinea were among some of the first to leave the country once footage of the shootings in Bamenda made global headlines.
Meanwhile, in downtown Bamenda, trigger-happy security men have turned the city looking like a “war front”, firing teargas or water cannons for no plausible reason at unarmed civilians. The frequent gassing, coupled with the many tires that were burnt as well as the dusty roads of Bamenda has made many Bamendans to resort to wearing face masks as a way of grappling with the situation. The masks were originally being distributed free of charge by the Bamenda Regional Hospital but as the crises deteriorated and more teargas was being fired, coupled with the dust, it had to be sold. The Cameroon Journal caught up with a vendor of the face masks at Mobil Nkwen and he gave us his names only as Joel, a second-year Business Management student at National Polytechnic Bambui.
“It is harmful for dust, teargas and other substances to be inhaled into the lungs. Coupled with the fact that I am a student and I am idle now, I decided to be retailing these face masks. At the end of the day I raise a token to support myself with”.
Face masks are now a common sight in Bamenda and even if someone is not wearing his or hers, it’s always kept handy because no one knows when an excited security man may fire the gas known as riot control agents (RCAs) or scientifically as Chlorobenzylidene Malononitrile (CS), Chloroacetophenone (CN), and Dibenz(b,f)-1,4-oxazepine.
They can be mixed with water to disperse crowds and will have an itchy effect on the body until they are washed with water. If mixed with water and sprayed, it can still affect the lungs as is the case at SONAC Street where road users at a particular juncture of the road have to
use face masks to avoid inhaling the itchy substance which now rises with dust particles and enters the lungs with an irritating effect.
As Bamenda is beginning to timidly resume its routine activities in spite of the heavy military presence, another protest has erupted in Kumbo. A young man whose names the Cameroon journal got just as Divine who was killed by security forces in Bamenda on December 8 was buried Saturday Dec. 10. He was an “okada” man and more than two-hundred bikes accompanied his corpse from Bamenda to his native Taakui, a tiny suburb by Kumbo.
The “okada” people demanded that all shops and businesses be closed, which was done. Tires were burnt at key areas in Kumbo like Squares Roundabout and Taa-Mbveh. The Cameroon Journal also gathered that more troops were deployed to Kumbo to add to the ones that had earlier been sent there though the town had respected the strike action by teachers with no incident though last week, there were unconfirmed reports that the military brutally beat some young men in Kumbo for “non-possession of ID cards”.