Injunction on bags in markets: Popular fury over administrative order putting ‘the cart before the horse’
As the government of Cameroon continues its trial-by-error efforts at resolving the crisis in the North West and southwest Regions, administrators have been rolling out ‘impossible’ orders in recent days.
Ahead of pioneer regional elections on December 6 amidst mounting insecurity, plus the uncertainties that come with end-of-year festivities, civil administrators seem to be taking desperate, yet uninformed, decisions.
Last week, the Senior Divisional Officer, SDO, for Fako Division, Engamba Emmanuel Ledoux, placed an injunction on the carrying of bags and luggage in public spaces including offices, markets, bars, and off/on licences among others.
In a separate note to Mayors in Fako, Engamba said bags should not be allowed into markets, charging security officers to enforce the order.
“I have the honour to request you to immediately ensure that all markets and other types of sales points within your competence are strictly controlled while restricting persons from entering into these places with bags and other types of luggage,” said the graduate of the school of administration and magistracy, ENAM, an institution known to have trained those sinking the country.
Just like the ban on non-biodegradable plastics and restrictions on indecent dressing, this is yet another vague and impossible order, locals say.
For one thing, and in characteristic overzealousness, the SDO failed to describe the reason for the prohibition and the kind of bags that are not to be taken to these public spheres. He also failed to prescribe a substitute. How will sellers transport their goods to markets if not in bags and how will locals shop, if not with bags?
As such, the people of Fako Division wonder, and rightfully so, how effective the order is going to be. But such a vague order can only come from a Cameroonian administrator.
But come to think of it, is there any market worth the name in Fako Division? How can the control on entry be done when the many markets in Fako are without strict entries?
But as women wonder how they will have to hence do without handbags, buyers and sellers may start carrying their goods in open buckets, maybe, as a solution.
Cameroonians in the North West and South West Regions are yet to come to terms with the Minister of Territorial Administration’s order calling for the licencing of machetes, iron rod, axes before purchase.
The SDO, like the minister, has simply given free licence to overzealous security officers to exploit the population.
When a locally made “explosive device concealed in a black and red bag, representing an electronic device with remote activation, consisting of a motorbike battery, a memory card, and electrical wires” exploded in a bar in Yaoundé on November 2, 2020, authorities quickly prohibited locals from carrying bags and other suspicious items to public places.
Rene Emmanuel Sadi, Communication Minister & Government spokesman, said two plastic bottles containing an inflammatory liquid and an empty refrigerator gas canister, with signs of charring, were found at the scene of the explosion that left nine people injured.
Armed separatists were believed to be responsible for the attacks. The view has since gained ground after two men, who wanted to detonate an explosive in Douala’s Bonaberi on November 18, 2020, rather became victims. Their artisanal bomb rather exploded and injured them, authorities say, citing confessions from the men who are now receiving medical attention while in custody.
The new security measures, therefore, come in the heart of campaigns leading up to the first-ever regional elections billed for December 6. Armed separatists against the polls have sworn to foil the process.
Government authorities have, however, assured electors, who are councilors and traditional rulers, that “everything is under control”.
Instead of solving, the root causes of the crisis and having a sincere dialogue with the protagonists, the government continues to rely on riding high horses and taking measures that only increase the pain of the helpless masses.
An army trained to protect the people has rather been drafted to kill the same people. The oddity is when a soldier who is paid to protect civilian lives takes them away with tragic ease like the cases in Ngarbuh and the Far North Region.
On the other hand, the separatists are hoodlums who the authorities called terrorists. However, it is said that the separatists, who projected themselves as the messiahs, have turned the feat of violence against the very people they claim to be fighting for, planting bombs to kill them.
Nevertheless, the government of 87-year-old Paul Biya must refrain from repressive measures. Such acts of repression and restrictions against the poor masses stain the image of our country and contradict claims that ‘the situation is under control’.
Let the authorities know that repression has never been a solution to any crisis in the world. It only helps to breed more frustrations and more violence. Initiating dialogue is not a sign of weakness. Violence is the weapon of the weak, the State will be stronger if it initiates a dialogue that would lead to a peaceful solution to the numerous and multi-faceted crises ailing Cameroon.
It is now incumbent on the authorities to eschew this cycle of repression and do the right thing—dialogue. Right now, the State is alone against many adversaries, including diplomats, the clergy, civil society, human rights, media organizations, the UN, and the international community, and now, market women and those who patronize eateries and bars, for telling the government the truth of the crisis.
Let authorities listen to the voices of reason, logic, and peace in this whole palaver.
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