Sunday, January 19, 2020

Cameroon of French companies

On Friday October 21 at 1 p.m., the Camrail train connecting Yaoundé to Douala derailed arriving at Eseka. The actual death toll (officially 76) will probably never be established. It could amount to several hundred victims. More than five hundred were injured. Such a disaster was foreseeable. A series of circumstances made it inevitable. The collapse of a bridge first made the Yaoundé-Douala road axis impassable, while most passenger transport is by coach, due to the insufficient rail connection: only one train per day. , extreme slowness, numerous breakdowns. The Cameroonian Minister of Transport therefore asked Camrail to add wagons, departing from Yaoundé, to the train coming from Ngaoundéré, in the north of Cameroon, to reach Douala. Seven - some say eight - cars were added to the train, which already had nine. According to information revealed by railroad workers, these additional Chinese-made wagons did not have a suitable braking system. Between Yaoundé and Douala, there is a steep gradient. Going down the hill before Eseka, 200 km from Yaoundé, the train picked up speed. On the track, narrow gauge, remained at the colonial standards of the XIXth century, this caused the derailment first of the seven wagons of tail, of which four fell in a ravine, then of eight of the nine others. Residents rescued the injured and took care of the bodies of the dead, as best they could. Public first aid did not arrive until around 6 p.m., five hours after the accident. Eseka Hospital, devoid of drugs, was unable to welcome the wounded who had to be evacuated to Douala and Yaoundé. Several days after the disaster, the emergency services still could not extract all the corpses from the four wagons sunk in a swamp at the bottom of the ravine. They are therefore likely to remain abandoned there with the wrecks that the Cameroonian State has proved unable to evacuate. 

Modern Cameroon All these circumstances bluntly reveal the state in which Cameroon finds itself in 2016. Abandonment and dilapidation of the "heavy axis" road which connects the two main cities of Cameroon, Douala, officially two million inhabitants and Yaoundé almost as much. However this "heavy axis" is crisscrossed daily by intense traffic, multiple coaches and minibuses of public transport, innumerable logging companies draining wood, the first wealth of Cameroon, towards the port of Douala, heavy goods vehicles and private cars. Fatal accidents, for which we have no reliable statistics, are almost daily to the point that we call this route "the road to death", each of his relatives or acquaintances who lost their lives there. The railway meanwhile is in tune: antediluvian tortillard, equipped with obsolete equipment bought at a discount, it was privatized in 1999, in the wave of Structural Adjustment Plans imposed by the IMF. The Bolloré group obtained the concession. While the public company Régifercam, although plagued by corruption and in chronic deficit, still provided in the 1990s a decent passenger service, since privatization the demands of profit from liberalism have almost completely reduced this service in favor of good goods traffic more profitable. The transport of materials for the construction of the DobaKribi oil pipeline in the 2000s, then the transport of heavy equipment for the interventions of the French army in Chad and the Central African Republic, with the evacuation of raw materials to the port of Douala , have undermined the old colonial infrastructure - we no longer count the recurring derailments that affect the Yaoundé-Ngaoundéré section but have been enough to ensure substantial profits, which in particular allows Bolloré to play with its media in France. Passenger service has become a negligible appendage. It has been a long time since we went from Yaoundé to Douala except by coach.

This table is that of "development" in French-speaking Africa, that is to say colossal development of the fortunes accumulated by a compradorous, greedy, servile, irresponsible, incompetent and harmful ruling class, concomitant development - one cannot be without other - the profits of the multinationals exploiting the country - an almost exclusive subject of the much-vaunted GDP growth - glaring absence or dilapidated infrastructure, which testifies to the obscenity of the few pennies thrown to a begging population; all under the paternal concern of France, of course.

Odile Tobner

Journalist: Odile Tobner