(Buea-Cameroon) A drivers’ protest in Buea against numerous obnoxious control posts mounted by security and defence forces in Buea, has forced the administration in Buea to reduce the number of makeshift checkpoints in the municipality.
The drivers’ protest was incited by the brutal assault of a driver, by security the forces.
The drivers narrated that their colleague was followed by a police pickup as he drove uptown. When the unsuspecting driver stopped to get a passenger on board, the police descended on him, kicking and hitting him with the butts of their assault rifles.
The driver was rushed to hospital where his colleagues later discovered him in intensive care. Seeing their colleague in very bad shape, the drivers resolved to plan a protest action.
On February 27, about 80 percent of taxis in Buea were grounded at about 11.00am. Commuters were compelled to trek as the available cabs could not ferry a greater part of the people.
The protest compelled the Divisional Officer, DO of Buea, Abba Abdurahman, and security officials to go down to the Molyko Omnisport Stadium, where the drivers had assembled.
At the Stadium, the drivers were told to delegate persons to discuss their grievances with the administration. The drivers rejected the proposition, rather asking the administrators to listen to their different problems and address them on the spot. The drivers complained that some security officers now mount security checks just anywhere in town, and that sometimes, there are several checkpoints everywhere in town. The drivers told the DO that, apart from slowing their business at the various checkpoints, the police, gendarmes and defence forces do not even check the car documents, but extort money from them. Some drivers complained that, at certain points, their car documents are seized when they refused to give money to the officers.
The incident in Muea, where a woman returning from the market was shot in a taxi and her kidney destroyed, because the driver refused to give money at a checkpoint, was also brought up. Some drivers complained that, at times, security forces seize their vehicles and drive them around town, using up the fuel and asking them to pay fines before collecting their cars. The Presidents of the taxi drivers’ unions in Buea also complained that the security elements denigrate and insult them when they try to intervene in situations concerning their union members. They complained that security forces treat drivers like criminals by aiming their weapons at moving cabs, as signal that they should pull over and ‘settle’ (bribe) before driving on.
After listening, the DO stepped aside and held a brief discussion with Police Commissioners and other security officials. He came back and promised the drivers that checkpoints will, henceforth, be only at entryways into Buea and that in case of any security checks, the drivers will be informed. He also tried to convince the drivers that it is vital for vehicles to be checked so that criminals do not come into Buea. The drivers were also given a telephone number to report any illegal security checkpoint they come across in Buea.
The drivers, however, promised that if the authorities fail to live up to their promises, they will again ground their taxis. Presently, the numerous impromptu checkpoints in Buea have reduced. The heavy traffic which came as a result of cars cueing up due to checks has also reduced.