Cameroon: In the grip of multiple crises
Cameroon has known so many challenges, such as meningitis and terrorist attacks in the north and a civil war that has sent many civilians and soldiers to an early grave in the two English-speaking regions of the country, but by some miracle, the country is still standing on one leg.
Despite the massive and destructive corruption that has become a way of life in the country, many Cameroonians are still hopeful that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but many analysts hold that the light at the end of the tunnel may be that of an oncoming train that might kill many people. Dark clouds have been gathering over the country over the last ten years, but by some stroke of luck, a rainbow always appeared to instill hope in the people.
Cameroonians are running on hope. The escalation of food prices and the fear of a popular revolt across the country are causing the Biya regime to lose sleep while many Cameroonians seek avenues of leaving the country.
Hope alone will not enable them to meet their basic needs. Cameroonians believe that the country will not avoid a man-made disaster manufactured by a government that is deaf and dumb because one person must die in power.
The government has been dealing with a lot, but 2022 may be bearing very bad news for the regime which is on its last leg. Teachers across the country have dropped their chalk and will not be returning to the classroom if their grievances are not met.
Their students have been calling on the kleptocratic and gerontocratic government to pay their teachers so that they can return to school. Their place is in the classroom and not on the streets.
But the plea seems to be falling on deaf ears. The government is cash-strapped, and its creditors are tired of bailing it out in unfortunate circumstances created by inefficiency and corruption.
Many of the teachers have been working for more than a decade without a salary and some who have retired have gone for close to two decades without a pension. The old ones are all sick but cannot get the medical care they need due to poverty.
The Cameroon public service is a maze that is replete with many processes and procedures that only those manning the systems understand them. Many Cameroonian retirees die shortly after retirement because of abject poverty and when they are sick, they never know who to turn to for care.
The medical system itself is inefficient and it has become a marketplace wherein only the rich can be attended to. Many Cameroonians are dying in silence. Stress-related diabetes and hypertension are taking their toll on many people across the country.
Kidney failure is now rampant among youths, and this has become a cause for concern. Stress is crippling their bodies, especially as many see no hope in the future. Unemployment has attained epidemic proportions and the aging government is at its wit’s end. A once effective healthcare system has been reduced to a graveyard for those who lack the financial resources to head out of the country.
The country’s healthcare system is replete with scandals which never get investigated. The government simply does not care. The country’s officials and their families seek healthcare abroad and are blissfully oblivious of what is happening the country’s hospitals.
The scandals in Cameroon’s healthcare system have made it hard for Cameroonians to trust their own medical doctors. The doctors who took the Oath of Hippocrates to serve humanity have become self-serving, making it hard for patients to trust the people who are supposed to save them when they are facing health challenges. The country’s hospitals have become consultation clinics, with poorly trained doctors playing God.
Even the corrupt police officers are threatening to join the teachers’ strike if the government does not find appropriate solutions to their sorry plight. Many are sick and tired of harassing ordinary citizens for little bribes. They have lost their dignity and they hope a good salary can help them regain their lost dignity and respect.
The government is trying to ensure that the police does not throw itself into the mix, as this may spell the end of a corrupt regime that is living on borrowed time.
The military is also grumbling and if it becomes part of the equation, then things will unravel very fast. Corruption has overwhelmed even those who designed the system. The government must tread very carefully if it does not want to deal with a nation-wide uprising.
Things are really falling apart. Cameroonians are looking forward to the day things will be different. They have been hopeful for decades, but that hope is fast dwindling, especially as the country is in the grip of a cholera epidemic. The epidemic is spreading like wildfire, hitting the entire Southwest region and parts of the Littoral region like a ton of bricks.
Limbe, Buea, Tiko, Njombe and Penja have all been caught up in the battle and some deaths have already been reported. Not even Yaoundé, the country’s capital, has been spared. Many neighborhoods in the capital have gone without water for years and this is responsible for the numerous water-borne diseases which have killed many residents of Yaoundé.
The end seems to be near. Things are falling apart and if care is not taken, Cameroon could be caught up in a pretty mess, especially as the level of political and economic frustration is very high.
If the government must preempt chaos in the country, it must adopt new ways. The current governance methods have failed Cameroonians. They have inflicted a lot of pain on many citizens and the greatest expectation for most Cameroonians is a change of government, especially as the current president, Paul Biya, who is 90 years old, is physically and mentally declining.
He is now more than a museum piece. His health is fast failing. His last outing during the African Nations Cup clearly tells the world that he is gradually expiring. But will his expiration imply a change of direction in Cameroon? Only his successor will answer that question.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai