Southern Cameroons Crisis: Ghost towns for a better environment
For more than six years, Cameroonians in the country’s two English-speaking regions have been religiously observing the civil disobedience called for by separatists. Each Monday, English-speaking Cameroonians are asked by people they do not see to stay at home as a way of expressing their disagreement with the Yaoundé government which has been inflexible and indifferent to the people’s plea.
Businesses in the two regions are still required to pay their taxes regardless of whatever the business-owners believe in. While many extremists among the population seem to enjoy this game that is hurting the economy of the two regions, businesses are not enjoying this game which does not really make any economic sense.
Many businesses have been shut down and those which are still hoping for better days are really struggling. Despite their struggle, the Yaoundé government still expects these businesses to pay taxes. The businesses have a choice. They can either take instructions from the Yaoundé government and open their doors everyday of the week or comply with the orders of those they don’t know or will never see and shut down their businesses every Monday.
However, one thing remains. Any businesses which are open must pay taxes whether they operate one day in a week or four times a week. The Yaoundé government only expects the taxes to hit its accounts at the end of the month, failure of which, the government will send out its agents to seal the business premises forever.
While the government and business-owners are still struggling to find a common ground due to ghost town operations, the architects of this destructive policy can transform their ghost town operations into something admirable.
One thing many English-speaking Cameroonians lay claim to is their unique way of doing things. They hold that their towns were cleaner prior to the 1972 reunification and many of them are looking forward to a return to those days when community labour made the towns and villages in the English-speaking regions very clean.
Instead of keeping the population at home on Mondays, the architects of Ghost town operations could as well call on everybody in the two English-speaking regions to come out on Monday from 8am to midday to clean their environment. Ghost town operations could be transformed into a blessing in disguise.
A revolution must not only be painful! It can also bring huge benefits! If East Cameroon is dirty as many English-speaking Cameroonians claim, Southern Cameroonians could use this period marked by a rebellion to demonstrate how constructive they can be. It does not make sense to keep people at home all day long hoping that the Yaoundé government will feel the impact.
Human beings were made to work and not to be at rest. A body at rest will always be at rest. If Southern Cameroonians transform their Monday Civil Disobedience Day into something positive, the world will see the rebellion as something which can bring some benefits to the people and their environment. Southern Cameroonians should not only be noted for their massive destructive ability. Out of a bad situation, something positive could be manufactured.
The leaders of the insurgency should declare Mondays in the two English-speaking regions as Environment Day and the population should be made to clean their immediate surroundings, unclog the gutters, and make sure that when it rains, the run-off should find its way to the rivers and the sea.
Instead of burning shops when the owners open them on Mondays, the business-owners should be given lessons on environmental science, climate change and recycling. Today, most towns and villages in the two English-speaking regions of the country are dealing with the impact of climate change. Plastic pollution has become the new disease as the population disposes of its plastic mess without thinking of the long-term impact.
It will be a great thing to add something positive to a questionable strategy. Ghost towns for a better environment should be the new slogan in the two English-speaking regions and this will go a long way in addressing those issues which are making life out there unbearable.
If the invisible leaders have good heads on their shoulders, this is the type of idea they should embrace, develop, and sell to the population. Keeping your environment clean does not only spare you the pain of dealing with diseases, it also helps you to develop environmental awareness. Environmental hygiene is something everybody should embrace. If practiced in those two regions, Mondays will never be considered as wasted days. Make the most of a painful strategy!
By Dr Joachim Arrey