Matazem Border Crossings and Monday Ghost Towns Compared
Nji Ignatius is Bamenda-based journalist working for one of Cameroon's leading weeklies, Eden newspaper.
He just returned from Douala after a business trip. He complains they arrived the Matazem border at 4a.m and only succeeded in filing past the two security cordons after a four hours delay.
Hyperblically, that's almost the amount of time Africans trying to cross the Mexican border into the United States, take.
Since the outbreak of the conflict in the two English Speaking Regions, Defense Ministry Officials erected stiff security belts on both sides of the Matazem crossing.
Vehicles arriving from East Cameroon are obliged to wait until 6.30a.m before security officials who are usually not in a hurry, begin screening from one passenger to the other and from one bus to another.
Come to think of the fact that of the six accredited travel agencies plying the Bamenda-Yaounde, Bamenda-Douala, and Bamenda-Buea/Limbe roads, each of them loads at least three full-to-the-brim 70-seater buses each night en route to Bamenda.
Then, you would be talking of an astronomical figure of at least 1260 passengers that congregate each morning and at the same time at the Matazem border crossing, and who have to be manually controlled on each of the sides by less than four outstretched security officers.
Acting as if they are border control soldiers of two different countries, the same operation is repeated just twenty metres away, on the West Cameroon side of Matazem.
Just one mile away from Bamenda Up-Station, that is at Akum; the same robost military operation is undertaken and with the same minute detail.
Same holds for passengers obliged by the deteriorating security situation to take off from Bamenda for other Regions before 5pm everyday.
Only that they are on the vantage position as they gain four hours moving eastward by arriving at their destinations in the neighbourhood of 1-2a.m.
Those traveling westward, that is to Bamenda, loss four hours between Matazem and Akum checkpoints.
In all, and in one year, people traveling from other cities to Bamenda by night loss a total of 1440 hours per year, being an average of four hours per day. What this means is that Cameroonians living and working in the North West Region have lost 7200 hours just at the Matazem border crossing in the last five years of the conflict.
At the same time, Monday Ghost Towns that were imposed since Monday January 9, 2017, by activists fighting for greater autonomy for the minority English Speaking Regions of Cameroon, have seen eight hours of work lost to it every Monday week. This amounts to 384 hours a year, equalling 1920 hours lost to Monday Ghost Towns in five years of its existence.
One can conclude without any fear of contradiction therefore, that more hours are being lost per day, per week, per month, and importantly per year, to the Matazem security belt crossings than to the Monday Ghost Towns operations.
And since Regional and Central authorities usually generally give to understanding that the situation is under control, there is therefore need to readjust the security controls.
If the three can't be reduced to two, they could at least, be assigned different functions instead of repeating the same of sameness.
The Matazem security check bordering the West Region could be assigned the duty of checking only passengers, while the one on the Santa side manually checks vehicles and luggages.
The last check point at Akum could be equipped with technology to both scan the vehicles and luggages, not simply manually repeating what has been done, with thoroughness, and for hours, at Matazem.