Bits And Pieces On Biya’s Douala Visit

A poster of president Biya in Douala

A poster of president Biya in Douala

No Sympathy For The Dead, Bereaved Families

In the night of November 13, which was the eve of President Paul Biya’s visit to Douala, the town was battered by rain, which caused a landslide in the Nyalla Neighbourhood in Douala III Municipality.  The landslide caused the collapse of several houses that were constructed on the slope, burying some of the occupants.

That night, a rescue operation mounted by some inhabitants of the neighbourhood, pulled out the corpses of two women and two children from the rubble. By the morning of November 14, five persons (3 children and 2 women) were confirmed dead when gendarmes arrived at the scene of the disaster. However, no local administrative authority visited the site of the disaster, as they were all ‘occupied’ with last minute preparations to welcome the Head of State.

During the ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the second bridge over River Wouri, no mention was made by all the speakers, about the five Cameroonians who lost their lives in the disaster that hit the town barely a couple of hours before the President’s arrival.


Many observers had thought that the Government Delegate to the Douala City Council, Dr Fritz Ntone Ntone, would, in his welcome address, call for a minute of silence in respect of the memories of the five departed souls. At the end of President Biya’s visit to Douala, the bereaved families expressed disappointment that the President did not show any concern about the disaster. 

Economic Capital Paralysed

The visit of President Biya to Douala raised a lot of criticisms among the population, because of the several road blocks that paralysed the economic capital of the country, causing financial loss estimated at FCFA billions. Littoral Governor, Joseph Beti Assomo, prohibited the movement of heavy duty trucks in Douala from the eve (November 13) of the President’s visit, till the end of the visit.

This, among other things, meant that the Douala Port was blocked on November 14 and 15, as no goods could be taken in or out of the port. Also, the Littoral Regional Delegate of National Security, Rene Essogo, on November 13, issued a programme, which blocked circulation by vehicles, except those with special pass, on some major roads and streets in the town, as well as the lone bridge over River Wouri that links central town to Bonaberi. The blockage was either during some periods or throughout President Biya’s stay in Douala.

As a result, many people who live in Bonaberi and either work or go to school in Douala central town, were absent from work or school. Also, since many major roads in central town were blocked, many people were obliged to trek to get to some parts of town. As a result, the proprietors of taxis and commercial motorcycles, as well as many other economic operators, suffered. 

‘Hilton Journalists’ Stranded In Douala

The Ministry of Communication took some 100 Yaounde based journalists to Douala on November 13, to cover the President’’s visit. However, just about half of those so-called 100 journalists were real journalists. The rest were members of the ‘gang’ commonly known in Yaounde as ‘Hilton Journalists’.

But the names of almost all the 100 persons were sent to the Presidency by the Ministry of Communication, for accreditation as journalists to cover the visit. The Director of Presidential Security had reportedly said that the batches would only be handed over in Douala. That was done. Meanwhile upon reaching Douala in the evening of November 13, the journalists were taken to the premises of the Littoral Regional Delegation of Communication at Bonanjo.

Then problems started. The first disappointment that the journalists got was that they were neither provided with lodging. The head of mission from the Ministry of Communication, Simon Pierre Koko, however, assured that money would be available the next day. The ‘real journalists’ went to central town and took up rooms in hotels for the night. But then almost all the ‘Hilton journalists’ were stranded as they reportedly had no money on them.

They thus had to spend the night either at the corridor of the Littoral Regional Delegation of Communication, or in the busses that brought them from Yaounde.  On November 14, the head of mission in the Ministry of Communication gave some of the journalists a meagre FCFA 25.000.  The others, mostly the ‘Hilton journalists’, were told that only 50 journalists were enlisted for the ‘pediem’ by the Ministry of Communication.

They got so frustrated and bitter. The reason as to why the Ministry of Communication took the ‘Hilton Journalists’ to Douala, is probably best known only to the head of that ministry, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, and some of his close collaborators.  Some sources close to the ministry are alleging that it was a racket mounted by some persons in the ministry, to make some quick money from the Presidential visit. 

Spent-thrift Debtor!

The project to construct a second bridge over River Wouri will cost some FCFA 120 billion, or to be precise, FCFA 119 billion including taxes. A bulk of the money, that is a little over FCFA 86 million, is coming from the French, through the French Development Agency. The State of Cameroon is supposed to raise the sum of FCFA 32 billion.

But part of this amount is supposed to be taxes that the French Company, SATOM, that has been awarded the contract, is supposed to pay to the State of Cameroon. So, in realty, the Government will not raise that money. But even for the amount that the Government will effectively raise, that will still be done through loans.

It would be recalled that the sum of FCFA 11 billion of the FCFA 200 billion which the Government raised through the sale of treasury bonds through the Douala Stock Exchange, dubbed “ECMR 5.60 % Net 2010-2015”, was on paper allocated to the project to construct a second bridge over River Wouri. But the issue here is the extravagance that the Cameroon Government displayed in the ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the Bridge.

In fact, huge sums of money were spent by a number of large government delegations that travelled from Yaounde to Douala a number of times, purportedly to assess the state of preparations for the President’s visit. Worst of all, highly expensive structures and equipments were set up at the location near River Wouri, which was selected to host the less than-three hour ceremony.

This raised a lot of anger in Douala, where the masses live in abject poverty. Many people denounced what they considered as a waste of State resources by the Biya regime. The Littoral Regional Chairman of the SDF, Hon Jean Michel Nintcheu, castigated the Biya regime for an arrogant waste of tax- payer’s money, while the population die of misery. 

Sawa Chiefs And Their Rain Makers

A day before Biya’s arrival in Douala, Douala Chiefs led by the current President of Ngondo, HRH Din Dika Akwa III, put their image at risk by publicly declaring that they have put Sawa rain markers to work, to ensure that there would be no rain during the ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the bridge over River Wouri.

There was heavy downpour in Douala on the eve of the Head of State’s visit. In the morning of November 14, the weather was dull, though there was no rain. The situation continued up till midday when the Head of State arrived at the Douala International Airport.

The situation of the weather became more worrisome to organisers of the foundation stone laying ceremony, when rain really started threatening to fall at about 1.30 pm when the Head of State was scheduled to arrive at the ceremonial ground. Some people even started making a mockery of the Sawa Chiefs and their rain makers.

But then the threatening rain did not fall. President Biya arrived the ceremonial ground, and the event started and ended without rain. The Chiefs proudly smiled, claiming to have used their supernatural powers to push away the rain. But those had doubted the power of the Sawa chiefs and their rainmakers definitely had a second thought when a couple of minutes after President Biya and wife returned to the Presidential Palace at Bonanjo, a drizzle started.


By Joe Dinga Pefok

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