Government offices in Bamenda and other parts of Mezam Division of the North West remained closed this Monday despite an earlier administrative warning against Monday ghost towns.
The warning was issued on October 4 by the Senior Divisional Officer of Mezam, Simon Émile Moor, during an administrative coordination and security meeting in Bamenda.
During the meeting, he said the closure of government offices on Mondays, a working day in Cameroon, would attract sanctions.
Most offices and business activities in the North West and South West Regions of the country have remained closed on Mondays since 2017.
This was after separatists, who were fighting for a breakaway state began enforcing a lockdown on this day.
In Bamenda, the North West Regional headquarters, civil servants and business persons are at the crossroads of threats from the government and separatist fighters.
“We will not tolerate any absence on Monday because of the ghost town,” said Simon Emile Moor.
This Monday, October 30, MMI’s reporter visited some government offices in Mezam Division and observed that many of them remained locked.
This was especially true with government offices in Down Town—Bamenda, Bafut, and Santa.
The issue of government offices not operating on Mondays is not peculiar to the Mezam Division.
In most parts of the North West Region, MMI has observed that economic and administrative activities are grounded on Mondays as well.
Separatists imposed the ghost town as a form of civil disobedience against the government.
This followed a general protest in the two English-speaking regions in 2016 against perceived marginalisation by the French majority government.
The separatists have also been using ghost towns to intensify an armed struggle to carve out an independent state, Ambazonia, out of the English-speaking regions.
When they first introduced the ghost towns, they ran from Mondays to Wednesdays every week.
But the number of days was reduced to just Mondays. On this day, schools, businesses, and offices remain closed. People are expected to stay indoors.
To enforce the ghost towns, separatist fighters have occasionally burned down markets, shops, and vehicles operating on this day.
In many cases, they have killed people who are trying to normalise activities on this day and have abducted and tortured them.
Locals often opt to stay home for fear of repression.
Continuous Efforts To End Ghost Town
Since 2017, administrative officials have taken different actions to stop the ghost town phenomenon.
In the early years of the ghost town, the government handed out Presidential gifts to internally displaced persons only on Mondays. This was aimed at motivating people to come out of their homes.
Later, locally elected officials like the City Mayor of Bamenda, Paul Achombong, auctioned foodstuffs on Mondays. Yet the ghost towns did not end.
Other subtle measures to stop the phenomenon have included the organisation of sporting activities on this day.
In Buea, the headquarters of the English-speaking South West Region, the town’s successive mayors have taken a more radical approach to stop the phenomenon.
Early this month, Mayor David Mafani Namange led a delegation that sealed several shops for “respecting ghost towns.”.
Business people usually have to pay at least FCFA 50,000 to the Municipal Council to have their shops reopened.
Shops have also been sealed in parts of the Northwest, including Mbengwi, the headquarters of Momo Division.
But this measure, too, has failed to kill the ghost town phenomenon.
Shang, a resident of Bamenda, says these government measures are laudable, but they are not sustainable.
He says this is because insecurity still remains the main challenge for the population.
He, however, adds that genuine dialogue between the government and separatists is the most effective way of ending hostilities and restoring peace to the English-speaking Regions.
Mimi Mefo Info