In Bamenda, the economic and political hub of the North West Region of Cameroon, a growing sense of fear and frustration pervades the population as roads continue to deteriorate, posing serious threats to safety.
The sorry state of the city’s thoroughfares, riddled with potholes and hazardous conditions, has become a pressing concern for residents.
The urgency of the issue came to light recently when a primary school pupil, Musa, narrowly escaped a potentially fatal incident involving a speeding truck.
Traders selling along the road rushed to the scene, alerting the driver to the unseen danger obscured by the dust.
“Pikin dey inside that dust, slow down,” they screamed, meaning “slow down, there is a child you can’t see because of the dust”.
Fortunately, they averted the accident.
This is a common occurrence on Bamenda’s streets due to the abundance of potholes and dust.
There’s hardly a single kilometre of road in the city without potholes.
Navigating the city’s roads has become a perilous endeavour, with bikes, taxis, and private vehicles contending with the numerous potholes that mar the landscape.
Pedestrians are forced to dodge vehicles on the pedestrian tracks, risking accidents as they attempt to navigate around the road hazards.
Parents, in particular, are expressing heightened anxiety over the safety of their children.
“This morning, my kids and I were almost knocked down by a bike at Small Mankon while I was taking them to school,” said a parent who identified as Ebua.
Yuven, a businessman in Bamenda, has been observing the road problem keenly.
“If you come here between 2pm and 3:30 p.m. when schools close for the day, you will be marveled at how pupils and students struggle to cross the road in an atmosphere covered with dust,” he said.
Reports have emerged of near-misses and accidents involving schoolchildren.
One of such was an incident where a young girl returned home with a swollen leg after slipping and falling near a massive pothole at the Rendez–Vous Junction.
Her father, Temngum, fumed with disgust as he narrated the story to MMI: “Earlier this week, my daughter returned with a swollen leg,” he said.
“I thought while playing with her friends she hurt herself. But now, she just pointed at this huge pothole in the middle of the road at the Rendez–Vous Junction, telling me that she was running away from a bike when she slipped and fell.”
Temngum went on to question: “Do the authorities want our children to lose their limbs before they maintain the roads?”
Beyond safety concerns, residents also keenly feel the economic impact of the road conditions.
The traffic congestion resulting from bad roads has caused a significant economic slowdown.
This particularly affects market vendors like Manka, who noted, “The traffic in the markets can go on for several hours; we cannot even make good sales.”
Poor Construction, Lack Of Maintenance
Despite past efforts at road construction and reconstruction in Bamenda, the longevity of these projects remains a critical issue.
Roads, even those constructed during President Paul Biya’s visit in November 2010, have failed to withstand the test of time.
Residents are questioning the quality of materials used in these projects, pointing to the rapid degradation of road surfaces.
The ineffectiveness of maintenance efforts has apparently exacerbated the situation.
Despite sporadic repairs, heavy rains often sweep away the stones used to cover potholes, rendering the fixes temporary at best.
The election of City Mayors in 2020 was expected to bring positive change, but residents argue that the road situation has only worsened.
Parents and residents alike are now calling on President Paul Biya, who visited Bamenda in 2010, to address the deteriorating infrastructure.
They argue that, at 41 years in office, the Head of State should prioritize improving living conditions in Bamenda, which he once fondly called his “second home.”
As safety risks escalate and economic activities continue to suffer, the urgency for comprehensive solutions to Bamenda’s road crisis becomes increasingly apparent.
Mimi Mefo Info