By Tata Mbunwe
For four years now, construction works at the Buea Reference Hospital are still grounded with insecurity used as justification.
This is despite the fact that government officials have continued claiming peace is being restored in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon.
The construction site, located barely one kilometer below the Buea Central Market, remains overwhelmed with grass and trees since 2018, when The Alliance construction company in charge of the project, abandoned works.
By then, just 14 percent of the project had been realized and the company claimed its workers were being attacked frequently by suspected separatist fighters.
The hospital, which was to become a reference teaching hospital, was among the infrastructure deemed to serve visitors and players during the just-ended Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON.
The project was launched in May 2017, amid the Anglophone Crisis and government gave the contractors 18 months to finish.
But over four years later, the FCFA 11-billion Buea Reference Hospital project has not even been realized by 50 percent.
Work has long been abandoned and the construction site is covered with grass.
Some work equipment including a concrete mixer, buckets and other tools are still left at the site four years since the last bag of cement was used at the site.
Meanwhile, planks and wood works formed around pillars are completely dilapidated.
On February 23 last year, State gazette, Cameroon Tribune posted that, “grass has overgrown the area. Construction material like building blocks, wood, wheelbarrows, spades, plywood and iron lay beneath the tall grass”.
Adjacent to the reference hospital is a FCFA 4 billion low cost housing project which also lies buried in tall grass, having been grounded too for years now, with insecurity also used as claim.
According to the Head of the Control Mission, Liombe Endeley, the housing project needed just three months of effective work to be completed.
Insecurity Not Excuse Enough
Although workers of Alliance Company, which is in charge of construction works, may have been attacked on some occasions, as it is the case with most government projects executed during the Anglophone Crisis, insecurity as a pretext does not work well with the Buea Reference Hospital project.
Many have argued that it was possible for the government to station military officers around the site to counter any armed attacks when they come, given the vitality of the project.
The military and the police in Buea have been performing similar duties like they do, escorting, on a regular basis, Supermont water company trucks to Muyuka where they tap water for commercial purposes.
If the military could escort these Supermont trucks to Muyuka daily, when they are out for commercial purposes, what then of providing security to workers toiling in a project meant for public good?
In some scenarios, like in the Far North Region where Boko Haram insurgents have also made public projects difficult to execute, the military engineering unit takes over construction, where civilian contractors cannot continue.
This was the case in the Far North Region some years before the Anglophone Crisis, when Boko Haram militants were said to have attacked a Chinese Company constructing the Waze-Tabanga-Amshide-Kousseri road in the Logone and Chari Division.
The military engineering unit, known in French as Genie Militaire, successfully executed the road contract after the Chinese company abandoned works.
But in the Anglophone region, where insecurity has grounded many public projects, including the famous Bamenda-Babadjou project, the military has not been brought to intervene.
While insecurity is being used to halt a public project such as the Buea reference hospital, gigantic private projects are being carried out in Buea hitch-free.
The use of insecurity to justify the delay in several projects in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon clearly contradicts much-parroted claims by government officials that there is significant peace returning to the crisis-hit Northwest and Southwest regions.
One of such claims was made by Territorial Administration Minister Paul Atanga Nji early last year, who said the wave of armed confrontations between separatists and soldiers were the ‘last kicks of a dying horse”, as he described the separatist attacks.
The Push For Work To Resume
On February 17, 2021, a delegation of Parliamentarians visited the reference hospital site during which they evaluated the state of construction and said they wanted work to resume.
The delegation, led by Hon. Glady Ikome Etombi and Hon. Findi Stanley, said the Southwest population has been anxious for the project to materialize, given that the region currently has no reference hospital and the population has been traveling to Douala for certain medical services.
However, after the Parliamentary delegation left, work has not resumed at the site one year on.
The last public activity that held at the project site was a symbolic ceremony to launch the African Union’s Silencing the Guns initiative in April 2021.