For the past three days, Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon has known no peace after a notorious criminal gang went on a rampage, inciting fear and panic.
Members of the group called ‘les microbes’ on Sunday, December 11, stormed one of the biggest hospitals in Douala, called Laquintinie where “one of them was being treated after he was shot by the police the previous day.”
Reports say the police had carried out an impromptu operation in Makea, where ‘les Microbes’ are based to restore order.
But the “operation turned violent and the 20-year-old Arafat Zidane was shot for possession of hard drugs,” said a source who added that Zidane was rushed to the Laquintinie hospital where he died hours later.
Security forces intervene
When security forces surrounded the Laquintinie hospital, ‘Les Microbes’ decided to wreak havoc in other parts of the city.
They invaded Bonamoussadi, Ndogbong, Akwa, and Deido, holding sharp and dangerous objects such as knives, machetes, blades, stones, spades, and sticks.
On Tuesday night, several streets were deserted, with many trapped in supermarkets, shops, and their homes. “Many are scared to leave their homes, they have taken over the city,” noted a Douala resident on Tuesday night.
Who are ‘Les microbes’?
Les microbes, translated into English as ‘the microbes’ made their first appearance in 2019 (over three years ago).
This came a few months after 89-year-old President Paul Biya was re-elected for a seventh term in a controversial election, that sparked protests both in Cameroon and the diaspora.
Members of the group are based in Makea, New Bell, Douala 2. The majority of them are aged between 15 to 22.
They are ‘armed’ with sharp objects, knives, cutlasses, and razor blades — and reputed for hard drug consumption such as marijuana and cocaine.
Le microbes gained prominence two years ago, after their constant assaults and attacks on Douala residents — particularly in Deido and New Bell.
“They will invade the streets with their weapons, attack passersby and seize valuable items from them like mobile phones, money, and motorbikes. This has been going on for long, and authorities have done nothing about it, now, they are difficult to contain,” said Fred, a journalist in Douala.
Complicity of Authorities
An elected council official in Douala has accused authorities of conniving with ‘les Microbes’ and doing very little to stop them.
Charles Élie Zang who is a municipal councilor under the ruling CPDM party said “Gendarmes and the police sometimes exchange and consume hard drugs together. How do you expect them to be efficient when the criminals come attacking,” Zang questioned.
Other reliable sources have also made similar accusations.
Origins of Les Microbes
The name “Les Microbes’ came from Cote D’Ivoire. A similar group emerged between 1999-2000 when the west African nation was battling with a sociopolitical crisis.
As relative stability returned to Cote D’Ivoire, the group’s relevance waned, until the name was adopted by the Cameroonian bunch.
“Only frustrated, unemployed youths were part of the movement, and in Cameroon, we have refugees from Chad, Central African Republic as members as well. The majority of refugees in Cameroon’s economic capital are in Douala Two, where this group is based,” noted a source.
It is not clear how many lives have perished as a result of the group’s activities, but several persons have been injured — with so many young boys and girls derailed.
Experts believe that the main reason for the emergence and proliferation of such a group comes down to the problem of Youth Unemployment, which is endemic in Cameroon:
“The situation would have been different if young people in Douala had access to jobs, and the situation has been compounded by the influx of young people from the conflict-hit areas of Cameroon, further exacerbating the problem of joblessness,” explained a political analyst.
“These youths are unemployed, no government programme to accompany them. Others cannot afford tuition fees,” confirmed Fred.
Police and Gendarme officials have been deployed to different parts of the city to reassure the population of their safety. But are words without concrete actions and solutions enough to restore calm?
This is a developing story!
Mimi Mefo Takambou