On July 16, the president of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), Maurice Kamto, issued a press release on "the plight of Anglophone traders at the Etoudi bus station". In the release, the MRC leader expresses his dismay at the decision by Yaoundé City Hall to evict the said traders and transporters, “mostly from the country’s Anglophone regions” from the site.
Indeed, in a press release issued on June 30, Luc Messi Atangana, mayor of Yaoundé, asked the traders and transporters still operating at the Etoudi bus station to vacate the premises by July 10 to allow the effective launch of the construction of a modern shopping center at the site. The July 10 deadline was given after a first set for June 23, 2023.
For Maurice Kamto, the eviction notice is distressful for those affected. "These are, in fact, more than 150 shopowners, essentially Anglophone populations, most of whom are and/or host displaced persons from the North-West and South-West regions ravaged by an armed conflict that has been going on for nearly 7 years," he wrote.
He welcomed the ambition of Yaoundé’s municipal executives to modernize the city but, he called for “humanism” and asked for another “strict deadline” to allow the shopowners “to amortize a good part of the investments they have made, notably for the reconstruction of their stores on the site in question".
He also called on local authorities to be open to dialogue, as they did by postponing the initial eviction date, for the management of this “sensitive humanitarian issue.” Maurice Kamto's statement prompted a reaction from the town's mayor. In a statement copied to SBBC on Tuesday, July 18, Luc Messi Atangana states that the site of the former Etoudi bus station, as its name suggests, was originally reserved exclusively for transporters.
"Traders found themselves on the site incidentally. Sensitive to their concerns, the town mayor instructed a census of the traders occupying the site. This work identified a total of 151 merchants," he says, pointing out that most of them have been on the site for some twenty years, according to their statements. According to the town hall official, of the 151 traders identified by the Yaoundé Urban Community (CUY), "at most ten [are] from the North-West and South-West regions," unlike the figure touted by the MRC leader.
The city's mayor also assured that two sites have been set up to temporarily relocate the affected merchants while the transporters have been asked to move to the Olembe multimodal platform, "a modern infrastructure whose construction is almost complete".
For Maurice Kamto, relocating the merchants "to the abandoned and totally unhealthy Etoudi market" will cause them to lose their clientele and expose them to the insecurity of assailants of all kinds. To that argument, Luc Messi Atangana retorts: "They have received promises that when the [construction] works are completed in less than a year, they will be prioritized in the allocation of new stores."
According to mayor Luc Messi Atangana, the Etoudi modern shopping center is necessary given the unhealthy state of the current shops, built of temporary materials, and the fire that regularly broke out (at least once every year). This modern infrastructure, which will include a little over 400 stores, is intended to improve working conditions for shopkeepers, according to the same source. Work on the project, scheduled to start on July 12, has not yet begun. They were initially scheduled to begin on June 23. This time, Luc Messi Atangana announces they will begin "in the next few days," but he gave no precise date.
Patricia Ngo Ngouem