24, October 2016
After more than four decades after independence, the United Republic of Cameroon still struggles to operate part of the railway inherited from the German colonial masters even with French support from the Bolloré Transport & Logistics Group amid failed CPDM numerous contracts. This is also true of the road network in the country that still suffers intermittent breakdown.
There were high expectations when the Chairman and CEO of the Bolloré Transport & Logistics Group, Vincent Bolloré met with President Biya some months ago and promised a Cameroonian version of the TGV-a high speed train between Yaounde and Douala. With more than a hundred people dead and more than 600 injured after a train derailed at Eseka on Friday the 21st of October 2016, it has now turn out to be that of a dashed hope. Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o, born 22 January 1957 is a chartered member of the Biya Francophone Beti-Ewondo regime now running the transport sector of the country. For a man who sees himself as the next-of-kin to President Biya, Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o is now stagger-a-staggering.
Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o was removed as minister for defence and demoted to the transport department by the 83 year old President Biya. Undertaking a visit round some agencies under the ministry of transport, including the Cameroon Railway Corporation, Camrail, any observer could realize that this loud sounding nothing Francophone cabinet minister did not know if a functional train really exists in Cameroon. The fault is not that of Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o. It is also not that of the millions of Cameroonians who have never had a ride or drive on the trains and roads within the country. It is that of the government and the ministry of transport.
Ever since Cameroon Concord News was founded in Essen in Germany in 2000, we have been asking which professional school trains the technical force needed at the Ministry of Transport. To be sure, IRIC is responsible for grooming Cameroonian diplomats, Ecole de Postes trains our telecom engineers, Ecole Normale takes charge of our secondary and higher education teaching staffs, Ecole des police makes available some decent corrupt police officers and ESSTIC sends out pro Biya and CPDM comedians to the state radio and television. Which government academic establishment has the responsibility of training the manpower that runs the ministry of transport?
The Ministry of Transport is credited to have performed reasonably well under the late President Ahmadou Ahidjo. Analysts also credit the Ahidjo regime as playing a pivotal role in increasing the tempo of commercial activities in the many towns and cities in Cameroon along the motorways and rail routes. The success of Cameroon Shipping Lines, Cameroon Railways Corporation and Cameroon Airlines boosted inter-ethnic marriages, acquisition of new dressing habits, food and languages and caused the emergence of mega towns referred to as T-junctions such as Mbanga, Kumba, Ngaoundere, Bali, Akawaya, Maroua and Tiko.
But a steady process of decline was said to have crept into its operation after President Biya took over as head of state. This, according to experts, became worse with the systemic decay of the country’s entire infrastructure and manpower. The disaster that recently occurred on the Yaounde-Douala highway followed by the Eseka train derailment crisis has been attributed to the lack of maintenance, policy inconsistency, corruption and management inefficiency. We of the Cameroon Concord News Group believe and fervently too that it all hails from the workforce at the ministry of transport. The ministry has become a dumping pit for civil servants who fail to climb up the administrative ladder in other ministries.
Frankly speaking, the late President Ahidjo did not perform any magic in running our roads, railways and Airlines Company. He succeeded only because he appointed those who had adequate training in transportation and logistics and provided the ministry of transport with adequate funds. The Ministry of Transport reportedly is the busiest in the entire Cameroon government set-up. It has never had any bad publicity because the workers render only one service to the nation and which is that of collecting money from the Cameroon people.
They collect money for number plates, they collect from toll gates, they collect from weighing heavy vehicles, they collect wind screen tax, they collect road tax, and they collect from our airline company and also from Camrail and our maritime sector. It is all about money.
From the current minister of transport right down to divisional delegates, none of them has successfully executed a transportation and logistics project in any part of the country let alone knowing what prevails in our railways and maritime industry. The Ministry of Transport in Cameroon is the only government department where technical directors and regional delegates have university degrees in Biology and Home Economics and we expect them to manage more complex railway, airlines, roads and maritime projects in the country. So, it is easy to understand why no one thought of establishing a heavy security presence around the train station in Yaounde immediately when news of the collapsed bridge on the Yaounde-Douala highway had been made public.
The military administration currently running the ministry of transport has been applauded for transporting three cabinet ministers by helicopter to the scene but failed to use the same helicopter to help victims of the derailment who were seriously injured. When Biya conceived the idea of Emergence 2035, many thought the strategic vision involved the roads, the railways, the shipping industry and the airlines.
To be sure, emergence 2035 was meant to be a systematic development of the health, education, transport and housing sectors of the country. It was specifically designed to provide a global framework and benchmark for the expansion and modernisation of Cameroon as a nation. And Biya reportedly paid a princely sum to a panel that delivered the package. After the recent incidents, the emergence 2035 plan can best be described as an ambitious plan that was never implemented. So, our so called emergence 2035 project has now been abandoned by the Biya regime after some people have pocketed huge amounts of money being the initial payment made by the government for the design of the scheme.
With too many manual blunders and Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o fighting for his political survival, only a new head of state will give a considerable attention to our roads and railway infrastructures. Biya has finally admitted that the ministry of transport has suffered from a criminal neglect ever since he took office as president.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai