In Cameroon, This is How Well the Traffic-Man Does His Job

By Emmanuel Ngwa
2 Minutes
  Photo by Todd Diemeron Unsplash<br>
  Photo by Todd Diemeron Unsplash

It’s dawn and everyone is asleep. Their eyes are bleary, reactions slow, tiredness running in their veins. Yet, you’re awake in your seat, waiting for the diesel engine to roar into life. When it does, the taxi is running over the black tarmac so fast that the passing greenery becomes a hazy blur. Yet your speedometer doesn’t read more than 80km/h nor do you defy the traffic-man.

The taxi is anything but luxury with seats dulled by the grime of thirteen years. When it rolled off the container at the Douala port, the seats must have been a brilliant ash. Now, it’s only a canister for driving men you do not know.

Inside, the passengers are a curious mixture of cozy and bored, all of them itching for the destination that will come eventually. At the end of the day, you’ll accept whatever they drop into your begging palms. The situation is so bad that even a hundred francs makes sense these days. Not that it’s the standard fare from Bonduma to Mile 17, you just can’t refuse.

Some say police is your friend. The mayor says the military is here for your protection. This military man stands on the sidewalk under the hazy heat, his rifle hanging idly from his neck as the Mokyko street reflected in his over-large sunglasses. He must have been sweating in that messy black uniform. Perhaps, as he stood there, he must have been planning nothing more than how much he’ll make off your sweat. He has become a traffic-man overnight.

With the sound of his spittle-filled whistle and a show of hand, you understand you have to pull to a stop. As law abiding as you are, you flaunt your vehicle’s papers in his face. But anger seemed to boil deep in his system, as hot as lava. The angry look on his face seemed to churn within, hungry for destruction, certainly too much for you to handle. Angry eyes were just the start, then came the clipped words:

Military Man: I came here to make a living, not to eat your papers. Not because I share in the patriotism of this shithole country. When and if this fight ends, I should have built three ‘cites.’

He’s so unapologetic that other taxis in queue start seeking alternatives routes. But there’s none.

You: What does this hungry man want?

You ask yourself an answer. Then you realize he wants your sweat. That he wants to reap where he did not sow. You understand you should just toss your papers back and hand him a thousand francs note.

This is what my country Cameroon is turning and has turned into. Indeed, though many criticized you, you were right, Donald Trump. You were right. My country is a shithole country.