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Was there any genocide on the Wouri Bridge on Wednesday February 27, 2008?

October 30, 2008

Revisiting the February 2008 strike action in Cameroon

Was there any genocide or massacre on the Wouri Bridge on Wednesday February 27, 2008 in Cameroon?

The official dead toll given by the Cameroon government following the February 2008 unrest stood at 40. Government had initially advanced 17 and later 24. Independent sources put the figure at over a hundred, like the case of the Christian Action for the Fight Against Torture ACAT. The government said the highest number of deaths, 30, was recorded in Douala. The President of ACAT Cameroon Madeleine Afite says over 100 people died in Cameroon with over 20 alleged to have drowned in River Wouri. All over Douala, everybody say corpses have been removed from Wouri but none would love to be quoted. The officials at the morgue in Bonasamma and Lanquintini hospitals in Douala would not want to comment on this. Mutations in its Tuesday March 18 edition reported  that according to Fru Ndi, the government did not take into consideration the 40 people who drown in the river Wouri. L’Effort Camerounais in the following interview with (Elvis N) one of the youths who survived what happened in the bridge, narrates the drama that happened.  According to him, they were caught in the bridge, sprayed with cold water and teargas. Some people were alleged to have jumped in water and drowned.  Excerpts. E. N are initials of his real name which we are not giving in full. But another audio version of the interview in pidgin is available.

 

You were among the thousands of youths who were marching peacefully from Bonaberi on February 27 to the office of the governor of the Littoral Province what actually happened?

We left that morning about three thousand youths, heading for Bonanjo. When we arrived the bridge, (Wouri) we met police men. From the Deido end of the bridge the police van began speeding and spraying water on people. People gave way for the vehicle to pass and when it got to the CIMENCAM end, it turned and blocked the road. Again from the Deido end of the bridge another vehicle came, those who were in the bridge were blocked and those who were outside fled to the Elf based. The police vans began throwing teargas while a helicopter flew across the bridge with soldiers armed to the teeth. As they continued spraying teargas, the only way for most people to safe their lives was to dive into the River Wouri.

About five hundred guys who had crossed the bridge were caught near the road construction company, RAZEL and mercilessly beaten. I was one of those who entered into water but at the tail end, yet some of the military men followed us there with guns. They threaten to shoot those who did not come out. Those who were able to come out did.

Immediately I came out of the river, the military arrested me, searched me and took my phone worth (Four hundred thousand) CFA400.000, took my purse search it but could not find anything inside. They did not care for any lives. I wonder if they were out to loot from armless youths or if they were out to maintain order. I begged them to give me even my sim card but one of them said when we go out for war we should be ready to loose everything. When the situation even became worst, a few of them tried to save some lives from water. Fortunately there were also some fishermen in water too who save some lives.

 

Do you mean to say the forces of law and order attacked you guys when none of you had thrown stones?

No. Nobody attacked the forces of law and order not even throwing stones.

When we got to Bonassama from Bonaberi, some people wanted to break into the Texaco filing station but they were blocked by others. The youths had said the march was a peaceful one. Not even a stone was thrown on Texaco. When we even got to Bonassama, we saw the DO for Douala Four, he tried to stop us but we told him that we are marching peacefully to go and see the governor. Some people even claim that he is the one who called the forces and law and order to come and get us.

 

You said earlier that some people jumped into water. Any estimate?

I do not know the exact number of people who jumped into water but what I know is that people jumped into water. Just imagine the number of people who were on the bridge blocked and the forces of law and order throwing teargas. Some people had no choice than to jump into water.

That means some people were killed?

Actually! I did not see any dead given the situation in which I even found myself. But from what I hear, about 20 people died after jumping into water. At one moment, they asked us to enter the truck so that we could be driven to Bonanjo. We got in and were seriously trashed but a sympathetic captain who certainly has children too, came to our rescue. He asked his colleagues to stop beating us and told us to come down. He asked whether we shall ever strike again, we told him, no. He then asked us to sing the National Anthem which we did. They then asked us to leave immediately. However, some people had been taken to Bonanjo.

I see you have a swollen hand. What happened?

I think I was not even deadly beaten like others because my phone had been taken. I also had some video of some scenes in the phone. When they caught me they asked me to lie with my back on the ground and be looking at the sun. I obeyed but one of the gendarmes took a very big stick and wanted to hit my stomach, I tried to defend with my hand and that is how my right hand got broken.

The president said the youths are being manipulated, who was manipulating you guys?

Well, I can say that is the president’s opinion and he has a right to it. I do not think what is happening in the country concerns any particular political party. If that was the case, I think there should have been at least one political leader with the youths. The youths are just fighting for their rights and well being. They have been abandoned.

Will these change things in the country?

I do not know but we just hope that a change will one day come.

Interviewed by Aloysius Agendia

By the time this interview was conducted, I was a full time staff with L’ Effort camerounais, Cameroon’ oldest newspaper which belongs to the National Episcopal conference of Cameroon. It was not published for security reasons as expressed by the Editor in Chief.

Comming up, another audio interview in French of some of the strike victims

The photo of the interviewee has not been updated for security reasons.

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This interiview is really revealing.

Participating in Positive Change is doing a great job to sensitize blind people on real facts.
It is a shame to know that citizens of a free and independent state can't express themselves freely as the law spells out.
A peaceful March turns sour due to the overly sensitive nature of those employed and well paid to ensure order, peace, unity and calm.



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