Social Good

When Environmental Violence Triumphs In Yaounde

By Yerima Kini Nsom

After visiting a friend at the Essos neighborhood in Yaounde recently, I boarded a taxi for Obili. On board the taxi were two middle-aged women. Their flippancy and boisterous attitude enabled them to wash ashore all their family secrets in the conversation. 


The driver whose ears were seemingly primed to the gossips, would occasionally intrude with a word or two. The ladies sustained their “kongossa” in a kind of French that was adulterated by a very heavy accent of a local language. Their syntaxes were more often truncated by expressions, exclamations and words in one of the Beti languages. I listened passively as the duo desecrated my holy ears with some immoral unprintable expletives.


Even with such jabbering, the ride was smooth-sailing until we reached the Yaounde Central town area (Poste Centrale). One of the ladies removed ripe bananas from her bag. Both of them started eating and throwing the peelings in the streets that were very clean that morning. Initially, I decided to ignore them. But the callousness and arrogance with which they continued to litter the streets, jerked up the level of my adrenaline. I managed to calm down my nerves and tame my emotions while cautioning them in a polite manner against such incivility and environmental violence.


“S’il vous plait, ce que vous faites la n’est pas bon pour notre environnement. (Please, what you are doing is not good for our environment), I complained. I pleaded with them to eat their banana and give me the peelings so I could dispose them properly in a dustbin. Surprisingly, my plea instead jolted the two ladies to a vicious spate of anger. They rained insults on me as I tried to explain the harm they were causing to the environment by littering the streets.


In an apparent feat of environmental ignorance, the driver joined the two ladies in vilifying me for behaving as if the women were my children. To the driver whose professional batch bore the name Amadou, the two ladies were do-gooders because by littering the streets they were creating employment for many people. He said those who are employed to sweep the streets, feed their families thanks to the fact that the streets are littered. I nodded in disapproval and heaved a cryptic uneasy grin.


As we rode across to the vicinity of the CAMTEL head office, my phone rang. When I answered the call in English, a hell of insults broke loose on me. The lady who was sitting close to me, took the issue personal. Her face was red with anger. I examined her critically as she threw invectives at me. She would have been a pretty quadragenarian. But crude bleaching had dealt a devastating blow to her body and done a bountiful harvest of her original colour. Now, her colour looked like a crude combination of yellow, black and green.  She had come close to having all the colours of the rainbow.


“ Je savais que ce monsieur doit être un Anglophone. Les Anglos sont tellement bête parce qu’ils se mêlent dans les choses qui ne les concernent pas”. (I knew that this man must be an Anglophone. Anglophones are very stupid because they poke their noses into issues that do not concern them), she fumed. I decided to be deaf and dumb to all the insults. As we continued our journey, the women intensified the insults.


I remained calm and collected.  I decided to abridge my journey by alighting at the Melen neighbourhood when the driver lit a cigarette and started smoking. As I dropped from the taxi, the lady exploded another insult. Hear her: “Voilà moi ce Bamenda là. Voilà comment il est laid. (Look at this Bamenda man. See how ugly he is). Feeling satisfied that they had humiliated me enough, the women and the driver celebrated their victory in mocking roaring laughter as they drove off.


This represents the byword of the uncivil behaviour and environmental misdemeanors that are committed with impunity in Yaounde. Despite the prohibitions provided in the criminal code, many Yaounde inhabitants pollute the environment with impunity. Public indecency and nuisance have become a way of life to some people who have seemingly lost their moral compasses in many neighborhoods. It is commonplace to see people empty their bladders shamelessly in the streets. A man would, unsuspectingly, pull out his manhood and irrigate the walls of the fence of the Yaounde University Hospital near the Melen Market to the glaring view of onlookers. A woman would hurry out of the bar, pull down her pants as if she was in for a quickie and urinate in the streets while standing.


Beneath Yaounde’s scenic beauty, lies a disturbing upsurge of environmental violence. Despite the efforts of the waste disposing outfit, HYSACAM, mountains of domestic waste continue to be omnipresent in many neighbourhoods in the nation’s capital. Gutters and other drainage channels are blocked with refuse. In some neighbourhoods, especially in the Biyem-Assi area, sludge or human waste from broken sceptic tanks meander their way into the streets. Small wonder that a certain junction has been nicknamed “Carrefour Caca”(Shit Junction).


Here, passersby are greeted by a pungent smell that makes a direct score into their nostrils. Some unscrupulous people empty the contents of their sceptic tanks when heavy rains are falling with the hope that rainwater will take the human waste away. As soon as the rain gives way, the stinky liquid of sludge will snake its way into the streets and settle like darksome ponds. Elements of environmental vandalism in Yaounde include the intoxicating vibrancy of smoky second-handed cars. Many taxicabs that ply streets are not just a chaotic collection of worn out metals, but also smoky death traps. Their interiors are tattered and filthy. Some of the drivers pull on with a body odour that betrays the secret pact they have seemingly signed with filth to keep water and soap away from their bodies. Many of them make things worse by being uncultured and rude. Talk less of bike or bendskin riders who are in a world of permanent dementia. The ozone layer has continued to weep and wail in our hands ever since we chose to make our country a dustbin for the west. Many second-handed goods imported from Western countries have the potency of ozone-depleting substances. Can we win the war of environmental protection in such laissez-faire and laissez-aller attitude? I shed a tear for the environment.

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