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Businesses paralysed in Yaounde as May 20 celebrations prep enter high gear

Traffic Jam at Fouda neighbourhood (c) Mbom Sixtus/JDC

Sandra P. grumbles as she returns to her office in the Essos neighbourhood in Yaoundé. Her jerky voice speaks volumes about the effort she made to get there. “If I tell you that I trekked you will not believe me,” she says in an angry tone. On leaving her home, the lady was unaware of the holdup that awaited her out on the streets.

The major roads linking outlying localities to the city centre were blocked this morning, as it was the case yesterday May 17, hindering movement for thousands of citizens struggling to get to their job sites and businesses.

The roundabout of the Central Post Office, a strategic point of the city of Yaounde where eight roads converge, brings the whole city to a near-standstill when blocked. On Wednesday, May 17, at about 7:30, vehicles moving towards the city centre from Biyem Assi stood immobilized for more than half an hour at the Mvolyé roundabout commonly called Trois Statues.

In the back seat of a taxi, passengers complain as one of them doses off and snores loudly. From Biyem-Assi, it took them more than an hour to cross the roundabout at the Central Post Office, Poste Centrale which was partly blocked.

The traffic jam has had serious consequences on several companies and administrations whose staff arrived late yesterday and today. Some did not bother trying to brave these traffic jams, which lasted until the early hours of the afternoon. “A lady who sat beside me could not walk to her jobsite because she was wearing high heels. She just went home when the cab driver decided to drop us” says Sandra.

This Thursday morning some citizens understood it was better to leave earlier than usual. Others counted on using other roads that were not blocked yesterday. “I am shocked they blocked the road at Total Melen today. It was open yesterday. Our director at the ministry said everyone must be present at work today and close at midday. But driving through this slow traffic and weaving through funny roads, I might only get to the office at midday, fill the attendance sheet and leave. It’s a wasted day” a state employee tells Journal du Cameroun.

The traffic jam witnessed in Younde these days  is however not unprecedented. During rehearsals for the National Celebrations in Yaounde, roads are always blocked for soldiers to practice march past. “But this year, it looks like thousands of new vehicles have entered the city and no new roads have been constructed or opened up”, the young administrator said.

On May 20, 1972, in a controversial referendum Cameroonians voted to abolish an existing federal state in favour of a unitary state. The UN trust territory, French Cameroun got independence from France on  January 1, 1960. British Southern Cameroons for its part, changed from a Trusteeship under British administration by joining an independent Republic of Cameroon on 1 October 1961. But celeberaton of October 1 has been tacitly outlawed as the government chose May 20 commemorate the abolishment of the federal system of government in favor of a unitary country in 1972.

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