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Lessons from Buea Taxi Drivers’ Strike: Security Forces’ Culture of Violence and Impunity
Category :- Documentary Author :- SHING TIMOTHY M 
Posted on July 15, 2020, 4:28 pm
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At this time when a precarious security atmosphere hangs over the Northwest and Southwest regions in particular and the nation in general, one would expect the defence and security forces to exercise the utmost caution in the execution of their duty of keeping the peace. However, stories of the abuse of civilians by uniformed officers have become a daily experience. This makes one wonder if violence and impunity have not become a culture in this very vital arm of governance.

Taxi drivers in the city of Buea returned to work on the 8th Thursday, June 2020 after almost bringing the city to hold to protest the slapping of one of their colleagues by a police officer. According to taxi drivers and onlookers, the drivers’ fury resulted from an altercation between a driver and a police officer and a driver that resulted in the young police officer slapping the driver.

buea taxi

The police officer we gathered allegedly asked the driver for a bribe of 500 FCFA. But when the driver resisted his request for 500 FCFA, the irate police officer retaliated with a slap on the face of the driver. His colleagues felt that the abuse they receive daily from the security and defence forces must stop and took to the streets to express their anger, blocking the road and demanding for justice. The blockage, according to the drivers, was to send a message that enough was enough

The drivers, most of whom refused to be named for fear of retaliation say the D.O promised them after the last protest that police would always announce periods of routine checks so that drivers can carry their documents. However, the stop and search that led to the slapping of the driver was unannounced.

buea taxi

According to Denis Mesumbe, president of SYNTRACAM one of several taxi drivers’ syndicates in the city, the forces of law and order must accord drivers the same respect drivers give them on the highway. “We want respect. We do respect uniform officers and they should do the same to taxi drivers.”

“Taxis are our own offices and they feed us and our families… This was just a shutdown not a strike and we didn’t destroy anything,” the infuriated Denis Mesumbe insisted.

The most recent conflict between members of the defence and security forces is part of a cycle of conflicts between officers and taxi drivers since the beginning of the Anglophone crisis. Drivers previously protested extortions by security officers who were mounting controls in almost every part of town to collect money from drivers to the recent controversial encounter between an officer and a driver that led to the unfortunate death of a taxi driver.

buea-taxis

To quell the crisis and restore order, the Divisional Officer for Buea, Abba Abdurrahman asked that the drivers express their grievances in writing for him to act. “We know who has to be at the control post and at what time. The central police station commissioner and I will work it out. We will also pay a visit to the driver who is in hospital,” he promised.

The drivers reluctantly continued doing their job promising to always express their frustrations peacefully. “We have been trying our best to keep the town going even during ghost town days, but the police continue to harass us every day” one of them regretted

buea-taxi driver

While the drivers are back on the streets carrying out their daily activities, some say they still fear little or nothing will be done as this is not the first time authorities are making such a promise, it is important to note that the last protest by taxi drivers yielded fruits with a serious administrative clamp down on police extortion of drivers.

Recent protests in the United States of America against police brutality demonstrate the need for governments the world over to ensure police and other security officials are accountable for their actions. The task of police and security officials is a difficult one, and even more so in a crisis. However, building trust between police and the communities they police or want to secure is primordial to the achievement of peace and society. Continuous impunity is a sign that most defaulting officers pay no price for their excesses on civilians. Until deterrent measures are meted on defaulting officers the abuse of power by other members of the security and defense forces will continue to make life difficult for the population as a whole.

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