Thursday, 15 December 2016

General Strike the day after

Dec 9
As we walked out to say our last goodbyes to the women in the village, Elke received a call, a friend was trapped in town, her car’s back window smashed, a neighbour beat-up and gunshots all around; a riot in progress on the main street of Bamenda. How does one respond to news like that?
We met up with the children, some of the women and said goodbye. The women were understanding but regretful. At lunch with one especially hospitable friend, we heard over cellphone that people had been killed, the riots had spread throughout the city, police station burned, a politicians car torched in front of the hospital, blockades on many streets.
My anxiety level rose considerably, in spite of the benign surroundings and we proceeded walking out to say goodbye to another friend, wondering where we might be spending the night. Calling  our friend who had been downtown, she invited us to her home nearby. She’d been rescued by a young man on a motorcycle who navigated the back roads around barricades and burning tires to get her home safely. Plus, someone had driven her car back as well. All her groceries had to be discarded -full of broken glass.
Our time there was fraught with concern, a continual ringing of phones and incoming text messages kept us up to date with all the latest conjectures and possible truth, including the news that more troops were coming from Yaounde. Hard to sleep with all this weighing on our minds, our intention to leave on Monday now placed in jeopardy. 
All our furniture spoken for, household goods and incidentals ready for removal Saturday. That is if the roads are cleared and people are allowed out.
More phone calls in the morning. Apparently the authorities were now releasing all the children held in residential schools. A window of opportunity to make our way home… past charred pavement, piles of still burning refuse and tires, the burnt out hulk of a truck straddling the road. In one spot  an opening pulled aside for the traffic between still burning tires. At most intersections military armed and watchful. People lining the streets, on the move loaded down with all manner of items. In front of one school taxis loading children, some looking a little lost, backpacks and bags in hand.
Our fellow apartment resident had told us not to return yesterday; tear gas drifting, tires burning and police and demonstrators everywhere. She was at the hospital when we returned, a friend caught a bullet.
The floor in the apartment looked clean but as soon as I walked in, black footprints.
It all looks normal outside except for the blackened pavement, taxis and pedestrians going about their business, buses driving past the food market… except they’re all empty…?
At least there’s no gunshots or tear gas. We finished packing, we are ready to go as soon as we an arrange transport. But when will that be?

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