Thursday, 15 December 2016

Life in a general strike-reflections

Dec 6
Another quiet night. The general strike is keeping most traffic, specifically taxis, off the roads. The motorcycle riders are like young rebels everywhere,  nothing (or very little) stops them from trying to make a living ferrying people and goods about the city. This morning the activity/traffic seems especially intense. It appears we have a safe window between 6 and 9am to get get things done to shop and travel where necessary. I saw some buses arriving too. None left last night.
Yesterday after checking with friends we were advised to stay put. In any case there were no taxis’ running and a trip out to the farm on a motorcycle would be brutal. And to be stuck out there? It’s a great place to spend the night but some prep is needed to make it work.
As 9 am approached the traffic noticeably diminished to occasional private cars and a few motorbikes. The police vehicles make a lot of noise as they hurtle along warning everyone to “get out of the way!” with their horns. From our balcony we watched as they attacked some buildings and I assume dissenting citizens just beyond Hospital Roundabout with their water cannon. Much smoke on either side of the road. I’m tempted this morning to go view and photograph the damage. The street there is lined with small eating establishments, up one nearby road is a bus stand we’ve arrived at from south. But I won’t. Elke has pointed out I don’t run so fast (or at all!) and if this area is a hotbed of resistance, who knows what they or the military have planned today. My jokey manner belies the anxiety we are feeling.
I walked out mid morning yesterday looking for bananas, they can be found most days on trays atop the heads of vendors walking around the city but seldom if ever at the market. Usually at roadside stands here and there. None to be seen. Even the roadside stands themselves were missing, their wooden shelves and tables hidden from the possibility of use as fuel. I passed  quite a few pedestrians. One fellow accosted me , in pidgin, warning me “No taxis”.  I saw a couple of men standing in the road stopping motorcycles and encouraging them to disgorge their passengers.
Back in the apartment we watched through binoculars as tires were laid across the road as a barrier, then the police moved in and threw them aside, proceeded up the road blasting water into the buildings and side streets, lobbing smoke bombs or tear gas here and there. As soon as they were out of sight, the tires reappear. This looks more like mischief than open insurrection. And the response is like smashing a sledge hammer on a mosquito. The military/police seem intent on provoking a violent response so they can justify their behaviour.  From what I’ve seen (and it aint much) the citizens are exercising incredible restraint, operating with non-violence as a rule; racing on motorbikes in swarms honking their horns and pedestrians running away to avoid confrontation. The general population attempts to continue as usual, although  most everything is closed for business.
 The strike will continue till Wednesday, after that we intend to make our way, away. By bus if possible otherwise if not, we’ll charter a taxi out to the next large centre and thence to Douala where there is an airport.

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