Kumba(National Times)-Thousands of travellers along the Kumba- Buea-Douala Road corridor linking Cameroon’s restive South West Region to the Littoral Region are whimpering over exorbitant fares as weeks of renewed arson attacks on vehicles has forced some bus agencies to temporarily suspend their activities.
Some bus agencies have lost at least five vehicles following days of skirmishes along the said road. While gunmen are accused of haphazardly setting vehicles on fire, owners of the limited number of buses plying the road are making a fortune at the expense of passengers.
In the last one week, passengers have been charged FCFA 5000 to travel from Kumba to Buea. The official price for the same distance is FCFA 1,500. As at Friday, December 7, the fare had been stepped down to FCFA 4000.
Yet, passengers continue to complain describing the situation as exploitation.
The fare from Douala to Kumba which is known to be FCFA 2000 has now hit the neighbourhood of FCFA 8000. The new prices means that those who travel at all cost pay at least three to four times more the amount they are supposed to pay on the said road.
On Thursday, December 6, movement on the same road axis went moribund. In localities such as Muea in Buea Sub-division, gunmen surfaced in the market and chased traders into hiding.
Signals of such tense manifestations seem to be what halted movements in the early hours of the day. The authors of the ‘lockdown’ are said to have claimed that the day was reserved in honour of separatist leaders who were before the Yaoundé Military Tribunal.
Following the deserted roads, hundreds of passengers were stranded on both ends. Those from Buea could not travel to Kumba likewise persons in Kumba who needed to travel out of town for personal engagements.
After over one week of intense fighting on the road, one of the leading travel agencies of Anglophone extraction with headquarters in Kumba has temporarily folded up.
The owner of the agency cum cocoa exporter has within the same week loss two trucks loaded with dry cocoa beans.
At least 13 buses from the said company alone have been set ablaze. Besides this, another of such travel agency which plies the road to Douala is said to be under threat from gunmen to stop work.
A driver from the agency is reported to have crushed two gunmen to dead late Wednesday after they attempted to stop his vehicle.
The wrench is now on travellers who bear the extra cost. Some travellers have simply suspended their journeys pending the period when things will return to normalcy.
Administrative authorities who have the mandate to control such shifts in transport fares have since remained silent, while the local population continues to bear the brunt of the crisis.