Hundreds of trucks are parked in Cameroon because drivers have stopped shipping goods and humanitarian assistance into the troubled Central African Republic in the face of violence following December 27 general elections.
Ajeizo Boucar, a 51-year-old Central African Republic truck driver says he has been in the eastern Cameroon town of Garoua Boulay, impatiently waiting for the security situation in his country to improve. He says several hundred C.A.R. and Cameroonian truck drivers cannot cross to the C.A.R. capital, Bangui, because of fighting between C.A.R. government troops and rebels.
He says for about two weeks now, at least 700 trucks have been unable to enter the C.A.R. from the eastern Cameroonian border town of Garoua Boulay. He says drivers are parking their trucks wherever they find space that is safe from thieves. He says some drivers and their assistants lack drinking water, food and toilets.
Boucar said most of them are transporting humanitarian assistance, food and other goods from Cameroon’s coastal city of Doula.
The C.A.R. government says violence was reported in several parts of the country before, during and after the December 27 presidential elections.
The C.A.R. had accused former president Francois Bozize of organizing a rebel alliance to disrupt the general election.
Bozize’s candidacy for president was rejected and he is accused of organizing rebel attacks, asking for the vote to be postponed until peace and security is restored.
On December 25, Cameroon said more than 80 C.A.R. troops crossed into Cameroon when fighting intensified there. Cameroon said its military pushed back an attempt by C.A.R. rebels to enter its eastern territory.
Boucar says the fighting has completely disrupted his business.
He says they have so far received food aid and water from the Association of Cameroon and C.A.R. truck drivers but that the assistance is not enough. He says they are pleading with the Cameroonian government to help the drivers because the situation in the C.A.R. is getting worse and no one knows when the fighting will be over.
A crisis meeting of truck drivers, the military and Cameroonian authorities was held Saturday (1/2) to find ways to help the drivers.
Moise Vokeng, president of the Cameroon Professional Transporters Network Association, says they have ordered their trucks not to enter the C.A.R. until peace returns. He spoke via a messaging app from Douala.
“We have, first of all, stopped moving goods towards the Central African Republic due to that war [rebel attacks] there,” said Vokeng. “You know, within two or three weeks, our drivers are abandoned, living under the trucks and the situation is very sad. So we are now expecting that with the collaboration of the customs here in Cameroon, we will find spaces such as Bolores park at Belabo [town] to offload and then liberate some workers who are suffering here so much.”
Cameroon said it provided space in border towns for the shippers to store goods until the situation in the C.A.R. improves. Cameroon also said its military was keeping watch on its eastern border with the C.A.R.
Vokeng pleaded with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, also called MINUSCA, to help protect drivers transporting humanitarian and perishable goods from Garoua Boulay to Bangui.
The Central African Republic depends on the Douala seaport for about 95% of its goods and humanitarian aid. Much of the election material printed in Europe was brought into the landlocked country through Cameroon.
MINUSCA forces protected some of the material and election observers when they traveled from Garoua Boulay to Bangui when rebels threatened to stop the polls.