Joan holds her nose in the air as she passes near a mountain of trash in front of the Yaounde Teaching Hospital. She tries not to gag as she passes by the hospital, where the sick and dying are exposed to the flies and the rats that feast on the garbage. She wonders how long it would be before a plague swept through the city, wiping out everyone in its path.
“How can a country’s capital look this way?” Joan wonders, as she hastens her steps past the stench of the garbage.
“The city is drowning in its own filth,” Joan tells Timescape Magazine.
“Everywhere you go, you are faced with mountains of trash, rotting and stinking.”
Even the so-called residential neighborhoods, “Bastos, Kuwait City, BEAC complex…”, have not been spared this new decor which brings to memory that of the 1990s. When at the height of the economic crisis, the Cameroonian government was no longer able to honor its commitments to its partners, the company in charge of household waste collection closed its doors, leaving Cameroonian cities in stench.
Hushed voices of protest can be heard on the streets, and in taxes. “What can we do? We are not the government,” says Taxi driver, Oliver Ngoran.
But a mysterious message has appeared on the walls of a local bar at Melen in the heart of Yaounde. The message, written in large letters with paint made from garbage, reads: “The city is a dump, and so are you.”
The message is believed to be in protest to the government’s failure to pay HYSACAM, the company responsible for waste management in the city. As a result, the city has been overwhelmed by piles of trash, posing a serious health and environmental risk. The situation has been described as a “state of emergency” by local authorities, who fear the outbreak of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and malaria.
The identity and motive of the person or group behind the message are unknown, but some speculate that it may be a former employee of HYSACAM, who lost their job and livelihood due to the government’s negligence. Others suggest that it may be a political activist, who wants to expose the corruption and incompetence of the ruling party. The message has sparked mixed reactions among the public, with some applauding it as a bold and creative act of resistance, and others condemning it as a disrespectful and destructive act of vandalism.
“We need more of such voices of resistance,” Eric Toa told Timescape Magazine. But I think those voices should be made louder,” he added.
In response to this, the government has launched a short-term Special Health Emergency Plan to give the Cameroon capital a better look.
“The aim is to eliminate all the piles of rubbish in the city of Yaounde, and to maintain a minimum of acceptable cleanliness,” said Charles Mvondo Onana, Administrative and Financial Director of Thychlof Sarl, one of the structures involved in the urban sanitation operation.
The modus operandi is to intensify and improve conventional garbage collection throughout Yaounde. By the end of the operation, over 7,000 tons of waste are expected to have been collected.