16 September 2012

Cameroon: Where Things Turned Sour in Maga

The scars of the flood remain fresh and the atmosphere heavily charged with fear.

No other topic of discussion can be of interest to the inhabitants of villages surrounding the Maga artificial lake in Danay Division of the far North than the undesirable visitor; the flood that invaded their villages rendering over 22,000 homeless. Life has virtually come to a halt.

Some of the victims still scavenging around the wreckages of their houses and other property find it hard to tell the story. In the little locality of Pont Vrick, the village which draws its name from its location around the spillway, Issa Adam has nothing to show apart from the destroyed roof of his house and the fact that his family of two wives and nine children is now residing in a resettlement camp in Guirvidig, 25 kilometers from Maga. "If I am here today, it is because many of our things are still here", he said, trying to put one or two things together. Besides the roof of his house lies other roofs that owners have pulled out from stagnant water. All the roads have been flooded and access to the other side of the village where the offices and other installations of the Rice production company, S.E.M.R.Y have equally been invaded by water.

The dike built 33 years ago with compacted soil and measuring 27 kilometers from Pouss to Guirvidig has not stopped degrading and from every indication, in very disturbing speed. The soil is gradually being washed away by erosion and the increase in the volume of water in the lake keeps steering fears. The level of water is still hitting the red line at the spill way signalling imminent danger. Nkana Bekek Felix, Chief of the S.E.M.R.Y labour Brigade who was busy with his team working on the dike expressed fears, stating inter alia that his company has been working tooth and nail to remedy the situation where possible.

Educational buildings including the Maga Government Primary School, the Maga Technical College (CETIC Maga) and the Maga High School (Lycée de Maga) are only useful to the eyes of tourists now. No activity, no pupils, no students, no teachers. "School children particularly those whose houses were destroyed have left; and even some whose houses were not destroyed", Haman Daniel, one of the victims and farmer in Simatou village said.

Even though the population has been displaced to Guirvidig, some still walk back to the village to carry out some fishing activities. And interestingly enough, they use the mosquito nets distributed to them by the Ministry of Public Health to fight malaria in catching their fish. "The net I am using to catch fish was given to me at the hospital", Abdouraman told CT wearing guilt on his face against fears of another question as to why he did that. A few meters from the Maga Customs office, were a group of young men sitting beside their boats; eight engine boats. "When the tides are high as to cover the overgrown grass in the lake, we use the boat to transport passengers across to Pouss", Adam Issa, a boat owner said. But these are canoes that often do the transportation even when there is no flood.

The population which has been displaced from the flooded area to the Guirvidig resettlement camp had earlier been warned to evacuate the area. The people are of the mousgoum ethnic group who believe in living around water and making their livelihood from there.

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