Buses travelling to and from Bamenda in the North West Region are now escorted by Rapid Intervention Battalion soldiers.
As part of efforts to protect public transport vehicles, passengers and their luggage against armed robbery attacks, Rapid Intervention Battalion, BIR, soldiers in the North West Region have for some time now been offering escort services to mass transit buses travelling to and from Bamenda at night from the Littoral, South West and Centre Regions.
According to Cyrille Talla, a conductor with a Bamenda-based bus company, since the deployment of the armed escorts began about six months ago, there has been no single incident of armed robbery attack in the North West, West and Littoral Regions. His assertion was confirmed by a driver with another mass transit company. "Unlike in the past when we experienced the highest number of attacks on our buses in December, the peak travel period in 2012 passed off without any incident. Our buses and passengers have been at peace since BIR soldiers began escorting us," explained the driver.
Transport sources in Bamenda told Cameroon Tribune that the armed escort arrangement was reached with Bamenda Airport-based BIR authorities at the request of bus company owners based in the North West regional capital. Prior to this, they had suffered incessant attacks especially in Nde Division, Batie hills in Upper Plateau Division and the Dschang-Melong Gorge of West Region.
Under the arrangement, night-time buses leaving Bamenda for the Centre, Littoral and South West Regions all gather at the Up-station Customs Post for departure in convoys. Those for Yaounde are escorted right up to Makenene in the Mbam and Inoubou Division of the Centre Region from where they continue unaccompanied. Vehicles for the Littoral and South West Regions are also escorted by another group of soldiers right down to Melong in Moungo Division of Littoral Region. While in Melong, the soldiers assist in ensuring smooth traffic flow. On the other hand, vehicles from Yaounde are escorted from Makenene to Bamenda - still in a convoy - from about 2 am. The situation also obtains in Melong for buses travelling to Bamenda at night from Douala, Buea, Limbe, Kumba, etc.
It is not the first time BIR and other security agencies would escort vehicles. Gendarmes and BIR have in the past escorted United Nations staff between Maroua and Kousseri in Far North Region and from Meiganga in Adamawa Region to Garoua Boulai in the East Region.