25 February 2013

Cameroon: An Eyesore!


In the 1970s and 80s, the Shell building towered over the Yaounde skyline majestically. It was about the main feature and it was rather fashionable either to work within it or with its precincts as it was a proudly distinctive manner of indicating that one worked in a decent environment. Today, the 20-storey structure is not only a shadow of itself but stands as a veritable scarecrow in the midst of a sprawling downtown neighbourhood dotted here and there with new high-rise structures.

What catches the eye of a visitor in town is its visible advanced state of disrepair and a few neglected signs such as advertisements and other signposts, many of which brazenly wear vestiges of wear and tear, which tell that the building once commanded respect.

What was once a must-go area for the city's jet-set for the fact that it hosted important flagship settings for new and exotic products and also because the major frontline companies had their offices within this building. But walking within the building today is a perilous exercise. The corridors are dark and an acrid stench from neglected hospitality facilities sends anyone bent on continuing the walk inside to think twice. For all of its glory of the best, this building could have been, at the least, a monument if not at national level, but at Yaounde city standards.

It is even said that its decrepit state notwithstanding, someone even comes around to collect rents! The attempt by government, municipal authorities and private investors operating in the downtown area has led to a revolutionary transformation of the area and the presence of the Shell building while contrasting with this setting, is visibly a negation of this effort at urbanization.

It is said that attempts by the Yaounde City Council to put order in the place have often failed because of numerous lawsuits whose outcomes often question measures taken. But the problems of today are grave enough to beg for the immediate attention of the public authorities. The building has become a hideout for criminals who have found a safe haven therein and from where they operate in the downtown area with impunity. A fueling station operates in full view of the authorities just under the building. The consequences of an accident in the likes of a fire breakout or any other fire-related mishap are too horrendous to even fathom. The urgency now is to address these immediate worries and not bickering over who is expected to do what.

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