KUMBA, CAMEROON - Cameroon says the separatist war in its English-speaking regions has made it impossible to complete repairs and construction of public works like schools and roads. Nearly all contractors and their workers have been chased off by separatist fighters who have vowed to make the regions ungovernable, an official says.
Arrey Agbor, a merchant in the town of Menji, says the lack of usable roads has brought local businesses to a standstill, as they are unable to export food to Nigeria, and unable to import electronics and car parts from the neighboring state.
"I am appealing to those young men and girls [separatist fighters], appealing to them in the strongest words to make sure that they do not accept to be deceived because the Fontem-Menji road should have been finished by now but for this crisis. The road to Akwaya, Mamfe to Akwaya, they would have started it long ago but for this crisis," Agbor said.
The government said work on the roads was to be finished by January 2017, but workers fled when separatist fighters began attacking, killing and kidnapping them.
Buinda Godlove Nsakabo, the top-ranking official in charge of economic development in the South West region, says more than 90 percent of construction projects for schools, hospitals, bridges and other public works have been abandoned.
"Some of the contractors have complained that they are not very willing to go to those difficult areas to execute the projects," Nsakabo said. "Every hand must be on deck for us to ensure that by the end of the year, we should have executed these projects to the benefit of the population and also to encourage the contractors who are partners in development to accelerate the execution of these projects."
Only 42 of the 500 projects envisaged for the North West and South West regions within the past two years have been carried out, according to the government.
Emmanuel Ngome, an educator in the town of Kumba, says those numbers indicate the separatists who vowed to make it impossible for the government to operate in the two regions are succeeding.
"There is no life, nothing is actually moving, projects have been abandoned, the contractors have all fled," Ngome said. "They are running for their lives. At this moment, there is a standstill totally. You see nothing. No business. You see empty houses, ghost streets and everything has been abandoned totally. People have been kidnapped. It is every day."
The crisis in Cameroon's two English-speaking regions began in 2016 when teachers and lawyers protested what they saw as the overbearing use of the French language in the bilingual country.
Since then, more than 2,000 people, including soldiers and police, have been killed in mounting violence.