Friday, 9 December 2011

And What Didn't Make News Headlines...

This story won't make the major news broadcasts tonight nor will it be written about in any newspapers. Even though a cyber cafe can be found down the street (very rare in general in West Africa), the most coverage this story will get will be this lonely blog post, lost amongst millions of personal blog posts worldwide.

You see, the Petite Marche ("Small Market") burnt down last night. At 11PM, a gas tank accidentally exploded in the Jolie-Soir neighborhood of Ngaoundere, Cameroon. I know this because I live down the street from it all. There were motobikes and police cars going to and from the market; my friends called to see if I was okay. My home is made from cement, so there was nothing to worry about...for me at least.

While I was with the wife of a traditional chief today, she told me that her husband's friend had lost everything in his boutique. The African fabric, the luggage, and the products that were imported. Muslims here don't have bank accounts or insurance, another friend says. People have been afraid of banks since the financial crash of the 1990s. Every time a microfinance institution closes due to insufficient loan reimbursements, all the clients lose everything. He had hid his life savings underneath the boutique. Everything burned with it.

My best friend Dali and I went to see whatever remained of the market. I looked for the guy that I buy my soccer jerseys from. Was he here? I would have no clue; his boutique has vanished. Merchant that I bought shoes from last week? Nowhere, nothing.

The mommas selling vegetables are still there as well as the butchers. They were untouched. The part that burned down is the "Beverly Hills" section of the market - the boutiques that sell the most expensive products in the city. Ironic right? Dali tells me that some people lost over 15,000,000CFA (~$30,000US). The World Bank estimates that the average income in Cameroon is just over $1100US.

That's just an estimate though. Wikipedia also estimates Ngaoundere's population to be 200,000, but all the locals tell me it's around 400,000. And if you ask the locals how many boutiques were lost, you'll hear estimates of varying numbers.

That's how everything just is here sometimes. Guesses, uncertainty.

The kids are digging through the ashes for coal to cook with. They aren't really aware about what's going on. But then again, who really is?

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