By Bakah Derick
In the restive North West region, a monumental infrastructure project is underway- the continuation of the #construction of the slightly over 360km ring road expected to connect 17 of the 35 local council areas in the region. This ambitious project which has been talked about since the 80s by the highest authorities of the state holds the promise of improved connectivity, economic #development, and enhanced quality of life for the residents of this region. In the last few months, the Kumbo-Misage section of the road has been on focus as the Ministry of Public Works has repeatedly published pictures of work progress. However, recent events in the inner city roads of the regional headquarters, Bamenda have underscored the critical importance of engaging with local communities and agencies in the planning and implementation of such projects.
Road construction (Photo by Vera Mimba T.)
The controversy surrounding the construction of inner city roads in #Bamenda serves as a cautionary tale for all stakeholders involved in large-scale infrastructure projects such as the ring road. The decision by the local city mayor to reject a 16m wide road after the contract was awarded and instead opt for a 30m wide road has led to a series of unfortunate consequences. People's properties were destroyed, and no compensation was paid, leaving a trail of discontent and resentment among the affected residents. This situation highlights the need for meaningful engagement with local communities from the outset of any infrastructure project. Local knowledge, perspectives, and priorities must be taken into account to ensure that development initiatives are not only effective but also sustainable and inclusive. By involving heads of local agencies and community members in the decision-making process, addressing their concerns, and seeking their input, project planners can build trust, foster collaboration, and create a sense of ownership among the people who will be most directly impacted by the project.
Part of the road under construction (Photo by deep Cameroon.)
The lack of consultation and transparency in the initial stages of the inner city road construction project has had far-reaching consequences, underscoring the importance of proactive stakeholder engagement in infrastructure development. The grievances of the affected residents must be acknowledged and addressed, and steps must be taken to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated in future projects.
Fortunately, government sources have indicated that new studies have been conducted, and plans are underway for the construction of new city roads and compensation for those affected along the road corridor. The amount needed for these initiatives has been determined, and the contract for the project is set to be awarded in the coming days. While this is a positive development, it is essential that lessons are learned from past mistakes and that a more inclusive and participatory approach is adopted moving forward especially with the ring road project.
Ring Road Project boards planting (Photo by Tata Bernard)
As we look ahead to the continuation of the ring road that will span across 17 local council areas in the North West region, it is imperative that local communities are actively engaged in every step of the process. Their voices must be heard, their concerns addressed, and their participation valued. Only through genuine collaboration and partnership can we ensure that infrastructure projects not only meet their intended objectives but also contribute to the well-being and prosperity of all residents.
Muddy roads with portholes in Bamenda during the rainy season (Photo by Mimi Mefo)
The current state of the inner city roads in the regional headquarters, with mud in the rainy season, dust clouds swirling in the dry season and residents facing challenges due to inadequate infrastructure, serves as a stark reminder of the importance of inclusive and community-driven development. Let us seize this opportunity to learn from past mistakes, prioritize meaningful engagement with local authorities and communities, and work together to build a brighter future for all residents of the North West region.