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Customers Starve, As Yaounde Sex Workers Are Put Out Of Business

Yaounde VI | Pic credit: Blasting News

By Yerima Kini Nsom

The recent crackdown on prostitutes at the Mini Ferme neighbourhood by Yaounde VI administration, has put many of the sex workers out of business, thereby starving their customers.

The administration led by the Divisional Officer of Yaounde VI launched the crackdown that led to the closure of many brothels, bars and off licenses. Even though prostitution is illegal in Cameroon, sex workers at Mini Ferme have been openly displaying themselves in an aggressive bid to attract customers. The name Mini Ferme had become a jungle for prostitution and the criminal enterprise. It represented the ugly face of the nation’s capital that is usually referred by observers as town of bars and bear parlours.

For, Cameroon’s political capital, Yaounde that has an estimated population of over 3 million people, is also the citadel of some 7,000 bars and off licenses. Going by statistics made available by the trade union of bar owners and beer wholesale operators, there are currently 7,000 bars and off licenses in Yaounde, many of which are illegal. And that is why prostitution triumphs.

Yaoundé’s image as the fief of beer consumers was equally illustrated in statistics published by the brewing company, Les Brasseries du Cameroun a few years ago. In its annual report, the company revealed that 600 million litres of beer were consumed in Yaounde in 2012. But the onus of the problem is not the excessive consumption of beer in the capital city. What is amiss here is that many bar owners violate the law and operate in total illegality with impunity.

They disregard presidential decree no 90/1482 of November 9, 1990 that regulates business activities in the sector. The decree defines conditions and modalities for the sale of drinks. The presidential decree makes it clear that drinking spots should be situated at a safe distance away from hospitals, schools and churches. According to article 14 of the decree, bars should be situated at least 200 meters from hospitals, schools and churches.

But bar owners in Yaounde are violating such a legal provision with impunity. Here, bars and off licenses cohabit with churches, schools and hospitals. Just a stone throw from the Yaounde university teaching hospital at Melen neighbourhood is a jungle of bars.

At the Obili neighbourhood the bars are very close neighbours to churches, schools and health centres. The Saint Anne parish at Chapelle Obili is flanked by drinking spots that are spreading like mushrooms all over the place. Worse, at the Mini Firm neighbourhood, bars and health centres co-habit in the same buildings. It is common to have the noise a drunk distract students and teachers in class because the bar and the school are too close to call.

Some of the bar owners seemed to have ignored every aspect of the law regulating the sector. Article 3 of section 4 of the presidential decree states that off licenses are opened as from 6am to 9pm while bars, snacks bars and other drinking spots operate from 6am to midnight. But a majority of bar owners hardly respect this aspect of the law. Even off-licences operate till dawn. The administration seems not to be very committed in strictly applying the law.

By launching the current crackdown on Mini Ferme, the administration is not re-inventing the ill. In 2012, the Senior Divisional Officer for Mfoundi and Yaounde 6 administration launched a campaign to close down all bars and other drinking spots operating illegally at Mini Feme. But as one observer put it, “it was the illegal bars that closed the administrative officials”. The illegal bars came back in full force as soon as the administrative officials turned their backs. The Post learned that the officials equally faced stiff resistance from owners of illegal inns that are operating as full-fledged brothel. It was reported that the prostitutes who hang out at the neighbourhood every evening in all arrogance as if prostitution has been legalised in Cameroon, were ready to fight the administration by every means if they persisted with their campaign. That is why observers are waiting to see if the recent crackdown will sway and bring back order and legality to the area.

Observers hold that Cameroon is just becoming a jungle because the authorities have allowed some individuals and institutions to violate the law with impunity. The proliferation of illegal bars coupled with the noise pollution that they produce has become public nuisance. This goes on despite the fact that there is a Prime Ministerial decree prohibiting noise pollution in the neighbourhood. The decree no 2011/2583/PM of August 23, 2011, prohibits noise pollution that has degenerated to public nuisance. Bars and Pentecostal churches in Yaoundé have largely ignored such legal provisions.

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