The home to many UN aid agencies, security in the town of Bouar and the rest of Nana-Mambereacute Prefecture in the Central African Republic is ensured by a Bangladeshi UN MINUSCA Infantry Battalion.
After a three-hour drive at the moderate speed limit of 100 km per hour from Garoua Boulai in Lom and Djerem Division of the East Region, our UN convoy finally arrived in Bouar in the Central African Republic, CAR, at 5 pm local time, after covering 150 km.
Bouar is a fairly big town of over 40,000 inhabitants, perched on a hill that forms part of a long plateau. The whole Prefecture has a population of about 100,000 people. As our UN convoy drives past, you notice that business is alive in Bouar, with several shops and bars opened on a Sunday evening.
Located along the road from what maybe the central part of the town is the local office of a renowned Cameroonian money transfer company whose services extend to other nations in the sub-region and even beyond. The home to many UN aid agencies, security in Bouar is ensured by a Bangladeshi UN MINUSCA Infantry Battalion that also controls the CAR side of the border post in Garoua Boulai.
They are also some government troops in the town, which was formerly the site of a French military base in the sprawling but now derelict Camp Leclerc. Conspicuously positioned at the Garoua Boulai end of the entrance into Bouar as you drive in are two white UN armoured cars from the Bangladeshi contingent, apparently to thwart any further rebel attempts to retake their former ghold.
Meanwhile, the peacekeepers also carry out patrols in four-wheel drive pick-up jeeps on the Bouar-Garoua Boulai highway. Inside Bouar town, which is located at more than 430 km from the CAR capital, Bangui, UN peacekeepers carry out foot patrols along the streets, intermingling freely with the local population. They also protect the Bouar Airstrip, a simple but major lifeline for air travel into the western part of CAR by UN, State and other officials. The highway from Bouar to Bangui continues for some 60 km on laterite before the tarred portion picks up again, so were we informed.
Our convoy arrives in Bouar Airstrip barely five minutes to takeoff for Yaounde. The little time spent at the sun-burnt facility was barely enough to get our names ticked on the manifest and take a few pictures of the site and with smiling UN peacekeeping officers from Bangladesh and Rwanda. With a deteriorated tarmac worn out by age and probably neglect as a result of the repeated crises in the Central African Republic since independence, the taxiing of the World Food Programme medium-size 35-seat plane is slow and cautious. The takeoff portion of the runway is on fairly smooth red laterite.
As the WFP plane gains height over the sprawling plains and hills of Nana-Mambereacute Prefecture en route for the one hour, 25-minute flight to Yaounde, Cameroon, you are surprised at the level of peace and security in this part of the Central African Republic. While some people in Garoua Boulai claimed that the highway to Bouar was not tarred, others suggested that gun-totting men were still a common sight on the road. But we saw none of these, driving without any armed escort or worry for 150 km through sparsely populated countryside. Surely, Cameroonian-born Major General Martin Chomu Tumenta, Commander of UN MINUSCA troops in the Central African Republic, is doing a commendable job.
As the country prepares for crucial general elections this August to return power to a constitutional government, it may safely be said that the security situation in the western part of CAR is under control. Perhaps, the remaining major challenge is convincing thousands of CAR refugees in Cameroon and in Internally-displaced People’s camps inside their country to return home.
Source : Cameroon Tribune