It would pre-empt disastrous happenings like the Eseka accident which had untold consequences.
History, they say, has proven to be the best teacher. Good things that happened yesterday are fine-tuned to make tomorrow better. Those that are ugly are painstakingly righted so as not only to forget the bitter past but equally to have a brighter future. Cameroon can only be a student of its own history. Last year’s disgusting Eseka train accident has opened the eyes of all and sundry and there is expressed determination never to see such atrocity happen again.
The publication Tuesday of the results of enquiry into the October 21, 2016 train derailment and the instructions of the Head of State thereto shows the determination of government to halt yet near unilateral decision-making of the rail outfit, chiefly responsible for the carnage.
Some of the strongly-worded measures President Paul Biya has prescribed to pre-empt such unfortunate happenings in the future is a stronger involvement of government in the decision-making instances of Cameroon Railway Company, CAMRAIL. The company’s partners have been instructed to open up discussions so as to ensure a stronger State presence in the said corporation as well as greater focus on social aspects, topmost of which should be passenger transport. Strengthening the State’s decision role in the corporation, no doubt, passes through increasing her shares so as to be comfortably present in the day-to-day management of the irresistible people-oriented company. Reviewing the 1999 concession agreement signed between the State and CAMRAIL wherein the former has the responsibility of technically and commercially managing the corporation, maintenance of railway infrastructure and acquisition of equipment is imperative. Hope is that a strengthened control and surveillance would help avert sometimes amateurish management and or unbridled quest for gain even at the expense of peoples’ lives, like what caused the Eseka bloodbath.
Coming out from inquiry that the main reason why the train's coaches overturned was over speeding (96 km/h) on a rail section with an extremely low speed limit (40 km/h) and CAMRAIL's non-observance of some safety rules and that the 152 train, which was put into service that very day, had major abnormalities and defects, speaks volumes. The collapse of the bridge on Manyai linking Yaounde to Douala pushed hundreds of travellers to the railway and since there was no stricter control, the humans lives were sacrificed on the alter of gain. Decision to overload the train and unduly extend the rake even with use of passenger coaches, several of which had defective braking systems, would be averted with stronger State administrative control. The safety of the people would precede gain and not the reverse.
The least of steps to be taken to make the State’s presence better felt would not be a short-term establishment of the railway heritage management company. Such a structure would be responsible for maintaining the railway network as well as implementing railway modernization and extension projects. A better way to rethink the country’s rail lines some of which are either suffering from sharp decay, acts of vandalism or are in steep slopes and several sharp bends that are at best accident-friendly. An emerging economy Cameroon aspires for, maximises all transport means. She cannot therefore allow an indispensable sector like railways to serve as death traps and dread people who badly need them for movement.