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AES-SONEL’s Psychological Genocide 

By Peterkins Manyong

The word "genocide" has so often been used when talking about crimes against humanity, that it has almost become a synonym for it.

Well known cases of genocide are extermination of six million Jews in concentration camps in Hitler’s Germany, the Rwanda Genocide of 1994. The massacre of hundreds of Cameroonians by the Operational Command in Douala in 2001, have arguably described as genocide. These crimes have  stuck for so long on the psyche of man because there is historical evidence that such beastly acts took place.

Our preoccupation with the well known crimes against humanity, unfortunately, blinds us to other equally obnoxious activities that shorten the lives of even millions. Most of these offences are the handiwork of persons and rogue organisations which profess to work for the welfare of humanity.

One of such organisations feigning service to mankind is the electricity supply company, AES-SONEL. The gravity of AES-SONEL’s sin can be understood when we recall that the opening words of God at creation was "Let there be light" and, of course, there was light and God saw that the light was good. But here, we have a company that derives exquisite delight from switching off lights.

"Always Expect Shortage" as AES-SONEL is derogatorily called, presumably does so in order to savour the shouts of joy that usually greet the return of light after a blackout session. Emboldened by the sheepish reaction of its consumers, who see the provision of light as a favour and not something paid for, AES-SONEL proceeds with its financial massacre:

the issuance of exorbitant bills to the very people whose electrical appliances and businesses had already been ruined by the company’s power outages. Vice can take hold of a man so much that it becomes his very way of thinking, says French novelist, Honore de Balzac. The book in question here is "Eugenie Grandet", the vice avarice.  The character that manifests it is Le Pere Grandet.

In the case of AES-SONEL, the vice is exploitation. Practically all those engaged in the process of writing out bills are involved. Not only are the bills exorbitant, the payment process is painfully slow because of AES-SONEL’s unwillingness to create other payment points. It wouldn’t do so because decentralising the payment of bills means employing more workers and paying more money as rent.

Like the miser in "Eugenie Grandet", the company’s passion is the maximisation of profit. What is particularly painful about it is that when consumers fail to pay, penalties much higher than the bills are slammed on them. The most afflicted victims of AES-SONEL are students writing their end-of-year and end-of-course exams.

The gravity of the AES-SONEL’s crime is perceptible from the fact that  the company has caused even loss of lives. The memory of two young persons shot killed in Abong-Mbang and Kumba some years back, resulting from power failure has not yet been obliterated. The killings took place during a demonstration to protest against the company’s outrageous act of power cuts. The students found the deprivation unacceptable.

The electricity company apologised for its excesses. But history seems to be repeating as Kumba residents were recently in the streets again denouncing "AES". In Bamenda, the civil society, led by Simon Nkwenti, has resolved that Northwesterners have swallowed enough filth from "AES". But for the intervention of Mezam SDO, Joseph Bertand Njonunguet, the story today would be different.

Nkwenti told The Post that over 3000 civil society activists mobilised to take part in the exercise, were only to blow whistles shaming "AES" since they lack the capability to punish the company. There is every reason to suspect that the exercise would have gone beyond whistle blowing, considering that the mind of the average Cameroonian is a seething volcano in search of a vent to emit the magma of its frustration with the Biya Regime. This, with much justification.

AES-SONEL could not be acting with such impunity if it were not confident it could get away with it. The company took over the supply of electricity from the French company SONEL. It is common knowledge that the privatisation exercise in Cameroon is characterised by shady deals. Persons who line their pockets in this process definitely know exposure and would like to give the impression that the king, the monster they have created, is well dressed when to the naked eye he is stark naked.

Until most parts of Yaounde, the capital city was plunged in pitch darkness a week ago, AES-SONEL and its protectors gave the impression that all was well. Conditions in a society have to become unbearable before a large number of people undertake to overthrow the controlling system by revolution. The prevailing situation is not one which can be solved by cajolery or sugar-coated words.

Electricity is an indispensable commodity as most economic, social or even political activities, depend on it. If AES-SONEL can’t provide the energy required of it, the company has no justification, whatever, to hang around. Its pranks are becoming too hard to bear. If, as the Mezam SDO mentioned above, says a thermal plant is on the verge of completion in Ntarinkon, to make electricity supply constant in Bamenda, for instance, so be it.

The company should ensure it constructs same  in all parts of the country, failure to do which the boiling pot of the people’s anger will soon blow off the lid and the contents will splash on its  service providers with all its devastating consequences.
"AES" should never say it was never warned.

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