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Soldiers Hold FIFFA Bank Manager Hostage 

By Clerance Forchu*

CameroonPostline.com — Angry soldiers, September 4, took hostage the Manager of the First Investment for Financial Assistance, FIFFA, Melen in Yaounde, two officials from the Ministry of Finance, MINFI, and three workers of the bank. Clients of FIFFA, mostly soldiers, had rushed to the bank on that day with the hope of being paid their accrued salaries and pensions for two months.


 

Earlier on September 3, the Minister of Finance, Alamin Ousmane Mey, had reassured the clients of FIFFA that all was well and that they could go to the said bank and collect their money.
When the clients got to the bank, no payment was evident. Impatient, they began grumbling. “For two weeks now my children have not fed well and today they must feed well,” a disappointed client said.
 

Another one said: “We are waiting for our money even if it means that we have to pass the night here. We want no more appointments because we have been hearing ‘go and come’ for two months now.” Meanwhile, three officials from MINFI were sent to check the state of things at the bank. They had assured the clients that money would soon be available for the payment of salaries and pensions, but added that money for savings would be paid later.   
 

Having waited till mid-day to no avail, one of the MINFI officials told the people that he was going to check on what was happening at the Ministry. When the clients waited for over three hours without feedback from the Ministry, they took the Bank Manager, the two other finance officials and three workers at the bank hostage.
 

With time, the tension increased and the people grew more desperate. The doors of the bank were destroyed. Files were also destroyed, scattered and trampled upon, in and out of the bank. A client who lit a cigarette inside the bank sparked off a fire which nearly suffocated the people stuck inside the building. The Mobile Intervention Unit of the Gendarmerie, commonly known by its French acronym, PI, was called to put out the fire alongside four fire fighters.
 

With the fire under control, the tension was renewed as clients kept on insisting that they wanted their money.  Colonel Bomba of the National Gendarmerie, who was at the scene, tried to calm the irate clients. The following day, the bank was surrounded by uniformed officers. According to one of them, they were there to protect the bank and prevent any attempts of violence.
 

The atmosphere was not different at other branches of the micro-finance institution. Several other clients who had not been paid also gathered at the Mballa II branch still in Yaounde. There, military men could be seen seriously demanding payment of their salaries. FIFFA ran into the problems of liquidity some months back and has not been able to pay its clients the months of July and August.
 

*UB Journalism Student On Internship
 

First published in The Post print edition no 01374

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