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UN Official Calls For Better Working Condition at Lom Pangar 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

The Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, Ahowanou Agbessi, has called on the companies building the Lom Pangar Dam in the East Region to improve the working conditions of their employees and respect the socio-economic rights of local communities.

He made the call at the site of the giant electricity project at Lom Pangar recently. The UN official was accompanied by 26 journalists whom his centre trained during a seminar on “Human Rights and Bussiness” in Bertoua from recently.

After examining the working conditions of some employees in the place, Ahowanou Agbessi said the various actors have the will to create decent working conditions in respect of human rights and have started doing that, but urged them to do more.

He lauded the Electricity Development Corporation, EDC that represents the State in the project, for resettling the people of Lom Pangar village who were dislodged from the project site. But the UN official urged EDC to go ahead and provide them more social amenities including electricity and pipe borne water.

“As you can see, there is no electricity in this village. As far as water is concerned, there are only three wells for 57 families. That is not enough”, the official screamed. He recommended better working conditions of all employees and respect of the socio-economic rights of the local communities. He said he was happy that the various stakeholders of the project gave a chance to social dialogue in order to ensure the respect of human rights in the health, education and infrastructural and employment domains.

To the official, the movers and shakers of the Lom Pangar project should reconcile business with the respect of human rights so that the result is a win-win situation.

                                                 Complaining Voices

A visit to where the Chinese Nationals live and Cameroonian workers sleep at the Lom pangar project site, makes a day and night difference. The Chinese camp consists of decent apartments of well cemented and painted rooms with all facilities. Cameroonian workers live in tiny rooms constructed with wood.

In a bid to compare the two camps, a French Language colleague said the situation has striking resemblance of “Tanga North and Tanga South” of Eza boto’s imagination in his novel “Ville Cruelle”. “We live in hell here,” one of the Cameroonians who said he is a welder told The Post in their camp. His room is a tiny cubicle and has a clumsy collection of planks covered by a slim piece of Dunlop which is not more than 4 inches.

While admitting that there is a health center at the camp to take care of the sick, he said the structure lacks drugs and equipment. “But what is more disturbing is that when I am sick and want to go and have better treatment in town, my Chinese bosses are always reluctant to give me permission,” he complained. Most of the workers The Post spoke to at the Lom Pangar project said the working conditions were precarious. Yet they admitted that such conditions have been ameliorated. They revealed that they now have a risk allowance of FCFA 300 instead of FCFA100 as was the case before. According to them, even though a plate of food costs FCFA800, they pay only FCFA200 while EDC picks the rest of the bill. But they all want better working conditions including an increase in their salaries.

The village head of Lom Pangar, Dodo Farouko said they have received compensation from EDC but also want the outfit to provide them with more social amenities. The same claims were made by the paramount ruler of the Deng Deng clan, Chief Roger Don Kussala. It was noticed that a majority of Cameroonians were doing unskilled labour because of lack of qualification while the Chinese were doing the top jobs.

While reacting to complaints, a Senior Official of EDC, Dr. Alphonse Emadak, said they were battling everyday to ensure that the Chinese company respects the socio economic rights of workers at Lom Pangar. He said due to the credibility of the organisations bankrolling the projects including World Bank, it was incumbent on them to protect labour rights and socio-economic rights of workers and the local communities.

He revealed that indemnities to the local communities have been paid to the tune of 98 percent. To him, the cost of the project that started in 2011 is estimated at circa FCFA 270 billion. The enterprises asked how many Cameroonians were employed in the project and he said they are supposed to be 880, but are not up to due to unskilled labour. He revealed that EDC spends CFA 12.000 per worker a day.

According to the communication officer of the project, Roger Takam, the mitigating of the socio-environmental impact is swallowing a huge sum of FCFA 44 billion, while the payment of indemnities and the rehabilitation of displaced villages will take FCFA 12 billion.




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