Scores of drivers have been wounded or killed in the CAR by armed gangs in the last few years, and their union in Cameroon is currently suspending all journeys into the country, while calling for measures to prevent further bloodshed.
Despite repeated pleas for better protection and escorts within the CAR, neither government has acted on the continued toll of attacks. As a result some 634 vehicles are currently being held back for the safety of their drivers and cargoes.
Writing to the presidents and prime ministers of both nations, ITF general secretary Steve Cotton stated:
I am writing to you as the general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which represents 4.6 million transport workers around the world, to express solidarity and support for the Syndicat National des Chauffeurs Professionnels des Transports du Cameroun (SYNCPROTCAM) in their action to protect the safety of truck drivers transporting goods to the Central African Republic.
The ITF is seriously concerned about the safety for truck drivers as according to the union, since 2013, 17 truck drivers have been killed and more than 25 drivers have been seriously wounded following attacks by unidentified armed gangs in PK12 (the district of Bangui, Bossamtele, Bouar, Baouro, Baboua and Beloko in the Central African Republic).
SYNCPROTCAM has been raising issues linked to the safety of truck drivers on a number of occasions. However, despite several attempts to address this issue, the ITF understands that the authorities in Cameroon and the Central African Republic have been slow to find measures to ensure the safety of truck drivers and the cargoes being transported.
As a result, the ITF understands that since 29 July 2015, SYNCPROTCAM has taken action to block the movement of all trucks bound for the Central African Republic. Currently, a total of 634 trucks are blocked at several locations between Douala, the main port of Cameroon and Garoua-Boulaï on the border with the Central African Republic. The union is demanding, among others, provision of life insurance for truck drivers, a limit on the number of trucks included in each escorted trip, checks on trucks carrying goods for the Central African Republic, and an end to truck drivers being forced to transport passengers.
The ITF fully supports this action by SYNCPROTCAM to protect the safety of truck drivers and therefore calls on the governments of Cameroon and the Central African Republic to act immediately on this matter so that meaningful social dialogue and negotiations can be opened in order to address the problems being raised by SYNCPROTCAM.
We believe that only concerted efforts at the highest levels of both countries, together with involvement of the union, will arrive at an effective and sustainable solution.