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Gang violence on the rise in Douala, Cameroon

Gang Violence in Cameroon   -  
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Douala, Cameroon's economic capital city of some 3.7 million people is known for its hustling and bustling. But also now for something that puts fear in the minds of many- Gang violence. 

A group of young men in addressing the threat now go out with light arms to protect their neighborhood. 

"It was just a surprise, a shock. They came out in a big group and that Sunday everyone was trying to escape, pack up their goods and flee. It was a bit like that. Well, I had to pack up my things, I started to run away and hurt my foot. We didn't see it coming." Prince, an attack victim said of his experience.

 Norbert Tapa, a trader in the city has also had his bitter share of the violence. 

"They came to beat up the traders, to take things from the traders and other people who were passing by. Because there was no shortage of bandits in the crowd, other bandits who came by took advantage of the opportunity to cause trouble without even being aware of what was going on." Tapa explained.

Gang violence in Douala the main commercial city in Cameroon is on the rise both night and day, according to authorities. Local community watch committees are being set up to deal with this new form of crime.

Njoh Nicolas is the Secretary general of the chiefdom of the canton of Deido. For him, the process of seeing with each village chief how to set up a community watch committee, one in which a community watch is placed in every village to ensure good response is important. 

The plan is now underway. "Because the canton is so big, if we put them in each village, the response will be stronger."  he explains. 

Nicolas is fortunately not alone in finding solutions to the problem. 

A non-profit group Saint-Nicodème chain of Foyers is also offering shelter and educational opportunities to about forty street children to help them reintegrate into society. 

Paul Adamou, Priest and director of the group believes the approach has to be different. "They are street kids. Perhaps when they find themselves in difficult situations, they are forced to use violence, to use alternative means to feed themselves and protect themselves. But with what we offer at the Saint-Nicodème chain of shelters, along with the State, I think that these children are given a second chance. They accept what we offer them in terms of education and the opportunity we give them."

The toll of casualties from the gang raids is unknown, but last month alone, at least four districts suffered such attacks.

Adamou maintains that the better approach would be "to identify them and get them to turn towards productive activities rather than favouring repression".

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