Business owners went on strike, shutting down at least six markets across the city of Bamenda today, to protest the doubling of shop and stall rents.
About 3000 traders marched on Up Station with placards, blocking off the main entrance to the city around the Governor’s Office for more than four hours.
They were also protesting against what they termed repeated intimidation from the City Council’s market wardens and other officials.
City officials cancelled the rent increase at the end of a heated meeting with protesters. The Government Delegate was absent.
Markets across the city remained closed all day
The City had unilaterally raised different categories of monthly rent from FCFA8,000 and FCAF10,000 to FCFA15,000 and FCFA20,000. Charges for street vendors also rose from FCFA100 to FCFA500 a week.
The increases affected Main Market, Food Market, Ntarikon Market, Nkwen Market, Behind Stadium Market, Hospital Market and other markets operated by the council around the city.
Jude Niandin, the Secretary General of the City, said they were implementing a regulation on the calculation of rents that has existed since 2009. The rent increase result from a recalculation using this old rule, he said.
But traders rejected the move and said they would be unable to break even with the increased cost of doing business in the city’s markets.
However, Frederick Nde, president of the Progressive Bamenda Traders’ Association, said the city council had treated his members with arrogance.
They began marching at 7am and only left the streets around 11 am. The road blockades crippled movement in and out of the city, leaving intercity travellers stranded at Up Station.
Markets are expected to reopen tomorrow. But tensions remain. Traders’ representatives said they were uncertain if other problems, including alleged harassments, will go away.