“They’re using ‘tchap’, glue or cocaine”
After hearing of people being arrested for drug trafficking and consumption, of drugs seized at Douala’s port and airport, I wanted to understand how drug trafficking worked in the city. So I went into the neighbourhoods where drugs are sold. Introducing myself as a journalist made the dealers distrustful and they wouldn’t answer my questions. So I decided to go back and pretend to be a user.First I went to the Congo Market, an area known for being a hotspot for dealers. I found one quickly. I told him I was a singer and because I had a concert two days later I needed something to prevent stage fright. He asked me to give him 1,000 CFA in advance and to come back later. That’s a technique widely used when the buyer is new, so that the dealer can be sure the person is serious and is, above all, not an undercover policeman. I went back in the afternoon, and another guy gave me some heroine in exchange for my 1,000 CFA.There are names and codes used to identify the drugs. Powdered cocaine and heroin are known as ‘caillou’, while drugs that are smoked are often referred to as ‘tchap’, which means ‘leaf’ in several languages spoken in west Cameroon.Drugs are mostly sold in neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Douala, such as in Makea, nicknamed Dubai because the business is so lucrative there. But they can also be found right in the heart of the city centre, such as at a school that I attended myself. Part of the property is made up of sports grounds, but these are partially deserted and there are weeds growing, so it’s become a popular place for junkies to come and smoke heroine and cannabis, while watching young people play football.Most of the dealers are from Cameroon. They start when they’re about 15 years old; they come from deprived areas, and often they don’t have families. They’re idle, they spend their days drinking, smoking and making money in various illegal ways, like theft and dealing drugs.