Members of the Cameroon Anglophone Newspaper Publishers’ Association- CANPA have observed with dismay and total disbelieve how security forces in the North West and South West regions have descended on Common Law Lawyers exercising their rights to peaceful protests against the wanton discrimination against Anglophones of former Southern Cameroons extraction, reducing us to subhuman standards.
The Common Law Lawyers have, from every indication exhausted all avenues open to dialogue to resolve some of the teething problems affecting not only their profession, but Anglophones and their cultural heritage in the Republic of Cameroon. The Lawyers held meetings in Bamenda and Buea and came out with memoranda addressed to the government with clear proposals on how this so-called unified country could continue to forge ahead with all its people looking in the same direction and shaping a common destiny.
Several months on, the government continues to behave as if all was well; because these lawyers happen to be of English expression and practicing in an area considered “Conquered Territory”, the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, Head of Government and the Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals to whom petitions were addressed have maintained a defiant silence, waiting for any move to go out maiming and torturing innocent citizens.
CANPA wishes to remind the government that nowhere in the world would any trial of an accused person in a language both he and his lawyer do not master would be called fair hearing! That is why every other international instrument to which Cameroon is a signatory generally talks of ensuring that any judgment must be passed in such a way that any person declared guilty of any offense would have been so “beyond reasonable doubts”, a principle that immediately falls to the ground when there is a clearly established language barrier.
The Cameroon BAR Council, led by its President- Barrister Ngnie Kamga who is of French expression, has come up with a strongly worded press release admitting that it was wrong to appoint magistrates, court registrars and judicial police officers with little or no knowledge of Common Law to Common Law jurisdictions in the North West and South West regions of the country. The BAR Council called for an immediate redress of the situation, yet no one is paying attention.
What happened in Bamenda and Buea, where policemen battered, maimed and wounded lawyers, went from hotel to hotel violating privacies and seizing robes reminds us all of an era where there was no freedom of speech and of expression as well as assembly in Cameroon. It makes nonsense of President Paul Biya’s claim that he is the father of democracy and wishes to be seen as the one person who promoted, implanted and nurtured democratic principles in Cameroon.
In Kumba, the First Assistant Senior Divisional Officer demonstrated total ignorance and inconsistency; it is surprising she rose up one morning to claim that an association which had been operating in Kumba and organizing activities the administration took part at regularly was illegal. As if that was not enough, policemen were instructed to literally quarantine any individual dressed in black suit and white shirt; they were systematically searched to ascertain they had no robes or wigs, as if the country was under siege!
CANPA is calling for an immediate end to all those excesses, and is reminding the powers that be that Cameroon is a signatory to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Article 11 of that Charter stipulates that; “Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others.
The exercise of this right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided for by law, in particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, health, ethics and rights and freedom of others”.
The African Charter focuses mainly on the State in Article 25, outlining its responsibility in this regard when it clearly states; “States parties to the present Charter shall have the duty to promote and ensure through teaching, education and application, the respect of the rights and freedoms contained in the present Charter and to see to it that these freedoms and rights as well as corresponding obligations and duties are understood”.
It is thus observable that the Cameroon government has failed in its duty to play its role; that of dialogue in the first instance and total refusal to protect and guide the Common Law Lawyers carrying out peaceful demonstrations from police brutality. Viewing what happened and the consequent silence, it could even be said that the government cautioned the action in total violation of its local and international engagements.
CANPA is by this token expressing its solidarity with the Common Law Lawyers in the noble fight for the common good of all Anglophone Cameroonians from former Southern Cameroons extraction, including even the misguided ones who are taking sides with the Yaounde authorities against their children, brothers and sisters as well as future generations.
Dear brothers and sisters of the legal profession, we hereby pledge to stand by you throughout this highly justified struggle until victory is ours! We also pledge to throw our weight behind the teachers’ associations that are beginning their own industrial action on Monday the 21st of November, 2016.
Done in Yaounde this 12th Day of November, 2016-11-12
John Mbah Akuroh