The Cameroons people, the Bar Council, Cameroon Anglophone Journalist Association and all Lawyers who took to the streets including the SDF who opposed the bill have all won the battle but not the war. Thursday, 30th June 2016 was a stormy day in the Parliament. The heat was so hot that the House Speaker postponed the revision session of the penal code to Friday, 1st July 2016.
Reports from the Cameroons indicate that after two hours of debate at the National Assembly, MPs adopted the amended version of the PENAL Code. The bone of contention had been section 127 which gives immunity to Cameroon Government Ministers and the section criminalizing tenants who default on their rents at least for 2 months. The National Assembly succeeded in amending the section of Government Ministers immunity. The adopted section now reads ” Any Judicial, legal or investigating police officer who prosecutes, arrests or tries anyone in violation of laws conferring immunity shall be punished with imprisonment from 1(one) to 5(five) years.”
The original version read ” Any judicial, legal or investigating police officer who in violation of any law conferring immunity prosecutes, arrests or tries a member of the government or of parliament, shall be punished with imprisonment for from 1 (one) to 5 (five) years.” . The word MEMBERS OF GOVERNMENT has been withdrawn from the original version. This implicitly covers everybody now in all arms of Government. This means that if there is any individual who has been conferred immunity by law, no official can arrest or trial the said person. It is understandable that such immunity could be lost once such is revoked by the authority which conferred the immunity upon him/her.
However, the remaining part of the bill remains unchanged especially those criminalizing tenants. BaretaNews had earlier argued that this move to revise the penal code was a political scam from Paul Biya who wanted to be seen as the big man having a listening ear from Cameroonians. This is not the case because the section which touches directly the welfare of Cameroonians remain the same as the original version. He only had to subtly remove immunity from his Ministers – a situation BaretaNews argues he never wanted in the first place.
The bill has been sent to President Paul Biya for promulgation. If promulgated into law, then more prisons for tenants should be constructed as the Bar Council stated. We should expect to see more criminal cases coming up. The government itself rents multiple houses from Cameroonians as government offices, they sometimes go for months and even years without paying. Cameroonians especially those who leave ENS, Police, and other state functions go for months without salary. It is not yet understood how revision of the penal code and this law could be enforced. Would the government be charged also to court?
BaretaNews can only conclude that most of these MPs and Senators own houses, student Mini cités and estates which they give out to Cameroonians. They will be in the position of strength now to put fear into all those renting their properties.
BaretaNews awaits to see how the future will unfold
God is still saying something.