Lawyers from Meme Division, SWR are taking over from their comrades in Bamenda who last week protested against the changes in the Cameroons Penal Code. The Cameroons National Assembly has recently adopted the bill which changes some provisions of the Cameroons Penal Code. Some of the controversial changes include:
– A five-year jail term for beating and eviction of spouse from matrimonial home
– Heavy jail term for abandonment of matrimonial home
– The imprisonment for failure to pay house rents
– Immunity for government ministers
-Six-year jail term for adultery
– Three-year jail term for begging
Amongst these grievances stipulated by the lawyers , they also found time to carry placards which call for the end of Anglophone marginalization, No to common law changes, No to planned educational harmonization as well as to stop the planned transfer of CDC Head office to Limbe. It was reported that nearly 100 lawyers in the city of Kumba took to the streets to protest these aforementioned changes. Among a list of grievances, are possible constitutional changes that would reduce presidential mandates to five years, and set an impromptu presidential election for 2017. It should be recalled that nearly all sectors of National life have been calling for the withdrawal of this bill in Cameroons Parliament. BBC, Randy Joe reporter from Yaounde has also been reporting on this protests by the lawyers. It is evident that the protest is also taking an international attention.
THE SDF GROUP
The Social Democratic Front, SDF, Parliamentary Group has also objected to the adoption of bill No. 989/PJL/AN relating to a new Penal Code. They wrote: “We submit that this bill be withdrawn for further and broad-based consultation on all its provisions before re-tabling it to Parliament for full scrutiny.” Banadzem Joseph Lukong, SDF Parliamentary Group Leader raised the preliminary objection during a plenary session, Wednesday, June 22. According to the SDF MPs, the content of the Bill would have been subjected to profound scrutiny; section by section, with the view of eliminating all useless anachronisms which stem from the country’s two colonial backgrounds. “Moreover, provisions of the code which were drafted on the background of a Federal System bore different meanings in the two Federated States as the courts tended to interpret them having regard to their colonial heritage,” the group posited. “We observed that so much was not treated in committee and that ought to be modified, rephrased and even suppressed. Bring in plenary, we are certain that we would not be given that possibility of dueling on these many other provisions that were not the subject of discussion in the committee,” the SDF Parliamentary Group Noted.
The SDF, as usual, walked out of the Parliament during its adoption- BaretaNews can confirm.
THE BAR COUNCIL
The President of the General Assembly of the Cameroon Bar association, Barrister Nico Halle, has suggested that the draft bill on a new Cameroon penal code recently adopted by the constitutional laws, human rights and freedoms committee of the National Assembly, be withdrawn and reviewed by a panel of legal experts because it is replete with incongruities.
Nico Halle said that having thoroughly perused the said bill, he discovered a lot of nuances, which if adopted as it is, will not reflect the aspirations of a majority of Cameroonians.
“Since I started hearing about the draft bill on the penal code, I have been making my opinion heard on the dangers of passing a bill that has not properly and thoroughly been analyzed and fine-tuned. Such a bill calls for contributions from a cross-section of experts in our society including legal experts, for us to have a penal code worth its salt.”
Citing one of the gray areas in the bill, the legal consultant said: “Take, for instance, the article on tenants; it is true that the rights of landlords should be protected because there are a lot of unscrupulous tenants, but what about the rights of the tenants? They should be protected as well.”
The Bar Council had earlier sent a communiqué to the Government condemning the Bill.
ANGLOPHONE NEWSPAPER ASSOCIATION
The Anglophone Newspaper Association has called on President Paul Biya not to promulgate the bill adopted by Cameroons Parliament and Senate. In a communiqué signed by their Secretary-General, Mr. John Mbah Akuru, they wrote:
“..We, members of the Cameroon Anglophone Newspaper Publishers’ Association, CANPA have taken a keen interest in the ongoing national debates on certain amendments being made to the country’s penal code. We have also found time to seek legal counsel with respect to some unacceptable, provocative and seemingly inhuman provisions included in the bill adopted grudgingly by members of the Lower House of the National Assembly.
Mr. President, there are two provisions of that law and an important omission that capture our attention, but which are sufficient enough to let you see the need to return that bill to the Lower House of Parliament for another reading, while receiving views from the broad spectrum of other stakeholders….”
The journalists in their communiqué picked issues with the Ministers Immunity and Imprisonment for tenants who failed to pay 2 months rents. They elaborated and gave the President all reasons why the bill must not be promulgated into law. In their conclusion, they wrote
” Were you by any chance to go ahead and promulgate that bill into law, then you would have, by that single act ordered the creation of many more prisons, worsened the plight of an already suffocating mass of common poor people and placed the peace reigning in Cameroon in danger…”
This should be a national cry. Lawyers from all corners of the Country must rise up. The people must be seen to support the lawyers. From every indication, Mr. Biya must not promulgate the adopted bill into Law. Mr. Biya must rise up against these sycophants in the National Assembly and show the Cameroons people that for once he can stand with them. Mr. Biya should show the Cameroons people that he listens to them and there is, therefore, the need for this bill to be sent back to Parliament. Lawyers, Civil society, and the Cameroonian people have been protesting calling on the Government to withdraw this law. The voice of the people is the voice of God, Mr. Biya should listen to the people because the adoption of this bill will cause more anarchy than it sets to create order.
BaretaNews calls on the lawyers and civil society to create a synergy to work together and stop the government in moving ahead with this planned bill. The lawyers should be prepared to shut down the judiciary should Mr. Biya go ahead to promulgate the bill into law.
God is still saying something.