Southern Cameroons Common Law Lawyers operating in Ambazonia have been advised not to participate in the upcoming Cameroun Bar Elections as a protest call in the ongoing war declared upon the people of the Former British Southern Cameroons. They have been advised not to even send a proxy to vote for them. Firebrand activists Eric Tataw and Mark Bareta have been on the front calling on these lawyers to abstain from such an election which touches the soul of the revolution. The Interim Government also did weigh in to officially ban any common law lawyers participating in such an election. However, Barrister Akere T Muna, the Cameroun 2018 Presidential candidate has come to the defense of his colleagues in Southern Cameroons. In a seemingly very angry tone and frustrated open letter, Barrister Akere Muna in his letter title “Please Leave the Bar to Barristers” has reacted indicating he cannot sit quiet when such injustice is perpetrated against common law lawyers who are supposed to defend Anglophone interest in the Cameroun Bar. Read on
Please Leave the Bar to Barristers Akere T. Muna
As I struggle to accept the evil that that has visited the Anglophone peoples: the daily kidnappings against ransom; the killings; the burning of property; the growing population of refugees and internally displaced persons; the increasing number of orphans; the growing ranks of child soldiers; the panic of many families whose teenagers are conscripted into defense forces; young girls getting pregnant in the forests; and all other nauseating misery and torture I will not mention here, I wonder where we, as a people, are headed. As the Chairperson of the African Peer Review Mechanism of the African Union, I visited Sierra Leone and listened to their stories in utter disbelief. Now, that very same film is playing out in my own home. When I visited the United States, someone told me that this suffering was “simply collateral damage from the struggle”. It is all right, I suppose, for those safe in their homes overseas while others suffering back home are “simply collateral damage”. I have learned to accept that this struggle has many parts and, with great difficulty, I continue to restrain myself from saying “my way or the highway”, even when others do.
I have just learnt that there is a ban on lawyers, especially those who practice in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, from attending the General Assembly of the Bar Association during which elections will be held. Even those who would like to participate by sending proxies are threatened! I have been the President of our Bar Association as well as President of the Pan African Lawyers Union. The Bar is both a national and an international institution. Many times Cameroonian lawyers have gotten protection from international associations. The only law ever voted and not promulgated in the history of Cameroon is the one concerning the Bar Association and the attempt to totally subjugate it. This was from pressure from international Bar Associations. Lawyers act internationally at an influential level through their Bar Associations. Consequently it is in the utmost interest of the Common Law lawyers to ensure that they are represented at the highest level of the Bar.
All those who have been to the Military Tribunal to attend the trials of our sisters and brothers who are locked up, must have seen the many francophone lawyers who come to assist. Although our firm now defends upwards of fifty (50) accused persons, I am now organizing to concentrate more time and resources to ramp up the defense of those in jail here in Yaounde. Many learned colleagues, both Anglophone and Francophone, are currently assisting, with others promising to do so. It is thus important for Anglophone lawyers to attend the assembly massively so we can have a Bar President and Bar Council that understand our plight.
We are paying a heavy toll today because of the total lack of strategy and the most amazing falsehoods perpetrated in the guise of propaganda. This has been the
hallmark of certain actions taken. We all know that falsehood is good for the opportunity, and truth for eternity. More and more we are making every problem we have and all obstacles we must face look like a nail just because the only tool at our disposal is a hammer.
If Common Law lawyers, for a strategic reason, prefer to sit these elections out, then they should meet and decide, but till then, please leave the Bar to Barristers. The fact that the Bar is created by an act of parliament does not diminish its independence from the regime in power. The historic confrontation between the Bar and the government is witness to this. What is important is the attitude of those who lead the Bar. This, precisely, is why it is important to ensure Anglophone representation.
So what is next? Banning Anglophone Doctors from consulting Francophone patients and vice versa? What about the Hippocratic oath? Lawyers do have legal obligations too. Will they be asked to stop contributing then get disbarred? Lawyers are bound by their oath, as well as the spirit of confraternity with other lawyers, be they Anglophone or Francophone. Already they are living under the most marginal conditions as many have seen powerful practices run to the ground. The longer this fight is one about the horse and the rider (with those here at home being the horse), the more the danger that the horse might just be ridden to death becomes a probability.
In the eighties and nineties, our Bar Association was a leading force in the fight for human rights and freedoms. The first powerful speech for a multiparty democracy was made in the General Assembly of the Bar. It is the General Assembly of the Bar that has been there for the Common Law lawyers in the earlier years. The protection of the rights of our colleagues called to the Nigerian Bar has been from this Cameroon Bar. The Bar Association is the window of your Barristers to the world. If we shut that, then we would have just hammered another nail on our fate.
Please, please, leave the Bar to the Barristers.