The brutal and bestial attack on lawyers in Buea was dreadful and horrendous. It was a devastating demolition of the image of justice in Cameroun. Robes and wigs that grace legal solemnities were rubbed in the mire, torn and taken away. Lawyers’ chambers were invaded in gross contempt for the law. Whoever was found on the premises was battered, tortured and/or wounded. As if in the furtherance of the strike, those robes and wigs are retained to date. The mildest way to depict the attack is that it was like every other punitive military expedition!
Even if they were only Common Law lawyers, considered and treated in Cameroun as second class citizens, they are not any less members of the Cameroun’s Bar Association. That association has elected leaders; and one should suppose that members are bonded together by team spirit. In the normal course of things, then, the leaders of the association would have raised an outcry at the degrading treatment meted out to their colleagues. All or, at the worst, the majority of the members of the association would have vociferously condemned, even in unanimity, such colossal ignominy any of them could be victim of in some future time. Where there is unity of purpose or just outlook, Francophone members of the Bar would have joined the strike, or even just threatened to, out of solidarity with their Anglophone counterparts.
But what has been the situation? The shedding of blood by
Anglophone lawyers has been treated by the Francophone lawyers as a nonevent. Perhaps with such derogatory utterances as “Serves them right”; or “Vos choses anglophones–la”; or even positive contemptuous expression of regret that the trespass to the person was not severe enough! …
And so must the true Anglophone put things in their right perspectives. This must be read into the events of 1984 and 1990. They must be read into our having been called with impunity “Ennemis dans la maison”. We have to remember our having been told in the face that we are strangers on our own native land; and that if we dislike their (mis)treatment of us, we should go back to wherever we came from… Arh take God beg all man!
We preach no violence. At least not before peaceful options have been exhausted! But it was high time we got Yaounde to understand that we have inalienable rights. It was high time we got Yaounde to understand that we are all children of God, made in his own image and likeness. That we have been recognized by the international community as a people; and so we stand side by side with them as two peoples equal in status. That, flowing from that, we shall never again glorify the status of second class citizens.
To make our point heard and taken absolutely seriously, we must boycott the Africa Women Cup of Nations! That’s the least we should do! The lawyers have gone for over a month without their briefs. We should not pretend we are with them when we refuse to forgo something as intangible as going to the stadium: watching matches on television instead of going to the stadium. By so doing, we stand to gain doubly: we keep the gate fees; and we send the message of our mistreatment to the rest of Africa.
That is the litmus test! No picketing at all! But this is an occasion for our sense of patriotism to be sieved!
Did you want me to say “winnowed”?
By Chief Justice Ayah Paul Abine
Cameroun Supreme Court Advocate