Anglophone Cameroon ‘Palaver’: Biya Enacts Sweeping Reforms in the Justice System – But Coming Too Late

President Biya’s regime has refused to convene meaningful dialogue that seeks genuine solutions to the marginalization of Anglophone Cameroonians.
President Biya’s regime has refused to convene meaningful dialogue that seeks genuine solutions to the marginalization of Anglophone Cameroonians.

By Akoson Pauline Dialle, Friday March 31, 2017

Cameroon Journal, Yaounde – Today, Friday March 31, marked a turning point in the current fight by the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, CASSC for English Cameroon emancipation as measures taken to bring solutions to problems posed by Common Law lawyers were presented in Yaounde by the Minister of State, Minister of Justice and keeper of the Seals, Laurent  Esso.

The first solution proffered by the president of the Republic through his Minister of Justice is the reorganization and functioning of the Supreme Court; this would include the introduction of a Common Law Section of the Cameroon Supreme Court.

The minister has been ordered by Biya to draft a bill and submit to the presidency for study and for onward transmission to parliament for enactment and subsequent promulgation into law. The reforms also include the introduction of some assessment test on the mastery of Common Law as well as the English language by magistrates serving in the Northwest and South West Courts of Appeal. Successful magistrates will be assigned to serve in English Cameroon.

The announcement by Laurent Esso also includes the creation of a Common Law Department at ENAM and a Faculty of Law at the University of Buea.

All these are coming in the back drop of a memorandum to the Minister of Justice expressing the grievances peculiar to the

Cameroon Minister of Justice Laurent Esso

Common Law practice in Cameroon way back in 2014. In 2016, English Cameroon lawyers met and created the ‘Common Law Lawers Association’. They have held long standing grievances against the government of President Paul Biya for appointing Francophone magistrates and lawyers who are practitioners of Civil Law, to preside over the entire judiciary in English speaking regions which have always operated on the basis of Common law, inherited from the United Kingdom dating back to the UN Trusteeship Agreement of 1946. The Common Law lawyers have also objected to the imposition by government requiring that Common Law lawyers submit their legal briefs to Francophone magistrates in French. This is the recipe for judicial chaos that sent the Common Law lawyers into the streets.

The Common Law lawyers were joined in a sympathy strike by the teachers association in the English regions of Cameroon due to grievances arising from the fact that the government of Biya has been posting Francophone teachers with very low English language proficiency to schools in English Cameroon to teach English speaking Cameroonians. The impact of this has been to lower the quality of education in the former British Southern Cameroons. The teachers association went on an indefinite strike because they could no longer accept the idea that the educational system of the Anglophone regions should become controlled by members of President Biya’s government who do not use English as a working language.

English Cameroon Civil Society Organisations, university students, politicians and the common man on the streets of English Cameroon subsequently rallied behind the lawyers and teachers, sometimes leading to street protests against what they consider to be marginalization. Since October 2016, and many years prior, hundreds of English Cameroonians have been arrested and held in prisons in different

locations in the country for suggesting that a return to a two-state federation is the only best option to resolve the crisis. Chief Justice Ayah Paul Abine, Deputy Attorney General of the Supreme Court, Barrister Agbor Felix Nkongo, President of the CONSORTIUM, Dr. Fontem NEBA, SG of the CONSORTIUM, Mancho Bibixy, initiator of the Coffin Revolution and hundreds of other Southern Cameroonians are currently being held and charged with terrorism, rebellion and treason at different prisons, police and gendarmerie cells across the country.

The people of English Cameroon have, however, remained defiant, stressing that all arrested must be released for meaningful dialogue. Growing numbers on the streets of the two regions of English Cameroon are becoming radicalized by the day – as most now clamour for outright restoration of the independence of the erstwhile British Southern Cameroons.

The Cameroon Journal understands that the current reforms undertaken by the Biya regime are sweeping. Even so, we sought to find out from English Cameroonians if they felt these reforms could normalize issues. At the CJ, we are of the opinion that the government of La Republique du Cameroun is selling after the market and that Southern Cameroonians had long crossed ‘that’ line”.

The following comments by Mark Bara and Donatus Asu Wan-Obi, youth leaders and prominent names in the English Cameroon emancipation quest summarize CJ’s research on what a majority of English Cameroonians think and feel:

“…Those departments and institutions created would still be occupied by Francophones. It would be hijacked by them as they did in UB medical school which caused the violent protest. It would be hijacked as ENSET kumba has been hijacked. It would be hijacked as ENSET Bambili and all institutions created for the Anglophones have been in the past. Anglophones will have no political power to ensure the strict Anglo Saxon system of these institutions. Anglophones will have no political say over it. They will have the power to appoint and sack at will. They will infiltrate their very corrupt nature into those institutions. These are the reasons why our leaders were saying before their arrest that only a change in the political system can guarantee the educational and legal systems of Southern Cameroons…” Mark BARA, Bui municipality, North West region.

“…if we consider this to be a protest for basic rights and equality within the context of one and indivisible Cameroon then we may want to persuade ourselves on this nitty-gritty for the sake of a wanting society of victims. But, if we rightly see this as the ultimate fight for the restoration of our political identity and cultural protection then, we have just started the struggle. Like Oliver Twist, instead of shining the light on the expected benefits, we must concentrate to demand for all that which are rights and reasonable privileges. There can be no better time to insist and persist while inspiring ourselves to confront the adversary. The measures are insignificant, inconsequential but signify progress in the attention given to our grievances and state. We stand together until freedom comes…” DONATUS ASU WAN-OBI, Manyu municipality, South West region.

The Cameroon Journal can only wish the Justice Minister and President Paul Biya good luck in their endeavours.


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