By Nfor Hanson Nchanji, August 23, 2016
Cameroon Journal, Yaounde – Ayah Paul ABine, National Chairman of the Popular Action Party, PAP, and Advocate General of the Supreme Court has for the first time publicly defended his acceptance of the gov’t job, changes in his party and the lacklustre relationship he has with the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC. In defense of accusations that he betrayed the masses by dining with President Biya in accepting the Supreme Court job, Ayah argues vehemently that his appointment followed regular procedure because he had not retired from public service.
Ayah Paul Abine, Supreme Court Advocate and Chairman of PAP.
We are happy to have you here knowing that you have such a busy schedule. You are a man with many titles – you were the chairman of People Action Party, what happened to the party?
Nothing really, just that from time to time, there is a need to change a name. Remember Paul was Saul and then he changed to Paul at the demise of Christ. So at times you just feel like changing names.
But we know how the change of name from Saul to Paul came about, biblically it is related to persecution, were you persecuted?
Am just giving as an example, you know that at baptism when you are baptized you change names. From time to time there is need for change, you know the word popular is more easily
accepted by the people than when you say People, with ‘Popular Action’ everybody understands much more easily. So when we met on the 27th of February this year, the idea came out and it caught up with so many people and it came to pass.
So there was no hidden agenda behind the change of name? We understand that not everyone is happy with the change of name within your party!
If you are referring to the dissidents group of some three persons, if you have three persons in a party who disagree, we cannot say many people. We have only three people who disagreed and it has no impact, because democracy is the dictatorship of the majority, when the majority has decided, it has decided.
So what happens to the People’s Action Party?
Remember that in Bamenda CNU was changed to CPDM, CNU came to the end and CPDM took over from there, when you change the name of a party everything goes with the change. So as far as the law is concern, People’s Action party has ceased to exist, it is a new name now which is within the law especially as the law requires that when that happens you notify the governor under his jurisdiction as soon as possible and this happened on February 27, 2016 and on March 1 we notify MINATD, Ministry of Territorial administration, though there is no legal obligation, we just did it for the purpose of updating their records. There is no People’s Action Party anymore; it came to its end on 27 February, 2016.
Those you describe as dissidents think that you wine and dine with the regime especially after you accepted the appointment as Deputy Attorney General at the Supreme Court, they see this as a betrayal.
As far as my career as a judge is concerned, I am the 7th Judge and only I can decide when to be in my career and
when not to be. By law when I joined Parliament in 2002 on detachment, I insist detachment; I was detached to parliament. At the end of my mandate, by law I was to go back to my ministry of origin automatically. In my case it wasn’t so automatic even though legally it was, but I had to wait for 17 months before being formally appointed. The argument was that when I entered parliament I was a magistrate of the bench and so only the higher Judicial Council had to bring me back formally even though I had come back legally, I had to wait for formal appointment, so that appointment came as a result of legal provision, that at the end of your detachment you go back to your ministry of origin. I didn’t have to ask anybody to give his approval or to express his happiness or his pleasure, it was a matter of law and so it was.
What if Paul Biya had ignored you?
No, if he did not appoint me back, I would have taken the matter either to the courts here internally or externally. There are structures set up to settle cases between
individuals and the state, I didn’t need the approval of another person, I had to go back as a matter of law. The Judicial Council is supposed to meet annually, but you know in Cameroon it is the way it is – it is hardly ever observed. By law only the Judicial Council could bring me back formerly, and until it met, there was nothing that could be done, and I could not take any legal action until the Judicial Council met. If they had met without appointing me having ended my mandate as magistrate of the bench, that’s why I would have taken them to court.
But that’s not the impression you gave many people, many still see you as Judas Iscariot, appointed by Biya to destabilize PAP.
Anybody is free to his opinion. You know we are in a democracy; one of the things I admire exceptionally about Mr. Biya is his ability to ignore when people are wrong and most often you don’t have to answer everybody. Whether people feel I betrayed or not it’s immaterial, so long as I comply with the law, the law requiring that at the end of my mandate I go back to my ministry. You see the confusion? The confusion arose because many people erroneously thought I was on retirement, that’s where the whole problem arose. But in actual fact I am still within the age limit to serve at the Supreme Court. At the end of the age limit for serving Cameroon as a Judge. Now that I am a member of the Supreme Court, there is an automatic extension of two years when you come to the end, soon I will come to the end.
That will be in December
Yes, December this year. From that time according to the law I will have two extra years automatically, what happens at the end of my stay is for me to decide.
But you are being quoted as saying you can remain Attorney General if President Biya wishes.
You know that’s Journalism. You know the way Journalists in Cameroon at times write, what I have explained to you is exactly what I said, I didn’t say anything outside what I have said here now. I know The Guardian Post carried that story and put it in their own way, that’s their problem. It’s automatic, it’s within the law.
We cannot talk about the opposition in Cameroon without mentioning your name, is it a force to reckon with?
You see the opposition was at its climax in 1992 and it is today virtually an accepted fact that Fru Ndi won the election. Since then CPDM gets into every party of the opposition to split it. You have just been asking about PAP, you will be surprised if I say things which we are still verifying. We don’t want to say it until we get the facts straight.
Just give us a teaser
Ok, three people who are dissidents today in PAP, if you take Mr. Apaka from Mamfe, that’s somebody who has been on retirement, I don’t want to say what I have done for him, let him come out and confess. NGOs son is unemployed; I do not even know his level of education, Ekambi has never ever gotten anywhere, he is just roaming the streets of Kumba, where do you think they get money? Even as we are talking they have sent notices how they are holding PAP meetings in Kumba. So to show you how CPDM has gotten into every opposition party to split it.
So you think they have been bribed?
Of course they are sponsored, that’s understood, and they are sponsored. So the opposition parties as they are today ,so hardly have one, the only one I’m confidence in for so long was UPC, but it is today in at least three factions, I don’t want to talk about SDF now because we have gotten to a point where the SDF is virtually castrated. So we hardly have a party of the opposition today that is integral. And then among the opposition parties, we have more than half as creatures of the CPDM; CPDM creates them and send them to the opposition.
But you are one of the creatures; you are a former MP under the CPDM.
No! That’s a completely different story. We were just talking about Paul here who was formerly Saul and got converted, in any case who was not CPDM before and there is nobody in Cameroon who was not first either CNU or CPDM before.
But it’s because Cameroon had just one party
So what am saying is that CPDM has created many parties and sent to the opposition, they come and spy what real opposition parties are doing to tell the CPDM what the strategies are, what their plans are. Now during elections, you find parties of the opposition saying they support Biya’s candidacy, then why you are not in the CPDM, if you support his candidacy, then you don’t need to be in a party other than the CPDM.
Now you find what they call presidential majority, what do you mean by presidential majority, either you are with CPDM or you are not. If we are talking of government of national unity it’s a completely different story, but where we have Salvation party of Issa TCHIROMA and he says he is Government Spokesman, it’s a contradiction itself. So the opposition parties as they are today are the weakest.
The only thing that gives us reasons to hope is the Republican Pact which we are trying to build. We have done that before and it didn’t work but let us imagine that people have learnt their lessons and that this time they will take things seriously.
Are you sure you can do that without the SDF, the party has always distant itself from such moves.
Well that is exactly what I am saying.
Because SDF is the majority among other opposition parties in Cameroon.
Let us say so, let us accept that they are the majority but by themselves alone they cannot make it, they need the support of the other opposition parties. Conversely the other opposition parties cannot make it alone, they need the SDF and so the ball is in the court of the SDF. Some people have already declared their candidacies, somebody told me from the party of Maurice Kamto ,MRC, has already presented a candidate, once that happens just know that everything will be shattered.
What is your relationship with the SCNC, the Southern Cameroons National Council? You have been highly linked with the movement and on some occasions recognized as the leader.
Right in the days of President Ahidjo, I started raising questions as to the legality of reunification and I continued all along even as a member of parliament and I remember that my classmate one Mr. Jani asked me to write a
disclaimer on an article I wrote and I told him I published the article why should I disclaim it. So I am saying that there is no legality in what we call reunification today and that what the government of Cameroon should do is to invite Anglophone leaders, Southern Cameroons leaders to the table to agree on the term of reunification, to have something documented. Outside that what we have today is completely defector, there is no legality. Some historians will tell you that we have already gone far, we cannot be going backward but we cannot go so far without the laws, even for million years, if there is no law, it will remain defector.
So I have said that over the years ever before SCNC was born. SCNC was born because during the advent of democracy, the Anglophones wrote a memo saying we voted to join you which was a situation of intent but we are not happy with the way you treat us, you make us look as if we are second class, so this is our memo, please look into them and let us know the measures you have adopted.
For years the government did not give a listening ear, so we had all Anglophones conference One, All Anglophones Conference Two and these conferences forwarded this Memo to the presidency. When the president refused to act or was negligent, so the executives came together and formed what we call today Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC.
From the time it was founded up to the moment I am talking, everybody will honestly say that I have never been a member but there was coincidence in our stand point, which was that there was no reunification.
So you have never been a leader, never been a member of SCNC?
I have never been a member of SCNC, even when a faction met in Kumba and elected me as leader, I was not there in the first place. Up to that point I have not even registered.
But they cannot elect you if you are not directly or indirectly linked with them.
I said that our ideas coincided. I wrote a number of times saying that SCNC was right. I wrote an article which was published on Eden and the whole edition sold out, saying that SCNC was right. And the government had said it was in support with what we had said because they announced that the only documents they could get was that of 1st January 1960, which means that there are no legal proofs of reunification and I said great, if you say so then there is no reunification, therefore you are in support of the SCNC, I have written that and I give them legal advice and I will continue to give them legal advice because what they are doing is not an illegality.
Indirectly you are supporting them?
I am very clear on that. I give them legal advice because what they are doing is legal. There can be no cessation until there has been one, now that they have never been legal reunification, they have a point.
As we speak about 15 of them have been recently arrested, do you mean that the government is illegally arresting them?
Yes. What the government is doing is just that might is right, not that legally they are right. Remember that when they took the government to African Commission on Human Rights and it said they should sit on one table and dialogue? The government has ignored an international organization with judicial powers for ten years now. By contrast they recognized that of Bakassi, so what they are doing is that might is right.