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Cameroon – Memory Lane (May 9, 2015): Common Law Lawyers in Cameroon Call for a Return to Federalism

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Written by Deckson N.

On May 9 2015, lawyers from the Common Law jurisdictions of Cameroon met in Bamenda to discuss “The security and future of the Common Law in Cameroon.

During this inaugural Common Law lawyers’ conference, the lawyers lamented about the steady erosion of Common law in Cameroon, the systemic Francophonisation of courts in Anglophone Cameroon with the proliferation of French speaking magistrates who made oral and written submissions in French, and wrote their judgments in French in a region where the language of the courts and litigants was English.

The lawyers called for a scrupulous respect of Cameroon’s bi-jural system and demanded that Common Law be full represented in all instances of the judicial system (from the School of Magistracy to the Supreme Court). Most significantly, they called for a return to a federal system of government without which it would not be possible to protect the history, heritage, education and cultural values of Cameroon’s English speaking minority.

Two years later, the gentle wind which began to blow in Bamenda (and which was ignored then roundly dismissed as being of no consequence by the government of Cameroon) has transformed into a major whirlwind sweeping across the former trust territory of the British Cameroons, altering the socio-political landscape and challenging the old order in the process. Long-held certainties about the foundations of the Cameroonian state have been questioned as never before, age-old policies of “harmonization” and assimilation have been completely discredited, and, for better or for worse, a new socio-political order is in the making. This is where it all began…Resolutions Made At The Inaugural All Cameroon Common Law Lawyers’ Conference Held At Bamenda In The North West Region Of Cameroon On Saturday May 09, 2015

We, Lawyers of the Cameroon Bar Association, of Common Law Extraction, which comprise the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon,

Mindful of the Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon
Mindful of the Charter of the United Nations
Mindful of the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights
Mindful of the United Nations International Covenant on Social, Economic and Political Rights
Mindful of the United Nations Convention on the Protection of Minorities
Mindful of the United Nations Declaration against all forms of Discrimination
Mindful of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights
Mindful of the non-implementation of the United Nations General Assembly resolution 1608 (XV) of 21st April 1961 on the future of the trust territory of the Cameroons under the United Kingdom administration
Mindful of all human rights treaties duly ratified by Cameroon
Mindful of the United Nations Trusteeship Agreement on Trust Territories
Considering the need for the proper Administration of Justice in Cameroon
Considering the movement of judicial personnel in recent years without regard to the Bi-Jural and Dual Educational System of the Country.

Meeting this ninth day of May, 2015 at Bamenda in the North West Region of Cameroon, after carefully and assiduously deliberating on a wide range of issues affecting the nature and quality of the administration of justice and the rule of law in Cameroon, especially as they negatively impact the minority English-speaking members of this Bi-Cultural, Bi-Jural, Bi-Lingual Nation, take the following resolutions;

We strongly condemn and oppose the bias nature of law making in Cameroon and particularly condemn the past discriminatory amendments of the Constitution; we demand Government to immediately take measures to call for a constitutional conference or a referendum for the amendment of the constitution.

We note the deliberate and well planned program of whittling away and replacement of the Common Law-inspired rules of Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure, and of Evidence, with a system and culture of French-inspired or copied Civil Law and strongly and unequivocally reject this process and practice and demand the restoration of the referred Common Law-inspired Rules of practice and Procedure.

The spirit of interpretation of harmonized laws within the South West and North West Regions should be common law inspired; in particular, the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), OHADA UNIFORM ACTS, CIMA Code, etc

We oppose and reject the progressive replacement of Common law inspired rules and principles of substantive law in such areas as contract, tort, land law, family law, etc. and call for their restoration within the Common Law jurisdiction in strict respect of the bi-jural nature of our country and in keeping with the Country’s Constitution;

We strongly condemn the absence of independence of the Country’s Judiciary and the domination and control of the judiciary by the executive with the resulting loss of a truly transparent, credible and independent system of administration of justice and its attendant unpredictability and call for an immediate review of the justice sector of the country with a view to rendering it more Just, Functional, more credible, less corrupt, independent, dependable and reliable in the service of justice and a truly democratic society;
6. We deplore the lack of independence of the Cameroon Bar Association.

PROPOSALS FOR A NEW DIRECTION IN THE JUSTICE SECTOR IN CAMEROON:

  1. We demand an Independent Bar Association free of any Government Supervision and Control.
  2.  We hereby propose a new direction for the future of the Justice Sector in Cameroon and recommend the creation, of a national, Independent Law Reform/Review Commission comprising principally, Practicing Lawyers, Jurists and Judges. We therefore recommend that the government should halt any project on the harmonization of laws until the national law commission is put into place and functional.
  3. All Judicial Processes and proceedings in the Common Law Jurisdictions should be conducted in the English language – in criminal matters; this should be from interrogations through investigations to hearing and Judgment.
  4. The Two Divisions of Common Law and Civil Law be clearly defined and operated side by side in ENAM and the quota of intake in both divisions known in advance. Only common law trained Magistrates to be posted in the South West and North West Regions and Civil Law Trained Magistrates to the Civil Law Jurisdictions.
  5. That the Educational System in the South west and North West Regions should not be adulterated, English speaking citizens should have their studies in the English language from cradle to professional life. That all Public Examinations be organized in two Poles; English and French with none being translated from the other and the quota in both poles known in advance.
  6. We demand the establishment of TWO chambers of the Supreme Court of Cameroon that represent the Common Law and Civil Law System, with Judges appointed to the Chambers from Common Law and Civil Law backgrounds to address legal issues from both legal cultures respectively. In this regard, we propose the appointment of Judges from the Private Bar into the Various Courts of Justice of the Common Law System.
  7. We recommend the amendment of law no. 90/059 of 19th December 1990 to organize practice at the bar and make provision for the creation of Law Schools. We propose the creation of a National Council of Legal Education to ensure the direction of legal education in the Common Law and Civil Law jurisdictions, develop curricula for academic and professional training of lawyers and to set up and supervise a system of continuing legal education for Lawyers, Prosecutors, Judges/Magistrates and other judicial actors. We also reiterate our previous resolution unanimously endorsed at the Cameroon Bar Association’s General Assembly in Buea on the 28th day of June 2014; that no Notaries be appointed in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon.
  8. We have observed with utter dismay that there has been and continues to be a lack of protection with regard to the rights of the minority(Anglophone Cameroonians) as provided for in the constitution of this bi-jural, bilingual and bi-cultural nation. It is obvious that the rights of the Anglophones in Cameroon in the spheres of education, socio-cultural values, administrative set ups etc, are continuously and systematically being eroded with a view of imposing the socio-cultural and administrative views of the French and or Civil heritage of the majority Francophone Cameroon.

We demand that the State should exercise its Constitutional duty to protect the Anglophone minority and by so doing, protect our history, heritage, education and cultural values. Consequently for the better protection of the minority Anglophone Cameroonians and the Common Law heritage, we strongly demand a Federation.

We hereby give Government a reasonable period from the date of deposit of these resolutions through the Bar Council to react positively to our demands, failing which this conference shall take the necessary disposition within the national legal frame work and if dissatisfied, seek further redress from international dispute resolution fora as shall be deemed appropriate.

DONE AT BAMENDA THIS NINTH DAY OF MAY 2015.
SIGNED AND ENDORSED BY ALL PARTICIPANTS PRESENT AT THE CONFERENCE.

Via JC

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Deckson N.

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