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Bar council, Consortium defence lawyers in war of words

Batonnier Francis Ngnie Kamnga (c)All rights reserved

The Cameroon Bar council has called an emergency meeting for Friday April 21 to “set the records straight”.

The on-going sit-in strike of Common Law lawyers has taken a new twist with the counsel of some of the detained protesters, exchanging unkind words with the leaders of the Bar Council in  the press.

Jackson Francis Ngnie Kamnga, President of the Cameroon Bar Council announced last week that the striking lawyers of the Anglophone regions (North West and South West) will resume work on May 2. In reaction, Barrister Benard Muna, former President of the Bar Council held a press conference discrediting the current president (Batonnier).

Muna is leading a group of over 100 lawyers defending their colleagues and other activists arrested in relation to the lawyers’ strike which merged with that of teachers and engulfed the entire population of the Anglophone region who felt touched by their concerns.

Batonnier Kamnga, said in his announcement that he met with a conclave of “Senior” barristers in the North West and South West regions who gave him the impression that government had met “all” the demands of Common Law lawyers. He said the lawyers assured him they would resume work and that he was going to ensure the release of two lawyers detained for being part of or leading the strike. He also said he was going to continue dialogue with government to ensure the promises made by the minister of justice are kept.

Other lawyers; some on the run and others at home, separately blasted the bar council president for opting to negotiate with government on behalf of common law lawyers. They argue Anglophone lawyers have four associations with leaders who could speak on their behalf.  The Bar President, had stated in his release that it was the conclave of lawyers that asked him to dialogue on behalf of common law lawyers.

Barrister Benard Muna, April 13, signed a statement on behalf of the defence lawyers of detained activists. He announced that the defence lawyers, “distance themselves from the steps taken by the President of the Bar Council within the framework of the unrepresentative entity styled the “CONCLAVE” as outlined in a press release issued by him on April 9 without prior consultations with the detainees and the  Team of Defence Lawyers.” The release also stated that “neither they (lawyers) nor the detained persons whom they defend are bound by any promise given or commitment made by the Bar Council President.”

Barrister Muna’s press statement also criticised the Batonnier for not requesting in his April 9 release, that detained lawyers and all other detained persons should be freed. Batonnier Kamga was also faulted for failing to say anything about lawyers on exile or those whose movements in the country have been restricted.

In a strongly worded statement written on the behest of the Batonnier, the Secretary General of Bar Council pointed out that the April 9 communique had nothing to do with Ben Muna and his group of lawyers. He said the duty of the Bar President is to protect lawyers; noting that other activists facing trial at the military tribunal in Yaounde who are not lawyers, such as Mancho Bibixy, Dr. Fontem Neba and others, cannot benefit from the cover of the bar.

The release issued yesterday April 19, equally points out that the Bar Council President has the right to defend Barristers, Felix Agbor Kongho and Walters Abadem in court and the right to create a conclave with which to discuss and make decisions.

“Any press release that tends to disregard or challenge the powers of the Bar Council and the President of the Bar, whatever it may be, constitutes a breach of the provisions of the Law of the organisation and the standing orders of the Bar and should be considered as such, that is, deemed unwritten.

The current controversy further cast doubts on the possibility of common law lawyers resuming work on May 2. The detained leaders of the Consortium which has been coordinating the ongoing strike in Anglophone regions, according to Barrister Ben Muna, have promised to ensure live in the regions return to normal, if they are released alongside all citizens detained for alleged involvement in the strike.



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