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Uncertainty looms over Anglophone lawyers’ announced work resumption

Common Law lawyers in street protests- October 2016 (c)All rights reserved

The president of the Cameroon Bar Council, otherwise known as the Batonnier, says it is still uncertain whether or not lawyers in Anglophone regions will resume work on May 2.

Jackson Francis Ngnie Kamnga, in an interview published in Cameroon Tribune today April 11, said he does not have all the assurances that lawyers in the North West and South West region will suspend the on-going strike on May 2. His expression of doubt comes at a time when leaders of lawyers’ association in the two regions are calling on their colleagues to continue the strike which has been ongoing for six months now.

The Batonnier says in the interview that the decision to break the strike, was taken by senior lawyers in the two Anglophone regions. He also told the national bilingual daily that the lawyers have made him believe “all their demands have been granted”. He holds it was the lawyers that asked him to create a platform that would enable them dialogue with government.

Ngnie Kamnga also said he trusted the lawyers who promised to resume work, but added that he could have been more certain that nothing will interfere with the resumption only if he were a fortune-teller. He said he would travel to the chief towns of the regions in May to ensure the effective start of work in courts. He would work with government to ensure that it fulfils its promises and also press for the liberation of two lawyers facing charges of terrorism and rebellion at the Yaounde Military Tribunal, he said.

Anglophone lawyers’ association leaders strike back

Barrister Ngnie Kamnga’s interview was granted to bolster understanding of a press statement he signed on April 9. The release read: “…advocates of the South West and North West regions shall resume work on the 2nd May 2017, for the resolutions of the ad hoc committee submitted to the Prime Minister and approved by the Head of States to be fully implemented”.It also said the lawyers authorized him to enter into dialogue with the government on matters bearing on the Common Law lawyers.

Leaders of Common Law associations have made scathing remarks on the Batonnier’s press statement. They argue he is “not a Common Law lawyer and is well aware of the existence of four Common Law lawyers’ associations; Fako Lawyers Association, Meme Lawyers Association, Manyu Lawyers Association- and the North West Lawyers Association, and their presidents, who were the only ones initially mandated to talk on their behalf. That means any meeting and resolutions arrived at with any so-called “very senior” lawyers and the resolutions thereof are null and void.”

Barrister Elias Eyambe Ebai, President of Meme Lawyers Association, who escaped after government started arresting the leaders with whom it held unsuccessful dialogue, also criticised the Batonier.”Some few lawyers were gathered from the North West and South West and in a state-sponsored meeting held in Bamenda and Buea recommending the resumption of practice. The majority of lawyers are totally against this move. And I reject it outrightly.” Eyambe said in a statement.

Barrister Harmony Bobga, President of North West Lawyers Association (also on the run)  wrote: “Notice is hereby given to all common law lawyers that it is not within the competence of Mr. Kamga who is not part of the common law bar to speak for us. He has all along lent his support to anti-common law philosophy and organization. He lacks the competence to commit us. On your behalf I condemn and reject the dirty game. Whoever amongst us is party to the deal is free to go with their chosen partners. We stand by what we resolved and no less.”

The banned Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium also issued a statement condemning calls for Lawyers in the Anglophone regions to resume work.

“Barrister Jackson Ngnie Kamga is not unaware that the Common Law Lawyers had joined other civil society associations working for the restoration of the statehood of Southern Cameroons to form the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium and made it the sole body to handle any issues with the government – where it could become necessary. This simply means no one, except the Consortium, through its elected representatives – some of whom are in detention and others on the run, have the power to conduct any negotiations on behalf of Common Law Lawyers.” the statement read in part.

Barrister Felix Agbor Kongho, President of the outlawed pressure group who doubles as President of the Fako Lawyers Association has been in detention since January 17.



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