By Ernest Sumelong & Lerah Leke
CameroonPostline.com -- Lawyers have resolved to undertake a one-week strike action, in protest of what they consider the humiliating treatment meted on their colleagues recently by the Divisional Officer, DO, of Tiko, Patrick Che.The DO had reportedly locked up a senior Advocate of the Cameroon Bar, Barrister Peter Tumnde, for allegedly perturbing the convoy of Fako Senior Divisional Officer, Zang III.
Other Lawyers; Barristers Innocent Bonu and Benjamin Enow, who came in solidarity after the incarceration of their colleague, were also bundled and thrown into the Tiko Gendarmerie cell.
Angered by the treatment, some 100 lawyers converged, Wednesday, November 27, on the Buea High Court in an emergency meeting called by the President of Fako Lawyers Association, FAKLA, Barrister Stanislaus Ajong.
Among them were the Littoral Representative of the Bar President and six members of the Bar Council, who all came to show solidarity with their colleagues of Fako Division. The Littoral Representative of the Bar President, while addressing his colleagues, said it as a serious issue and no longer Barrister Tumnde’s matter. “It is an issue of Lawyers. If that could happen to senior lawyers, then younger lawyers are not safe,” he stated.
After heated deliberations, the men of the Bar resolved to down their tools from December 2 to December 6, 2013, and issue a memorandum to be forwarded to hierarchy to condemn their colleagues’ treatment and other human rights abuses in the country. On the last day of the planned strike, they intend to peacefully march from the Buea High Court to the Independence Square in Buea, where they shall read out their memo, condemning general problems that lawyers face. They also agreed to take legal action against the DO, for “assaulting and arbitrarily detaining lawyers.”
In order for the strike to have a national character, they shall work in tandem with the Bar Council for a General Assembly meeting to be summoned on Sunday, December 1. The mood at the court premises that Wednesday was that of bitterness at what was generally described as the shabby treatment given lawyers, especially by administrative officials. While reading the resolutions, they recalled that a few months back, a gendarme officer assaulted a Limbe-based lawyer, Barrister Essingila. They cited a similar situation in Kumba where another Lawyer was manhandled. This and many other cases enraged the men in gown and wig, who said something must be done to end the phenomenon.
“Lawyers have been disgraced publicly and we shall show our disapproval publicly,” Barrister John Sitchui Kameni said, while making a point in the court. A senior Advocate, Barrister Gilbert Tanguini, told The Post that the arm of justice has been tampered with and so liberty has been threatened. He regretted that Cameroon is an administrative country, where administrative officials treat the judiciary with disdain.
“With such an act, Lawyers are unsafe,” he said.
Barrister Valentine Bate, on his part, argued that the issue has been brought to the fore because it concerns someone of the elite corps. According to him, this is what ordinary people face on a daily basis and that most of them are afraid to take action, probably because they are ignorant of their rights. “Administrative officials are used to going beyond their administrative powers and arbitrarily incarcerating people. It is unfortunate and must stop,” Barrister Bate said. Meanwhile, the DO, due to official imperatives, was not yet available for comment as at when this report was written.
First published in The Post print edition no 01483