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After Bar President’s Plea: Anglophone Lawyers  Resolve To Resume Work On May 2 

*But Barristers Balla, Abadem, Fon, Others Still In Legal Limbo

By Francis Tim Mbom                

Common Law Lawyers have resolved to don their wigs and gowns and head back to the court rooms on Tuesday, May 2, after close to six months of inactivity.

The lawyers downed their tools in October, 2016, in protest against Government silence on a series of grievances the lawyers had tabled before her.

But the President of the Cameroon Bar Council, Barrister Jackson Ngnie Kamga, told reporters on April 8, in Limbe, that his colleagues of the Northwest and Southwest Regions have resolved to resume work on May 2.

He said he was just coming from Buea where he had been in conclave with 10 senior advocates from the Northwest and 10 from the Southwest Region led, respectively, by Barrister Luke Sendze and Barrister Eta Besong Jr; all former Bar Presidents.

In the last edition of The Post Newspaper, the Bar President in an interview stated that the lack of confidence between the Anglophone lawyers and Government, and the doubts expressed, lately, by some Anglophone lawyers to the genuineness of Government’s readiness to implement the decisions regarding the lawyers’ demands, as announced by the Minister of Justice over a week ago, was one of the main reasons why the lawyers were still reluctant to resume work.

The Bar President said the lawyers have also been insisting that Government must first release their detained colleagues and others in Yaounde before they can resume work and resume dialogue.

But Kamga argued that since Government has also made some concessions, which is a sign of good faith, it was incumbent on the Anglophone lawyers to also show some magnanimity by resuming work.

He said resuming work was going to give him the latitude to further his negotiations with Government to cause the release of their two colleagues, Barrister Agbor Balla and Walters Abadem.

Besides the above named lawyers, there are also others like Barrister Robert Fon Nso, Professor Chia Martin, Mancho Bibixy, Dr. Fontem Neba, Ayah Paul Abine, Tim Finian, AtiaTilarious, Amos Fofung and more than 50 others who had been arbitrarily arrested, transferred to Yaounde and detained.

The Bar President said the conclave he had with lawyers in Buea came out with two resolutions.

“After the conclave in Buea, the lawyers, after recognising the efforts Government has made to resolve their problems, also decided to show good faith by resuming work on May 2,” Barrister Kamga said.

On whether the lawyer’s decision to resume work meant ending their strike, the Bar President insisted that the lawyers never talked of the strike.

“Resume work is what they said while waiting for the Government to implement the measures announced over a week ago by the Minister of Justice.”

By dint of this move by Anglophone lawyers, Kamga said he was boosted to “continue negotiations for the release of their two colleagues and also for the Government to answer to the other demands tabled before it which occasioned the strike at the onset.”

The Bar President said the decision by the lawyers to resume work was taken simply in good faith without any preconditions.

But he said it would be difficult for him to just negotiate for the release of their colleagues as they and some 25 others have all been charged under one single suit going by the Yaounde Military Tribunal’s ruling of April 7.

Agbor Balla, Fontem, Bibixy and the 25 others are charged for, among other crimes, terrorism, secession and destabilisation of public order; charges that carry very heavy jail terms.

 But many voices within Cameroon and abroad, have beckoned on the Head of State, Paul Biya to show mercy and free the detainees as the expression of their desire to see Cameroon take up a Federal System of Government was just an expression based on their constitutional human rights to hold an opinion and not a crime as such.

On the internet shutdown which is also one of the most troubling things that has almost grounded business, jobs and communication activities in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, the Bar President said he was sure that once things normalise, the Government will reinstate internet.

It is an arguable fact that the cry for the institution of a Federal System of governance as the best option that can help resolve the current impasse vis-à-vis future problems has been one of the main bone of contentions that has been behind the protracted crisis between the Government and the Anglophone community as a whole.

Barrister Kamga said as an individual, he does not see Federalism as a taboo subject, and as the Bar President, he stated that Federalism was never one of the professional issues tabled by his lawyer colleagues nor was it one of the issues tabled by the striking Anglophone teachers.

He further advised that the issue of Federalism was more of a political issue and cannot be handled by an institution like the Bar Council.

 

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