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Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Late Enonchong As Chief 

By Joe Dinga Pefok

The Supreme Court of Cameroon has rejected an appeal filed by one of the contestants to the Besongabang chieftaincy, Joseph Takaw Tambe, against a 1997 ministerial order recognising Dr Henry Ndifor Abi Enonchong, as chief.

The last ditch stand at the Supreme Court by Joseph Takaw Tambe and the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, MINADT, against the validity of Ministerial Order No. 0039/A/MINAT/DOT/SDOA/SCT of February 20, 1997, signed by the then Vice Prime Minister in charge of Territorial Administration, Andze Tsoungui, which officially recognised Dr Henry Ndifor Abi Enonchong, as 2nd Class Chief of Besongabang Village in Mamfe Sub-division, crumbled on Wednesday, October 27, 2010.

The Full Bench of the Supreme Court, October 27, roundly rejected the appeal which was filed by Takaw Tambe, who had been occupying the Besongabang throne since 2000, following Ministerial Order No. 00309/A/MINAT/DOT/SDOA/SCT of October 11, 2000, signed by the then Minister of Territorial Administration, Samson Ename Ename, that designated him Chief of Besongabang.

The Supreme Court ruling was made public at a press conference organised in Douala on October 29, by Prince Charles Abi Enonchong, the successor to Late Chief Dr Henry Ndifor Abi Enonchong. Prince Charles Enonchong, who is also the administrator of the Estate of Late Chief Dr Enonchong, has, since his father`s death in June 2008, been following up the case in honour of the memory of his late father and his struggle, as well as in honour of the wish of the Besongabang people.

According to information contained in tons of copies of documents from the Supreme Court, on the protracted Besongabang chieftaincy dispute, which The Post procured, the chieftaincy dispute was first taken to the Supreme Court by Dr Enonchong in 2001, as Case No. 1249/00-01 of April 3, 2001. In his complaint, Dr Enonchong, who was a lawyer by profession, noted that he was a descendant of the Abane Family, Founder of Besongabang and the first designated Chief of the village. Enonchong noted that he had, since April 10. 1972, been the Chief of Besongabang, having been rightly designated by Kingmakers, to replace Tambe Ayuk, who died on December 8, 1971.

Then came Ministerial Order No.0038/A/MINAT/ DOT/SDOA/SCT of February 20, 1997, that officially designated the man of law, Dr Enonchong, stretching back from September 24, 1996, as the 2nd Class Chief of Besongabang. Trouble soon started for Dr Enonchong, apparently with the coming into the Ministry of Territorial Administration of Samson Ename Ename, who issued correspondence No.889/L/ MINAT/DOT, SDOA of August 28, 1998, suspending him as Chief of Besongabang – a decision which Dr Enonchong strongly protested. Many Besongabang people were at a lost, as to the reason for such a decision.

Role Of Former Southwest Governor

A copy of a correspondence which was sent by the then Governor of the Southwest Province, Peter Acham Cho, to the then Minister of Territorial Administration, pressing for the destitution of Dr Enonchong as Chief of Besongabang, was presented at the Supreme Court by the Ministry of Territorial Administration, in a bid to justify the Ministerial Order to destitute Dr Enonchong as Chief of Besongabang.

In the correspondence, No 34/L/GC/146/S1/CAB of August 3,1999, Governor Acham alleged that Chief Enonchong was involved in gross abuse of power, in what he referred to as the Chief`s "unwanted behaviour and harassment." The Governor, in conclusion, had urged the minister: "I hereby wish to strongly recommend that the Ministerial Order No. 0038/A/MINAT/DOT/SDOA/SCT of 20th February, 1997, appointing him Chief of Besongabang, be repealed."

Exactly one month after the Governor`s correspondence to the Minister of Territorial Administration, the minister issued Order No. 00224/A/MINAT/DOT/SDOA/SCT/ of September 3, 1999, aimed at repealing Order No. 0038/A/MINAT/DOT/SDOA/SCT/of February 20, 1997 which designated Dr Enonchong as Chief of Besongabang.

On January 6, 2000, the then Manyu SDO, Joseph Otto Wilson, organised a controversial consultative meeting at Besongabang, at which he reportedly manipulated things for the ‘selection’ of Takaw Tambe as the new Chief of Besongabang. The Minister of Territorial Administration had then followed with Order No. 0039/MINAT/DOT/SDOA/SCT of October 11, 2000, designating Joseph Takaw Tambe, as the new 2nd Class Chief of Besongabang.

Incompetence Of Minister

Following the controversial decision taken against him by the Ministerial Order of October 11, 2000, Dr Enonchong, first filed a petition on October 18, 2000, to the then Minister of Territorial Administration, Samson Ename Ename, calling for the review of the decision.

When that was not done, the man of law then filed a complaint at the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court on March 19, 2001, which was registered on April 3, 2001 as Case No. 1249/00-01 of April 3, 2001. Dr Enonchong filed the case against the State of Cameroon (Ministry of Territorial Administration, MINAT). MINAT was represented in the case by Djamal Mustapha, a civil administrator who then was at the Judicial Affairs Division at MINAT.

In his complaint, Enonchong, among other things, noted that the Minister of Territorial Administration was, in the first place, incompetent to suspend a 2nd Class Chief. The man of law cited Article 29 and 30 (3) of July 15, 1977, re-organising the chieftaincy institution, which clearly states that only the Prime Minister can suspend a First or Second Class Chief.

Furthermore, Chief Enonchong noted that even in a case where the Prime Minister suspends a chief, the suspension can not last for more than three months. He also observed that, according to the law, no disciplinary measure can be taken against the chief, unless he has been invited to explain his behaviour, ineffectiveness or inertia. He asserted that he had, as Chief of Besongabang, done nothing wrong and was never suspended by the Prime Minister or called to explain his behaviour. 

Chief Enonchong, as well, stated that the Minister of Territorial Administration has competence to suspend only a 3rd class chief. He thus asserted that the Order of the Minister of Territorial Administration of September 3, 1999, to repeal the Order of February 20, 1997, which designated him as chief, was illegal.

Dr Enonchong equally dismissed the so-called consultative talk which was organised by the Manyu SDO, Joseph Wilson Otto, at Besongabang on January 6, 2000, as a farce. He asserted that five of the so-called Kingmakers who took part in the operation that the SDO manipulated in favour of Tambe, were incompetent.

Meanwhile, in the Judgment No. 07/2001-2002 of October 25, 2001, the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court, which had as President, Benjamin Mutanga Itoe, nullified the Ministerial Order No. 0039/A/ MINAT/DOT/SDOA/SCT of October 11, 2000, which designated Joseph Takaw Tambe as 2nd Class Chief of Besongabang. The judgment thus upheld Ministerial Order No. 0038/A/MINAT/DOT/SDOA/SCT of February 20, 1997, which designated Dr Henry Enonchong, as the Chief of Besongabang.

Tambe Files Case, MINAT Goes On Appeal

Meanwhile, Joseph Takaw Tambe, in a tacit collaboration with MINAT to contest the Judgment of the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court annulling his designation as Chief of Besongabang, filed a case at the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court, against the State of Cameroon (MINAT), and Dr Enonchong. The case was registered as No. 1362/01-02 of November 21, 2001.

Suffice to say in Judgment No. 50/2001-2002 of August 29, 2002, the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court, dismissed Tambe`s arguments that he was legally the Chief of Besongabang. Rather, the Judgment, in Article 6, upheld the court`s earlier ruling for the annulment of Ministerial Order No. 039/A/MINAT/DOT/SDOA/SCT of October 11, 2000, which designated Tambe as Chief of Besongabang. 

Then, MINAT took over the baton from Tambe, in the fight against Chief Enonchong, by filing two appeals, to the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court. The appeals were registered as No. 45/04-05 of August 25, 2005 (Dossier No. 25/A/056), in which MINAT was represented by Okono Ebanga Serge Dimitri, and No. 41/04-05 (Dossier No. 26/A/05-06) in which MINAT was represented by Mrs Mairo neé Mouala Guietsing.  The appeals were both by the State of Cameroon (MINAT), against Dr Henry Ndifor Abi Enonchong.

MINAT, in the appeals, claimed that the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court was incompetent to have ordered the annulment of the Ministerial Order that designated Takaw Tambe as Chief of Besongabang, and to have upheld the Ministerial Order that appointed Enonchong as Chief of Besongabang. But, then, the Full Bench of the Supreme Court, chaired by the President of the Supreme Court, Dipanda Mouelle, in Arret No 82/A of 13 December, 2007, and Arret No 83/A of 13 December, 2007, threw out both appeals on technical grounds, that they were filed late.

MINAT, then, handed back the baton to Takaw Tambe, who, in their last chance at the Supreme Court, filed an appeal against Judgment No 50/2001-2002 of the August 29. 2002, which was delivered by the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court, against the Ministerial Order that appointment him as Chief of Besongabang. It was this last chance that has crashed, as the Supreme Court, in its judgment delivered on October 27, 2010, rejected the appeal. The decision of the Full Bench of the Supreme Court is subject to no other appeal.

Prince Enonchong Obtains Copies Of Judgments

Prince Charles Abi Enonchong disclosed at the October 29 press conference in Douala, that, by the time his beloved father passed away in June 2008, he had not yet obtained the two judgments of the Full Bench of the Supreme Court that threw out the appeals that were filed by MINAT. He disclosed that he has succeeded to obtain copies of the two judgments, from MINAT.

The copies of the judgments, which The Post also procured, were stamped on August 20, 2010, and signed by the Chief Registrar, Koe Amougou Appolonaire. Following the October 27 judgment of the Full Bench of the Supreme Court, Prince Enonchong said it is now indisputable that judicially, Joseph Takaw Tambe, is not the Chief of Besongabang.
 

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