13, May 2019
The meeting began at about 7:30 pm with a word of welcome from the PM who appreciated the team for honoring his invitation. He went straight ahead to state the purpose of his visit and of his request to meet with lawyers of the NW region.
He explained that there was a great need for the boys in the bushes (“Amba Restoration Forces”) to drop their weapons for peace and tranquility to reign in a bid to foster an enabling environment for dialogue. He intimated that the Head of State is now willing to consider dialogue within the proposed inclusive set up, on a “round table”. In fact, he said that the message he is carrying is to the effect that dialogue is allowed on all issues other than secession and separation, (implying that a discussion on federation is allowed).
He then pleaded with the team to help the government in its endeavors by convincing the boys to drop their weapons; that he believes in the role lawyers play and is counting on this to facilitate the government’s mission. He added that school year will soon be over and in less than no time, another school year will begin, requiring that the boys give children a chance to go to school and for life to return to normal.
He then offered the floor for any reactions and encouraged free and honest talk. He further requested that we focus on the way forward and make progressive proposals rather than go back to discussing the roots of the matter.
In their turn and for a start, the delegation equally thanked the Prime Minister for the warm welcome and for inviting the lawyers to discuss the way forward. They congratulated him for his brilliant appointment and wished him the best in office. They remarked on the small number of representatives as being greatly significant of the prevailing circumstances in the region and the manner in which lawyers have been treated. They excused the absence of the Bar Council representative, explaining that he is out of the region on official Bar business.
The team then moved straight on to its reaction which was short and simple. They started off by stating that if Lawyers are concerned today, it is because they kick-started the crisis but that their concerns had long been overtaken by events. They stressed on the fact that the lawyers’ and teachers’ strikes were only symptoms of a bigger disease now known by all as the Anglophone Crisis; a disease which owes its origin to the change of the form of state from a federal state to a unitary state in 1972.
Speaking about the Common Law in particular, the team emphasized that it was as a result of decades of panel-beating the Common Law System and suffocating it that arose a need to caution the administration on the grievances of Common Law Advocates; that time and a again, they had tried to draw the government’s attention to the fact that there was a great need to safeguard the Common Law System within the Bijural Cultural heritage of Cameroon. The team then called the PM’s attention to the grievances of Common Law lawyers that were tabled before the relevant administrative authorities (before the crisis erupted) in the forms of Memos and resolutions which culminated in the demand for a federation as the best alternative to safeguard and guarantee the subsistence of the Common Law System and the Anglo-Saxon culture as well as the security and integrity of the Common Law advocate.
They went ahead to impress upon the administration to listen to the people rather than impose policies, half-baked and self-conceived solutions to address the demands of the people. They echoed the fact that if the situation is what it is today, it is because the government has refused listening to the population of the NW and SW regions which knows best what it wants; the government must learn to start listening honestly and practically to the people. Using courtroom metaphors, they emphasized that the peoples of the two regions are the ones to better express their concerns and it is no longer a lawyers’ issue as lawyers have always only acted in a representative capacity, to help the people in articulating their grievances better.
To crown their reaction, they addressed the issue regarding the form of state. They insisted that contrary to the fallacy that the form of the state is a political issue, the Common Law Lawyers are of the conviction that the form of the state is a Constitutional issue; that the Constitution is the Grand Norm (No. 1 Law of the nation) and by that token is fundamentally about the Rule of Law which is ultimately to the benefit of the people. They added that if the Law does not serve the people, then it is not a good law and that the respect of the Rule of Law is the Lawyer’s duty, reason why the Common Law lawyers in their various correspondences to the relevant authorities at the time suggested a federalism.
The delegation concluded by calling on the PM to feel free to come to the lawyers at all times, as lawyers expect nothing from him, so much so that any advice lawyers may give shall be honest unlike those constantly around him who only amplify his voice to win favours. On that note, the PM closed the meeting with a short word of appreciation to the delegation for its reactions.