Barrister Agbor Balla and the Common Law: One year after 1

Eighteen years ago, a few visionary young jurists, in whose symbolic shadow the common law stand today, created the Fako Lawyers Association, FAKLA. This association crawled from the shores of Limbe, to the creeks of Tiko via the foot of the Buea Mountain to the sunny town of Muyuka. We all have taken judicial notice that this association has evolved over the years to unimaginable proportions attaining a level akin to “jus cogens’’ in International law.

Our Editor-in-Chief, Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai met the president of FAKLA Barrister Agbor Balla at the prestigious Eta Palace Hotel in Buea in 2015 and shared this interesting conversation. We are bringing it to our readers again to provide an insight into the man who has exposed the vicious francophonization policy of Minister Laurent Esso.

Cameroon Concord News: Thank you for your time Barrister. Our readers would love to have an insight into the Fako Lawyers Association.

Barrister Agbor Balla: It is indeed an honour for me to meet with you in this great country of ours. The Fako Lawyers Association from its name does not need too much elaboration.

We are a 300 member organization made up of the finest Barristers, Solicitors and Notaries in the country. This great association has been blessed with a former President of the Bar Council, a former President of the General Assembly, two members of the Bar Council and members in International organizations and the great halls of international Courts and Tribunals. This is a testament to the role that FAKLA is playing both at the national and international level.

Cameroon Concord News: From Dublin to London, and from Essen to Boston, Anglophone Cameroonians are being fed stories of how the English language is no longer an entity in the courts in the South West and North West region!! Is this true?

Barrister Agbor Balla: The challenges facing the common Law are daunting and since FAKLA has emerged as the guarantor of our bijural and bicultural heritage, we of FAKLA are protecting and promoting the common law heritage for ourselves, our people, posterity and our common destiny.

English speaking Cameroonians in the Diaspora should be rest assured that we will fight against the erosion of the common law. We are ready to kill or to die. I have had high-level international meetings to discuss issues that not only affect the common law but that affects Anglophones in general.

As the president of FAKLA and as one family we can protect and promote our common destiny. In addition, I will make sure that FAKLA is proactive by standing up against harmonization of the laws in the manner in which it is presently being done.

Whilst acknowledging that harmonization is not necessarily bad, harmonization has become a back-door attempt to circumvent the constitutional protections afforded the common law. If it must be done, I will lead the fight for FAKLA to be represented in the Committees on Harmonization.

Cameroon Concord News: Barrister, mindful of the fact that elections into the Cameroon Football Association is coming up and my sources tells me you will be participating! How do you intend to run this new office accorded you by FAKLA?

Barrister Agbor Balla: I am a president for each and every FAKLAN without discrimination; a President who respect and defend the constitution of FAKLA; a President who is as a bridge between senior and junior colleagues; a President who instills greater transparency, accountability and humility in the management of FAKLA affairs; a President who encourages and support various groupings to operate but also able to harness their strengths for the benefit of FAKLA.

To be sure Mr. Soter Agbaw-Ebai, a Presidency characterized by humility, open door policy and respect for the traditions of the bar; a President who leads by example through personal contributions and participation in matters that advance our individual and collective interest.

Cameroon Concord News: You are avoiding the FECAFOOT part of my question!!! However, who is Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor- Balla?

Barrister Agbor-Balla: (laughs) He is a Legal Practitioner resident in Federal Quarters, Buea and the Head of The Agbor Nkongho Law Firm, Biaka Street Upper Bonduma, P.O Box 524, Buea. He is a registered and committed member of FAKLA with registration No: 80.

He was called to the Cameroon Bar in 2001. Barrister Agbor-Balla attended secondary school and High School respectively at St. Joseph College Sasse Buea and CCAS Kumba.

He graduated from the University of Yaoundé with an LLB in English Private Law, after which he attended the Nigerian Law school in Lagos wherein he graduated with a BL Second class Upper Division with a 1st Prize Civil Procedure.

He was enrolled as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in December 1996. Barrister Agbor Balla holds an LLM (Cum Laude) in International and European Comparative Law at the University of Brussels and also an LLM (Cum laude) in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the University of Notre Dame, USA.

He also holds a Diploma in Public International Law at Academy of International Law, Hague, Holland and also a Diploma on Theory and Practice of Conflict Prevention in Africa, the University of Leipzig, Germany.

Barrister Agbor-Balla worked as a Doctoral Researcher at the Centre for International Law University of Brussels, Associate Legal Officer at the International Criminal Court for Sierra Leone, Legal Adviser Trial Chamber International Criminal Court for Sierra Leone, Human Rights Officer United Nations mission in Afghanistan, Legal Adviser United Nations Police in Congo and Legal Adviser UN Mission in Afghanistan.

He is the Founder and Executive Director of Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa and the publisher of NewBroom Magazine; an extreme Left Magazine that addresses issues affecting Anglophone Cameroonians.

Barrister Agbor-Balla was the first Chairperson of the Southern Cameroons European Coordinating Committee (SCECC) and led a delegation with Albert Mukong to the President of the EU Commission to discuss the issues of Southern Cameroons.

Barrister Agbor-Balla has written extensively on: “The Right of the Southern Cameroonians to Self- Determination under International Law,” “An Appraisal of the Special Court for Sierra Leone”, Referral of Sudan to the International Criminal Court, “The Law as a Mechanism for Women Discrimination in Sub-Saharan Africa”. He is a member of Cameron Bar Association, Nigerian Bar Association, International Bar Association, Hague Academy of International Law

Cameroon Concord News: The Anglophone community in the Diaspora reading this interview will obviously be seeking to know how you and FAKLA intend to stop this Francophone onslaught on the Common Law.

Barrister Agbor Balla: As I noted during the beginning of our conversation, the fight against the erosion of the common law will be a principal focus of my mandate. I will lead FAKLA to protect and promote the Common Law.

I have the experience in doing this by my participation, contributions and support of FAKLA efforts but individually also through the NEWBROOM Magazine and a robust human rights organization which I run in Buea.

I will work in close contact with MELA, Manyu Lawyers and NOWELA, and all the common law lawyers in the Country including civil law colleagues who are sympathetic to our cause to put pressure on the Minister of Justice and the Presidency to respect the bijural and bicultural nature of the country.

I will hold regular meetings with members of the bar council and push the bar council to place our matters of interest (such as, common law problems, harmonization, appointment of magistrates) on the bar agenda and follow up to obtain positive outcomes.

Taking into cognizance that the fight against the erosion of the Common Law is a political affair, I will lobby Parliamentarians, Senators, and politicians from all the various political Parties. I will also take up the issues directly with the competent government departments and lead action if need be.

I will confront the national authorities on that but will also lobby the EU, Commonwealth, UN, and other international organizations to put pressure on our behalf.

Cameroon Concord News: It was nice chatting with you!! Thank you again for your time

Barrister Agbor Balla: It’s my pleasure Soter