Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cameroon:Lawyers, Teachers’ Action More Patriotic Than Esso And Fame Ndongo

By Nicholas Ogbe keme*
Lawyer Nicholas Ogbe
The problem with our country is not about the people, it’s about the policy makers and managers –a small cabal that does not want to repent or even resign after desperate but abortive attempts to divert attention from the lawyers and teachers’ actions which now have received significant national, regional and international sympathies.  We have to insist on the plain point that, the agitations of the Common Law Lawyers and Anglo-Saxon teachers are against institutional plunder of their educational and legal systems by the francophone led central government.  Their move is unprecedented; an ideal for which we are prepared to achieve at whatever costs.       
    Therefore, there is no need to resort to midnight political camouflage as if the issues at stake have any political underpinnings.  Assuming (but without conceding) that the ceremonial march past by the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement, CPDM, in Buea and Bamenda  was successful, that alone could not have reduced the cogent  issues raised  by common law lawyers and Anglo-Saxon teachers  from institutional to political.  Of course, a man is a political animal but this assertion has its own limitations. Because where politics ends that is where institutions begin. Also, while politicians come and go daily, institutions stay daily, always and forever.
    Everyone that seems to forget that a teacher imparts knowledge should also forget the day he was born. Similarly, anybody who is ignorant of the fact the lawyer perfects knowledge acquired from the teacher should as well never remember his name. For, the relationship between lawyers and teachers is equivalent to that of Jesus and God, none will consciously contradict the other.  All they have is knowledge, wisdom, understanding, creativity, ingenuity and courage - not false courage, but real courage and they are determined to see the end of this legitimate struggle which an unrepentant political cabal is desperately seeking to thwart because of its selfish aim of  “ruining institutions, ruling in perpetuity.”
    Perhaps, I should belabour this point for the sake of public education that the 1996 Constitution of Cameroon did not and never conceive either (impliedly or expressly) a certain concept of a ‘linguistic Anglophone’ as so erroneously propounded by the Ministers of Justice and Higher Education. There is an impressive and remarkable distinction between privileges and rights, obligations and duties, conditions, among others. Thus, no matter the intensity or degree of harmonisation, what is given to an Anglophone as of right of birth, traced to the incidence of history and culture of the former West Cameroon cannot so be vested on a Francophone and vice versa .  The preambular provisions of the 1996 Constitution states in its opening paragraph thus:
   “We, the people of Cameron, proud of our linguistic and cultural diversity, an enriching feature of our national identity, but profoundly aware of the imperative need to further consolidate our unity, solemnly declare that we constitute one and the same Nation, bound by the same destiny, and assert our firm, determination to build the Cameroonian Fatherland on the basis of the ideals of fraternity, justice and progress……..” (Italics mine).
   From the foregoing, it is therefore laughable to suggest that acquisition of English orientation or academic certificate of whatever depth or magnitude can create or give birth to an Anglophone. It is the right of everyone, including non nationals to privilege the very sound Anglo-Saxon system of education and to an extent, vice versa. But that alone does not make him/her an Anglophone automatically - an ‘Anglophone’ is not an originating product of education. Rather, an Anglophone has existed before the enactment of this constitution supra, he had an enriching feature of identification duly recognised by nation states prior to the drafting of this constitution, a functional government devoid of corruption, linguistic, cultural and a geography, and so on, as a former British Southern Cameroons, then West Cameroon and today, Anglophone Cameroon notably Southwest and Northwes Regions which colonial heritage, the descendants of today are determined to protect.
     And just as the children of Israel never lost their identities in spite of the many years spent in Egypt in bondage, their counterparts here of the English speaking Cameroon-Anglophone did not also lose theirs, despite the political exodus or the Great Treks from 1961 - till date and, no one, including the biblical Goliath or political gladiators of our time can harass them to abandon. Never, never in the history of this struggle. Because their peculiar characters, nature, system, custom and culture as well as identity which they brought into the union have statutorily been preserved by the Constitution in its Article 1(2)(3) of the 1996 Constitution.
 Article 1(3) of the constitution on its part states:
  “The official languages of the Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French, both languages having the same status. The state shall guarantee the promotion of bilingualism throughout the country. It shall endeavour to protect and promote national languages.”  
The logical argument that the 1996 Constitution preserved not only the language but also the people of the former West Cameroon if advanced from a well elaborated interpretation of the Constitution, should lead to the following  irreputable presumptions;
1.     That in keeping with the literally canon of interpretation, the draftsmen of the Constitution by inserting the word ‘English’ first before ‘French’ intended that through its derivative principles of states policies,  English language should inspire, dictate the pace, content and form of government policies. If it were not so, the reverse should have been the case;

2. That by imploring the golden rule of interpretation, it is contended that by the very esteemed and passionate use of the two words ‘English’ and ‘French’ on a balance with a conjunction ‘and’ separating the two words as seen in Article 1(3) of the Constitution, the draftsmen of the Constitution have settled any crafty idea of minority or majority ideology within the union, with a clear hope of ensuring that each of the subsystems conducts its government business in a manner consistent with its language as a constitutional guarantee of the protection of its peoples within the unitary system of government;
    That by adopting the mischief rule of interpretation, the preference of the word English language even before that of its French counterpart in the provisor of Article 1(3) of the 1996 Constitution above, the Cameroonian  legislature had intended that ‘English’ as one of the official languages and its people be treated as endangered species and in turn be accorded maximum State cover and protection as a political majority  for the purpose of government business or administration so as to dispel apparent fears of assimilation, domination and occupation. That is why the draftsmen proceeded from the alphabetical order of inserting English first before French as the lingua franca in Cameroon.   Jesse Louis Jackson once said “in politics, an organised minority is a political majority”. Any contrary interpretation may serve just for academic or political ends which can’t rewrite the Constitution.
   It is against this backdrop that every right thinking Cameroonian, irrespective of your background, should always consider the actions of Laurent Esso and Fame Ndongo, designed to annihilate or scrap the English subsystem of education and common law justice system as provocative, oppressive, unpatriotic, tyrannical and treasonable because they have no constitutional backings, except that they are meant to brutally eliminate the Anglophone soul from the map, of course their own way of silencing ‘les enemies dans la maison’ as it was the case in 2005 where the then Governor of Southwest Province, Eyaya Zanga Louis, referred to Akwaya people as’ les biafrains’ when they stormed his office in a peaceful protest against  the fraudulent diversion of the telecom centre  meant to Akwaya to Nyasoso led by their MP, Hon. Justice Ayah  Paul Abine. That is the Cameroon as viewed by the leaders across the Mungo where they have always implored debasing names with impunity against the Anglophones in order to have their way. It will make no sense should any Anglophone expect them to accept that there is an Anglophone Problem, judging from the above analysis.
   That notwithstanding, what must be must be, nothing can stop it. We consider the government’s lukewarm and snail pace approach to sanction the Ministers of Justice and Higher Education as a calculated provocation and confirmation of the annexation plots. Because in a true democracy, equities must be equal at all times and the people’s will should prevail against individual’s as a deterrent measure. As stated above, there is no minority in equality. If it were so, the Constitution would have spelled that position out clearly to avoid confusion.
What the Constitution has not previewed, no decree of the President or arĂȘte of a minister or ordinance of governor, divisional officer can successfully force down the throats of Anglophones if objected to as brilliantly done by the Common law Lawyers and Anglo-Saxon Teachers today. Finally, in a democracy, when a leadership loses the support of the followers as it is in the instant case, the most noble and dignified thing to do is for these two ministers to resign and save both their pride and generation from shame. Similarly, profound investigations be conducted to sanction those involved in the gruesome murder of innocent and unarmed civilians, torture of gentlemen of the law as well as the torture, rape of creative and resilient students of UB who were barely exercising their  legitimate right of a peaceful protest against the unconstitutional actions, embezzlement and corruption of a political cabal that has plundered this country into the worst form of misrule and maladministration, with the erroneous belief that the brutal use of force or the ‘trigger’  by the peoples security can bully dissenting views out of the path of truth and quest for institutional remedies into the issues on ground - The Anglophone Problem. 
NB:*Nicholas Ogbe Keme is an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Courts of Cameroon and Nigeria,Litigation Officer,Shalom Legal Consultants,Buea-Cameroon.He is also a PhD candidate,University of Buea.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Cameroon: Excessive force that led to deaths of protesters must be urgently investigated

Authorities in Cameroon must investigate the use of excessive and unnecessary force that led to the deaths of between two and four people during a protest in the north western city of Bamenda yesterday, Amnesty International said today.
Eye witnesses recounted that security forces fired live rounds and teargas in reaction to people throwing stones, describing how they saw the bodies of two men who had been shot dead. Media reports quoting police sources have reported that at least four people were killed.

Security forces were also seen launching teargas into an area apparently unrelated to the protests, as well as firing live ammunition in the air.
“Authorities in Cameroon must shed light on the circumstances of these killings and injuries by immediately conducting thorough, impartial and effective investigations. Those reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility for these deaths must be brought to justice,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Central Africa Researcher.

“We call on the Cameroonian authorities to refrain from the use of unlawful force in its response to the protests. Responding to incidents of violence during protests with unnecessary or excessive force threatens to further enflame an already tense situation and could put more lives at risk.”

On the morning of 8 December protests were held in Bamenda with the aim of blocking a ruling party meeting. This was part of a continuation of demonstrations that began in late October 2016 in several cities in English-speaking south-west and north-west Cameroon against the use of French in courts and schools.

According to information received by Amnesty International, in various neighbourhoods of Bamenda security forces attempted to prevent the gatherings and used tear gas and water-canon to disperse protesters. At about 10.30 am the police barricaded the entrance to the commercial avenue where people were gathering. A police station was burnt by protesters yesterday afternoon, reportedly between 3 and 5 pm.

Security forces also reportedly fired tear gas onto the main Bamenda market where no one was protesting. Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International:
“Market sellers were sitting at the main gate leading to the market when the police came and decided to break windscreen and put down bikes parked there and firing teargas”.

“Sellers were saying: we don’t know what we have done wrong, we are just selling at the market. When police fired tear gas, sellers and bystanders ran into the market and locked the main gate and you could see all the smoke and vapours from the tear gas [inside].”

Lawyers, students and teachers have been on strike for weeks, in opposition to what they view as the marginalization of the Anglophone minority.

In the past month Cameroon’s security forces have arbitrarily arrested peaceful protesters and have used excessive force to disperse gatherings in Bamenda and Buea, leading to several injured and at least one civilian dead. On 26 November more than 100 people were arrested in Bamenda.

Amnesty International has so far confirmed two deaths from the incident at Bamenda, but media reports quoting police sources have put the death toll at four.
Source:Amnesty International

Fight for self-determination:“Separatists” infiltrated Teachers’ Strike

By Fon Njim
The Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), which is fighting for restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons, used the November 21 announced teachers’ strike to popularize its quest for self-determination.
Although  teachers called for a sit-in strike  other disgruntled people notably unemployed youth and SCNC devotees staged street protests in Bamenda.
    Southern Cameroons had gained its independence on October 1, 1961 by joining La Repulique du Cameroun, to form what is today known as the Republic of Cameroon; but since the union Southern Cameroonians have been complaining of gross marginalization and discrimination against by their majority French-speaking compatriots.
    It was to address the issue of Southern Cameroons marginalization that the SCNC was formed in 1994, with Lawyer Ekontang Elad as pioneer chairman. Yet since the creation of the SCNC, the Biya Administration has labeled  the group as illegal and secessionist. As such its adherents  have been molested, persecuted, prosecuted and jailed, forcing many  to flee abroad for asylum.
   With the on-going strikes by lawyers and teachers plus the fact that, the SCNC is  taking advantage of the crisis situation to call for the independence of Anglophones,  Government has  intensified efforts to   crackdown on the activists.
   SCNC activists especially those who infiltrated the  Bamenda protests are now living in fear. For example, staunch Ebai John Tong Junior(born on August 20,1992), and Sone Ebongue R.Slyvain,both ex trainees of Cameroon OIC Buea who reportedly took part in the street protests displaying messages calling for the independence of Southern Cameroons, narrowly escaped being arrested by security operatives. Another pathetic case is that of one P.D Sona,a  business woman and mother of one,aged 53 who was brutalized during the protest,but she  too succeeded to escape arrest.Her father, Isaac M.Sona,is  a staunch SCNC activist, making trips abroad with Mola Njoh Litumbe to advertise the independence case for Southern Cameroons.
   Reports also cite Miss Lum Angwafo,an SCNC adherent in Bamenda,who had reportedly been detained last October and molested  for propagating the SCNC cause.It is reported that  Lum Angwafo,a princess of Mankon, was later released but has since November disappeared.
   Their relatives say they have since gone underground following the arrest of several others.
   Many other young activists have since become mute and are hiding fearing for their lives, leaving their families worried.
    It would be recalled that Anglophone lawyers had started peaceful street demonstrations to force Government pay attention to their worries; but  police in riot gear tear-gassed and molested  them in Buea and Bamenda;then came the   Anglophone teachers’ sit-in strike which started last November 21 worsening the crisis situation.
   As the  teachers’ observed their sit-in strike last November 21 in Bamenda, a group of residents led by a certain journalist   Mancho Bibixy ,who was carrying a coffin, paraded the streets of Bamenda calling for repair of the deplorable state of roads in the town. The demonstrations soon turned violent and bloody as the protesters clashed with anti-riot police, resulting later in the deaths of persons.
   Political pundits and international organizations have condemned the repressive measures adopted by Government to resolve what is now know as the Anglophone crisis. But the government says Cameroon is “one and indivisible”, and cannot condone agents of disunity.


Violence Hits Cameroon Over English vs. French

Anti-government demonstrators block a road in Bamenda, Cameroon, December 8, 2016.
By Moki Edwind Kindzeka

Yaounde,Cameroon-Several people were killed and hundreds more were arrested or are missing Thursday in northwest Cameroon in violence that followed rallies by the country's English-speaking minority. They were protesting what they call the overbearing influence of French in the bilingual country. Some are demanding a return to federalism while others are asking for secession from the Republic of Cameroon.

Protesters in Bamenda, the capital of the northwest region of Cameroon, came out to stop the ruling CPDM party and the prime minister of Cameroon, Philemon Yang, from organizing a so-called "Peace rally," intended to halt Anglophone protests that started last month.

Yewong Petra, a resident of Bamenda, says the military shot at protesters who were hoisting blue and white flags that are an symbols of the English speaking regions that want to separate from the French speaking parts of Cameroon.
"The people of Bamenda are hoisting a flag that is not recognized," Petra said. "You cannot, in a nation, hoist a flag that is not recognized by the people. If it was a white flag, I would understand it is for peace. Hoisting a flag that symbolizes something like a secessionist attitude is going to provoke the military."

The government said two people were killed, but some residents and media outlets reported there were at least seven deaths.

Soldiers clear a road in Bamenda, Cameroon, December 8, 2016
In 1961, a vote was held in what are today's northwest and southwest English speaking regions of Cameroon. The referendum was over whether to join Nigeria, which had already obtained independence from Britain, or the Republic of Cameroon, which had obtained independence from France. Voters elected to become part of French speaking Cameroon, and the country practiced a federal system of government. English and French became the official languages of Cameroon.

Ebune Charles, historian at the University of Yaounde, says since 1972, when a new constitution was adopted replacing a federal state with a unitary state, French speaking Cameroonians have failed to respect the linguistic and cultural nature of the minority English speaking Cameroonians.

"We were supposed to have predominantly English speaking administrators in the predominantly English speaking regions of the northwest and the southwest, and that is not the case," Ebune said. "We were expecting official documents signed in both languages; that is not the case. Presidential decrees come only in one language. If you look at the level of the military, that is where it is so scandalous. It is just in one language but we are in a bilingual country."

Charles also pointed out that the country's currency is printed only in French, notice boards even in the English speaking regions are mostly in French, and more than 70 percent of radio and TV programs in the state media are in French. 

The ongoing protests started when lawyers in the English speaking regions asked for French speaking judges who are not of the common law system to be transferred out of courts in those regions. They declared that justice can't be rendered when the judge, the advocate and the suspect can't communicate.
They also asked that the OHADA business law used by French African countries be translated into English.
When those requests were not granted, they refused to defend clients in court.

Teachers also went on strike to protest what they said was an overbearing influence of French in schools.
Professor George Dopgima Nyamdi, politician and former presidential aspirant, says the situation degenerated because the government has refused to listen to the cries of English speaking Cameroonians.
"If things like this happen to a country, it means there is something fundamentally wrong that must be addressed," Nyamdi said.
As the strikes continue, with violence closing schools, universities and markets, the Catholic Church has been calling for dialogue.

"The prime minister … is setting up a committee, he has appointed the chairperson of the committee so why not give him a chance," Cornelius Esua Fontem, the archbiship of Bamenda said. "There is a move of dialogue and we should not refuse that move. We want the government to prove that they too are coherent."
It is not the first time English speaking Cameroonians have protested.

 In 1984, they created the "Cameroon Anglophone Movement" to press for a return to the federal system, which eventually started calling for independence.
Courtesy :VOA News