By Atia Tilarious Azohnwi
Barristers Ikome Mbella Ngongi, Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla, Francis Sama and Boniface Mbah Ndam each took turns on October 17 and October 18, to present the conflict crippling life in the North West and South West regions before the Constitutional Council. They used the pain of the people in the two-English speaking regions to serve as mitigating circumstances for the cancellation of the October 7 polls given the low voter participation.
The lawyers did not veil their anger over the situation in the Anglophone regions. Barrister Ikome Ngongi blamed the non-participation by thousands of internally and externally displaced voters on government’s neglect of a crisis that would have been arrested at source if there was good faith.
Barrister Ngongi, painstakingly narrated the new way of life in Anglophone regions, the numerous military checks, the burning of villages, the harassment by gunmen, the approach by government, contrasted with the different way reality in other regions, and concluded, “We are really living in two different countries.”
He went on to delve back into the history of the Cameroons, the reunification challenges and agreements which were settled on the choice of Federalism as the best form of governance to address the diversities in the way of living for the two countries, but were later discarded alongside other terms of the reunification thereby forming the bedrock of today’s crisis in former West Cameroon.
Barrister Ngongi, drew the attention of the members of the Constitutional Council to disturbing and daily occurrences in Former West Cameroons, narrating disturbing killings, harassments, summary executions, brutal punishments, then went on to prick consciences of the members, saying “close your eyes for a moment and imagine, that if one of these people killed were your friends, your brothers or sisters, your son, your daughter, just imagine, close your eyes and tell me, if you were put in the position to go out and vote…Tell me, how do you get so insensitive that one part of our country is burning, and you are here talking about votes, when the very existence of this country is at stake. When did we become so insensitive, that the interest of one person being in power is more important than the collective interest of the country and its people [sic].
He went on to dare the members of the council, to drive back with him to Buea, and have a feel of what citizens of that part of the country are going through, as well as have a look at the deserted communities, now shadows of their former self, as well as the numerous military checks that are now the new way of life in the affected towns.
He quoted the example of the DO of Buea, Paul Kouam Wokam, who was shot on election day, in spite of the numerous military guards that he was accorded. Barrister Ngongi then beseeched the Council to think of what the common man will go through, without a single guard. The legal icon went on to quote an example of a polling Centre in Bonduma, where only three people voted, then moved on to mock the system, saying he would not be surprised if the records say 3,000 people voted in that post.
On his part, one of the pioneer leaders of the Anglophone struggle, Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor Anyior aka Agbor Balla took the rostrum and reminded the Constitutional Council that “When the voices of the people are not heard, it leads to chaos”.
The human rights defender went on to implore the Council to take a decision for the interest of the country, telling the President of the Council and its members; “If you love this country, take a decision, that posterity will judge you right. Your probity and independence is at stake depending on the judgement you will make…take the decision which will not mar the unity of this nation…. We will go, Cameroon will remain” He declared.
He went on to tell the Council that Professor Kamto defended them, “when our lives were at stake, we were tried for trying to change the form of the state. I am here because Maurice Kamto incarnates values of justice, peace and unity that Cameroon needs. The people voted and the results must reflect their desires” He told the Council.
To the President of the Council, Justice Clement Atangana, Agbor Balla said, “Mr President, the force of your experience should allow you to understand that there is a lack of justice in this country”
The submissions were made by the men of law, standing in for the opposition candidates who had filed against the various loopholes and electoral malpractices which they say were orchestrated to keep the incumbent President Paul Biya in power, to the detriment of Cameroonians who seek justice. They were also vouching for the interest of the Anglophone regions, Former West Cameroons, which is currently going through untold hardship from Government and separatist forces, due to the unaddressed problems that spiralled to a full blown armed conflict.
Barrister Boniface Mbah Ndam on October 18 dared the members of the Constitutional Council to step foot on “ground zero” (the North West and South West Regions) without their guards and see if they will come out unharmed.
He said even animals have fled from his native Batibo, wondering how it could have been possible for voting to take place where no one exists.
The SDF lead counsel, Barrister Francis Sama went down a similar path, warning the constitutional council to take a decision that will not further consolidate the claims of separatists.
“You need to meet them face to face, and you will not be saying what you are saying here…The Amba boys will rejoice, yes they are listening to me now…Don’t give them justification and legitimise secession….Posterity will judge you, don’t miss this golden opportunity to write your name in the golden books of our nation’s history, by annulling this election.” – Barrister Francis Sama
He urged President Paul Biya to order a ceasefire in the troubled regions and engage dialogue with his compatriots of Anglophone descent.
The Constitutional Council however threw out Maurice Kamto’s plea for a partial cancellation of the polls on grounds that it did not have sufficient evidence. Joshua Osih’s plea for a total annulment of the October 7 polls was also rejected on grounds that the irregularities cited were not too great as to influence the overall conduct of the presidential elections.