- Fire another memo to Biya against assimilation, subjugation of Anglophones
- Say proposed Civil and Commercial Code is at variance with Common Law tenets and favours Civil Law
By Atia Tilarious Azohnwi
Common Law Lawyers in Cameroon are at it again! This time again, they have addressed another memo to the Head of State, President Paul Biya in which they object the applicability of a Civil and Commercial Code within the Common Law jurisdiction of Cameroon.
The protest dated March 13, 2019 is signed by 101 Common Law Lawyers on behalf of their peers and dispatched by mail service to the following authorities: the President of the Republic of Cameroon, the President of the Senate, the Prime Minister and Head of Government, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Minister of State in charge of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, the President of the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, the President of the Cameroon Bar Association, the British High Commissioner, the French Ambassador, the US Ambassador, and the Representative of the Commonwealth Secretariat.
The memo reads in part: “We the undersigned Common Law Lawyers of the Republic of Cameroon vehemently deprecate the ongoing attempt to force on the two (2) English Speaking regions of Cameroon a Civil and Commercial Code which is at variance and in violent opposition to the tenets of the Common Law legal system.”
The Anglophone lawyers say the promulgation of such a Code will lead to civil, social perturbations and a destruction of the Anglophone body fabric and heritage.
The lawyers wonder why the French-dominant government in Yaoundé is so bent on harmonising the Civil Law and Common Law even when the constitution provides for a bilingual, bi-cultural and bi-jural Cameroon.
In a tone that betrays the anger in their pen, the lawyers remind government that even their master, France, is yet to harmonise her laws.
Hear them: “We do reiterate that the laws in France are not harmonized. The applicable laws in Monaco are not the same as the laws applied in mainland France. The laws in the United Kingdom are not harmonised. The Landlord/Tenant law for example in Scotland is not the same as in England and Wales or Northern Ireland. The laws in the United States of America are not harmonised. There is the death penalty for capital murder in some states and abolished in others. Similarly in Canada the laws are not harmonised and we can go on and on.”
The lawyers tell government that it is extremely difficult to harmonise the two legal systems of the Civil Law which obtains in the eight French-speaking regions and Common Law which is applicable in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon.
One of the proponents of the protest averred that most of the laws harmonised thus far are civil law inspired, giving the impression that the state wants to completely erase Common Law. They cited the Penal Code, Land Tenure Ordinance, Labour Code and recently the Ohada treaty which Cameroon ratified as Civil Law dominated, with many of such harmonised laws begging for an English translation.
“We the Common Law Lawyers are vehemently protesting against the promulgation and applicability of the proposed Civil Law inspired Civil and Commercial Code, in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon where the Common Law is applicable,” the memo states in part.
They draw the attention of the Head of State to the “Common Law Lawyers Memorandum at Bamenda dated 15th of May 2015”, which was served on the government decrying the persistent erosion and annihilation of the Common Law legal system.
Common Law Lawyers in Cameroon went on strike in October 2016 to protest government’s attempts to annihilate the Common Law practice in a constitutionally bilingual and bi-jural Cameroon. The strike came as a result of Government’s intransigence to the several complaints made by the lawyers of English descent. From Bamenda in May 2015 to Buea in February 2016 an then Kumba on January 13, 2017, the lawyers expressed their grievances. But many say government has only taken cosmetic measures leading to a degeneration of a legit presentation of concerns to an armed conflict that is shaking the very fabric of the nation.
“Instead of translating the laws as requested, they went ahead to translate obsolete versions of the OHADA law,” a lawyer quipped.
They recommend that government should desist from causing the proposed Civil and Commercial Code from being applied in the North West and South West Regions. They urge President Biya to respond to their protest within a reasonable delay upon acknowledgment. It remains unclear whether the previous memo dated May 15, 2015 ever reached the President given that he had never publicly acknowledged receipt.
The March 13, 2019 memo bears 101 signatures (with more expected to sign) among them those of: Barristers Samuel Elad, Marian Ngunjo Shalo Weledji, Eta-Besong Junior, PM Tumnde, Henry Ngale Monono, Ebah Ntoko Justice, Tangunyi Gilbert, Tanyi Thompson Ashu, and Ndi John Ndam.