Interview: “Ignoring Anglophone Lawyers’ Requests Will Not Help Matters”

Barrister, Ndeh Geofred Andang of the Andang and Associates Law Firm, Bamenda revisits the reasons for the strike action by Common Law lawyers.

What has taken the lawyers strike into the 4th week?

The strike in the first place is the product of a series of complaints that have been ignored by the government. Over 700 Common Law Lawyers met in Bamenda on the 9th of May 2015. We served the government our resolutions and the government never reacted. On 13th March 2016 we met in Buea and produced a declaration which the government has not reacted to. Recently, some four leaders of the Common law lawyers wrote a joint communiqué to the government which was ignored.

It now suffices to understand why we are on strike. We want Francophone Magistrates who are trained in the Civil law system to be redeployed from the Common Law system to the civil law jurisdiction. We want the government to respect the bi-jural and bi-cultural nature of Cameroon by revisiting the Constitution. We also want the government to respect and re-instate values which Common Law Lawyers consider to the Core of our practice. Perhaps, I should add that the translation of the OHADA Law into English is only one of our priority requests.

Why continue the strike action when the Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals has revealed that the translation of the OHADA Law into English, a priority request by the Common Law Lawyers is on course?

We have a series of worries that requires attention. I also understand that the working language of the OHADA Law is French and to translate it into English may not solve our problem. Again, it is regrettable that the department of Justice attached to the Legal department, I mean the Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, is not part of the OHADA governing Council. It is the duty of OHADA to translate the text and not Cameroon’s Ministry of Justice.

Even if OHADA translates the text, it will not be the solution to our problems. In all, we are saying that even the Minister has caused the translation into English it is just handling one of our complaints. It is not enough to call off the strike. The Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals who is the representative of lawyers in the government, has not been fair to us. We are actually saying that it is now for the Presidency to handle our complaints.

Do you consider the harm the strike action is doing to litigants whose right to defense by Lawyers is violated?

We recognize that some of our Clients and potential Clients are suffering because of the strike action, but is equally important to say that the strike action is meant to better their future. The laws that we want to be set straight will not only apply to Lawyers. Litigants will be the greater beneficiaries and it for them to understand that it is better to suffer for a while for the formula to be reversed to take Cameroon forward.

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