• Warns Against Transforming Court Rooms Into Rally Grounds

By Chris Mbunwe

The Attorney General of the Northwest Court of Appeal, Justice Oyono Abah, has said magistrates are free to make submissions in French or English because President Biya in appointing them never cared whether they were from English or French backgrounds.

In his opening statement during a two-day seminar at the Catholic Pastoral Centre in Bamendankwe, Justice Oyono made nonsense of the resistance mounted by Anglophone lawyers, refusing French judges from presenting submissions in French in a purely Common Law set-up.

Addressing the Northwest Governor, Adolphe Lele L’Afrique, judges, magistrates, state counsel, lawyers, forces of law and order and Fons of the Northwest Region who attended this semester meeting for the first time, Justice Oyono called on their collaboration for the speedy discharge of justice in the Region.

He recalled that at the last Higher Judicial Council meeting of December 18, 2014, many pupil magistrates were integrated into the magistracy and transferred to different jurisdictions of Cameroon.

“During the same meeting, I was appointed Attorney General of the Northwest Court of Appeal with other French-speaking magistrates. We know that the Presidential decrees are discretionary… Meanwhile, I have taken note that these Presidential decrees do not make any distinction between French-speaking magistrates and English-speaking magistrates.

In other words, there is no Francophone or Anglophone magistrate. We have magistrates who can serve all over the country, irrespective of bilingualism as stated in the Constitution of Cameroon. We shall proceed this way. Therefore, litigants in a court hall can speak either in French or English,” Oyono averred.

Tacitly referring to the Northwest Lawyers Association that has been holding meetings at the Mezam High Court premises, rejecting submissions in French during court sessions at the Court of Appeal, which most often have been rowdy, Oyono called on this practice to stop.

Hear him; “Court halls are public buildings where court sessions are sought. Court halls are not political podiums which politicians can use for their petitions. Inside the court premises, we are humble servants of justice. Everybody should take note from now on,” he stated.

Apparently referring to lawyers of Anglophone extraction as soldiers who, during the Second World War, kept firing after ceasefire was announced, Oyono said it beats his imagination that, after experts have struggled to unify the Criminal Procedure by coming out with the new Criminal Procedure Code, CPC, which was voted in to force on January 1, 2007, there are lawyers still referring to British, Nigeria or French Codes.

“The CPC has been voted; let us implement it. Many others are implementing the CPC based on the repealed Criminal Procedure Ordinance, CPO; others based on their Criminal Proceedings on the (Code d’Instruction Criminelle)” Oyono said.

Talking to The Post after the seminar, the representative of the President of the Cameroon Bar Council in the Northwest, Barrister Henry Gamsey, expressed indignation and total embarrassment with the utterances of the Attorney General that “magistrates in all fields are the same, when we know that these magistrates had their degrees under the English Private or Common Law System and French Private or Civil Law System.”

He said, in as much as the harmonisation of the two systems is still underway, it will continue to be an abomination for French magistrates posted to English-speaking zones to be ramming submissions in French down the throats of litigants or lawyers, who do not understand French.

“How can Francophone judges handle cases strictly based on Common Law System, “he wondered.
On the use of languages, Barrister Kemende said bilingualism is a fact not fiction.

“So, either the judges of the Appeal Court are bilingual or they are not. This is because three quarters of litigants are not bilingual. If the Francophone judges continue to submit in French, it, therefore, means that we will need permanent interpreters or translators in our courts; else, it will not work. One thing our Francophone brothers fail to understand is that justice is not delivered by speculation.

If we all do not sit and address this issue, we are in for injustice in our courts, given that, these courts are being manned by Civil Law magistrates. It is unfortunate,” Barrister Kemende lamented.