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Cameroon Bar Protests Exclusion From State Issues 

By Joe Dinga Pefok

The Cameroon Bar Association would in the days ahead send a delegation to meet Prime Minister, Philemon Yang, to protest against what it says is persistent exclusion of lawyers from State matters, especially economic conferences and missions organised by the Government to woo foreign investors.

The President of the General Assembly of the Bar Association, Barrister Nico Halle, made the disclosure in Douala, on Saturday, May 21, 2016.

Barrister Halle was speaking at the opening session of the Ordinary and Extraordinary General Assembly of the Bar. He said despite several complaints by the Bar, lawyers in the country are side-lined by State authorities in matters that they ought to be involved.
Recently, Halle said the Bar was ignored by organisers of the Yaounde International Economic Conference.

He observed that not even the President of the Bar Council was invited.
“This complaint is not about individuals. What we are saying is that lawyers were scandalously excluded by organisers of the Yaounde International Economic Conference,” Halle said.

He, however, hailed the initiative of President Paul Biya for the Economic Conference. But he regretted that that those who were charged with the organisation of the conference, especially those who decided on the resource persons for the conference, did not do good to the conference or to the State of Cameroon, by leaving out Cameroonian lawyers.

The international legal consultant said a number of lawyers were supposed to be at the conference to explain the legal framework of investments in Cameroon to the investors. He insisted that it is the role of lawyers and not civil servants or members of Government, to assure foreign investors that the law protects their investments.

No Law Without Lawyers

“We cannot talk law without lawyers. How many of those Government officials who took the floor to address foreign and local investors at the conference, know the OHADA Law, for example?” Halle questioned.

According to Halle, lawyers are supposed to be the cornerstone of any country that is guarded by the rule of law, arguing that lawyers are those who strive to ensure that the law is rightly interpreted and respected.

“They are the ones to ensure that justice reigns for all. In fact, if there are no lawyers, there will be no law,” he reiterated.
Halle, nevertheless, urged lawyers not to be discouraged, but to continue to work hard in making contributing to nation building.

‘Forum For Hatred’

Barrister Halle also regretted that the Lawyers Forum which was created with good intention for exchange ideas online, has been transformed by some lawyers into “a forum for hatred, a forum for blackmail, a forum to throw invectives at others, a forum to intimidate and condemn colleagues who have a right to hold contrary views on certain issues, a forum of misinformation, and so on.

“Let us instil love in the Bar, and not hatred. Let us preach peace and not violence or intimidation. Let us always strive to bear in mind that violence is the weapon of the weak, while peace is the weapon of the powerful,” he told his colleagues.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General for the Littoral Region, Awana Wougoudé, who represented the Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals at the assembly, said the Minister did not give him any message to deliver at the occasion.

However, the Attorney General decided to make a number of remarks on his personal account. He regretted that he arrived at the venue of the General Assembly on time, before most of the lawyers came strolling in.

Awana Wougoudé saw the late coming by most of the lawyers as a lack of self-discipline. Worth noting that even the President of the Bar Council, Barrister Jackson Ngnie Kamga, arrived after him.

The Attorney General asserted that lawyers can only be taken seriously if they, as a group, show that they are serious. He said if lawyers show indiscipline or act in dispersed ranks, with some not even bothering to attend the General Assembly of the Bar, nobody will think they are serious.

Financial Report Rejected

Though deliberations took place behind closed doors, The Post learnt that the issue which raised the biggest storm at the General Assembly was an audit report on the financial management of the Cameroon Bar Council between 2013 and 2015, when Bamanda-based Barrister Francis Asanga Sama was President.

The decision to conduct the audit was adopted by the Elective GA of the Bar Association which held in Yaounde in January 2015.

The Post learnt that the presentation of the audit report was frequently interrupted by boos and jeers from irate members of the Bar Association, who alleged that most of the expenditures that were made by the Bar Council were either inflated or fake.

So bitter were the lawyers in their views that they roundly rejected the report on the grounds that they did not recognise most of the expenditures.
Barrister Francis Sama himself was not at the meeting; a source told The Post that he was out of the country.

Another hot issue was the controversial acquisition of two pieces of land in Yaounde by the Bar Council, during the mandates of three former Bar Presidents; Charles Tchoungang, Eta Besong Jr. and Francis Sama.
A committee was set up to investigate and present a report at the next Ordinary General Assembly in January 2017.

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