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Retired Magistrates Should Not Pass For Lawyers – Barrister Ajong 

Interviewed By Yerima Kini Nsom

President of the Fako Lawyers Association, Barrister Stanislaus Ajong, says the quality of justice in the country will be negatively affected if retired magistrates and law professors are allowed to join the Bar. He made the observation in an exclusive interview with The Post after the General Assembly of the Bar that took place in Yaounde recently. The lawyer equally accuses Government for preparing a bill that contains many obnoxious provisions bordering on practice at the Bar. Read on:

The Post: What was the General Assembly of the Bar Council all about?

Barrister Ajong: The meeting was convened by the President of the General Assembly of the Cameroon Bar Association, firstly to close the ordinary and extra-ordinary meeting that held on July 25, 2009, and also to debate on a few issues which form part of the agenda of the ordinary meeting.

Which are these issues?

The first one is that Government, through the Chancellery, created what we called a commission composed of members of the Bar Association and members of the Ministry of Justice, to study and make proposals unto the amendment of the organic law to organise practice at the Bar. This came about because of the petition that the Bar had forwarded to the Ministry of Justice concerning what we call malpractices against the exercise of the profession, generally.

But added to that, the mixed commission had to look into many other things and report to the General Assembly. And then, all along, we have been receiving reports that Government was about to introduce a bill in Parliament to amend the organic law to organise practice at the Bar when we have not yet heard from our own members of the commission. So, they presented a report on their activities on that commission, we examined them, came out with resolutions concerning what we as lawyers think should be done in that commission.

What are the provisions of the organic law that you want amended?

Principally, we the exercise of the profession of the advocate is being infiltrated by non-lawyers, people they call "les agents d’affaire" in the French zone. So, we said there should be what we called monopoly of the exercise of the profession, that it should be reserved only for lawyers. For lawyers, by the exercise of their duties they cause clients to pay some money to the courts. Now, we are saying that when you do work which gives money to Government, you have to be compensated for it. We are the people who inform clients to pay money to court.

We are the people who decide whether a case will be filed or not; we are the ones who will tell you if it is good to file a case or not. So we are still the people who generate money for the State. We are supposed to be remunerated for these activities. It is contained in the law but it is not being applied. So when we bring up these proposals, Government takes advantage of the fact that we want these laws to be amended to bring up their own obnoxious proposals of amendment.

For example, they say they want to split the Bar, they want to regionalise the Bar, they say they copied it from France. But we tell them that we have specificities. We have just below 2000 lawyers. We just wonder what the motive for such proposals is. These obnoxious proposals will not only split the Bar but also take Cameroon backwards as far as the administration of justice is concerned if the bill were to go through in Parliament.

What are the provisions of the bill that you think will take Cameroon backwards in the administration of justice?

We have just talked about the splitting of the Bar, which will make it very difficult for you to have access to a lawyer of your choice because the lawyer must be from your region of residence. If your lawyer is in Bamenda and you are in Yaounde, before he attends to you, I bet you, you must have been in jail for a good number of days.

That is just one aspect of it. There is equally the very pertinent issue of admission into the Bar which gives room for law professors to have the right to come into the Bar. We say that we don’t want people to have two lives. If you want to practise the law as a magistrate or professor, resign and come and practise. They should not wait until retirement before picking up a new profession as a lawyer. You become a spent force that is not good for the litigants or the profession itself.

We have equally gone through this proposal and discovered that as a matter of fact, Government is trying to enforce a provision which says for one to join the Bar, he/she needs a Masters degree in law. Sometimes, they say that entry is with a Maitrise which is being discarded in France and even in Francophone Cameroon. Now they have tried to coin that Masters is meant for the Anglo-Saxon education. But there is nothing in the Anglo-Saxon education like Maitrise. Now it is already in that law. This will disfranchise so many people who should be lawyers because they have these qualifications.

All along, it has been first degree. Now that they sit for one reason or the other, and say they want to do this to limit entry into the profession because there are too many lawyers, we don’t know by what calculations they started putting up ceilings which will be very difficult to attain and in the process, if you cannot have lawyers, you cannot have a clean society where laws are respected. There are many of these obnoxious things which Government is struggling to push through. We are saying that, as lawyers, we should stand up and stop them in the interest of the administration of justice.

How would you fight this?

We have already started with the Fako Lawyers Association, which I head. We wrote a petition to the President pointing out many of the loopholes which we think ought to be redressed. We have many other ways of doing it.

Like this General Assembly that we just attended, we have come out with resolutions and we talk so that even if they pretend not to listen, they will hear and somehow, if they make a mistake, posterity will judge them and they will definitely be found guilty. We will continue talking. We will continue exploring many other avenues by which all of these things will be amended in favour of a better administration of justice.

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