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Riot Police, BIR Brutalise Demonstrating Common Law Advocates 

By Chris Mbunwe & Glory Mbuwil

cartoon-1774A squad of gendarmes, November 8, at City Chemist Roundabout, Bamenda, used tear gas to disperse Common Law lawyers who were carrying on a peaceful demonstration.

The gendarmes had trailed the over 200 lawyers to the court premises at Bamenda Up-Station, through Cow Street, SONAC Street, Commercial Avenue, Metta Quarters and then to City Chemist Roundabout, where the President of Northwest Lawyers Association, NOWELA, addressed the crowd.

Without provocation, gendarmes fired tear gas at the lawyers and dispersed the crowd, seconds after the NOWELA President spoke.

The gendarmes claimed that tear-gassing the crowd was an attempt to stop bike riders who wanted to disrupt the strike and not for the lawyers. The gendarmes arrested some of the bike riders after confrontations with some of the lawyers.

Earlier, addressing the lawyers and the crowd, the President, Barrister Harmony Bobga, reiterated that the strike is a peaceful one.

“We never meant any violence; we do not intend to cause any trouble. We are out expressing dissatisfaction with the functioning of the Common Law in Cameroon.

The administration has arrogantly and recklessly refused to listen to us. We are the ones starving and fasting,” he averred.

He openly declared the creation of the Common Law Bar Association, saying that it will have mediation centres, and that, whether the courts open or not, they are going to handle their cases and pass unbiased and just verdicts.

For their cause, he remarked “are such sacrifices that can establish and sustain true democracy.”

While thanking the gendarmes for being so gentlemanly during the demonstration, he acknowledged other civil society organisations like CATTU and TAC that have declared their support to the lawyers’ strike.

The lawyers in the course of the demonstration received motion of support from onlookers.

Most of them applauded as the lawyers marched past, while others urged them shouting; “ahead! ahead! your demands are genuine. We are behind you!.

This country must change.” Bike riders, on their own part, opted to join the strike, but their attempts failed as the lawyers blatantly refused.

The intention of the lawyers, who have been on strike for close to a month, was to observe their strike action on the court yard on that November 10. However, the forces of law and order stopped them from entering the court yard.

They demonstrated carrying banners with inscriptions: “Leave our Common Law alone, we love and cherish it. Don’t force civil law on us. Stop the blatant disregard of the constitution.

“Stop the injustice against Anglophone Cameroonians. Don’t destroy the Anglo-Saxon Universities of Buea and Bamenda. They are the Nursery for common law lawyers.

“Our demands are genuine and in the interest of all. Francophone magistrates don’t know Common Law, remove them from our courts.

“Our new Cameroon Common Law Bar Association will ensure the protection of Common Law, respect for rule of law and stand against all forms of injustice.

“Anglophones should stand up to save the Anglo-Saxon system of education from complete eradication. Only a two-state federation or outright independence can save the Common Law and Anglophones.

Meantime, some eight bike riders who were arrested were released, owed to the intervention of the Social Democratic Front Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi.