What began as a strike by anglophone Cameroon lawyers, to address genuine grievances, has exploded into a political crisis gripping the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. Below, we publish an opinion piece penned by Kizito Dikuba, a Douala-based anglophone lawyer, in which he lays the blame for the current impasse squarely at the foot of his colleagues. “Every lawyer worth the salt knows that there is a difference between a sit-in strike, a protest, and a riot… In Cameroon, the public, misled by some of our self-proclaimed “leaders,” does not even know the difference..”
Read the entirety of his piece below:
Today, I sit and ponder: how could some of us, the anglophone lawyers in Cameroon, accept to be led by the nose by people who understand little or nothing about constitutional law, about the laws of the land, about international and comparative laws, and who are just driven by sheer passion and the quest for cheap popularity?
I am at wits end when I notice the lack of tolerance manifested by these self proclaimed “leaders” of the anglophone cause towards people who don’t share their ideologies. Their “followers” are always ready to stigmatise dissenting views and treat the authors as “traitors,” “blacklegs” etc. Some radical ones even go to the extent of threatening the lives of people and families who don’t adhere to their ideas!!
I find this scandalous.
Now, every lawyer worth the salt knows that there is a difference between a sit-in strike, a protest, and a riot.
All over the world these three notions are governed by laws, and Cameroon is not an exception.
However, I have realised that in Cameroon, the public, misled by some of our self-proclaimed “leaders,” does not even know the difference. Hence they mix up issues and put all three in one basket!!!
Now everyone is surprised about the consequences.
Generally, for an association to initiate a strike action against hierarchy, there must be a general assembly of its members, with at least two-third of same voting for the strike action. A notice to commence the strike is served to the competent authority, stating the reasons for the strike and laying down certain conditions to be satisfied for the strike to be uplifted. The competent authority might engage in dialogue immediately and solve all or a major part of the demands on the one hand, or permit the strike to go on, while simultaneously looking for ways and means to solve the problem.
In the case of a protest march, the association, or group of persons, have an obligation to notify the competent authority about the protest march. They have to state the reason for the march. They have to define the itinerary of such a march. The competent authority might refuse or accept such a march. If the competent authority deems that the itinerary of the protest march might compromise public security, it can modify such itinerary to avoid any complications. Lastly, the competent authority upon accepting the protest march to take place, owes a duty to the protesters and public to provide law enforcement officers who could peacefully and non-violently manage any situation of violence that might erupt.
In the case of a riot, generally, no notice is given to any competent authority. This is because a riot is most of the times associated with anarchy, violence and destruction. It is like a hurricane that tends to sweep everything along its path, leaving tears and desolation most often than not. In such a situation, the government usually sends specialised forces to deal with it. In Cameroon, they are the anti-riot police. In the US, it is the National Guard.
In the Southern Cameroons, lately, we have witnessed all the above-mentioned three scenarios; but to my dismay, I hear our so-called leaders just talking about “strike” and not properly educating the public about the legal consequences of violent protests and riots. They instead tend to encourage such violence and intimidation.
A few days ago I stumbled upon one of these crazy communiques purportedly signed by one Bara on behalf of the consortium in which he threatened defaulters who would not adhere to his “ghost town” idea on the 10th and 11th of February!!! I find this insane!!!
Be that as it may, I am shocked that most of the anglophone lawyers in the Southern Cameroons, including our so-called leaders, did not take time out to read the recently promulgated laws on terrorism. Had they done that, I think they would have had a very different approach in handling this problem. I urge my learned colleagues and brothers to do their research and keep abreast with the laws existing in Cameroon.
I read and hear some people say that the international community will come and bring down the Biya regime because of the “Anglophone problem”.
How could these people be so naive? Nobody asks what it takes for the UN or AU to intervene militarily in the state of affairs of a sovereign state. Some guys in the diaspora, especially Britain, keep on brandishing correspondences from some British Parliamentarians relative to the “Anglophone problem” in the Southern Cameroons as a victory.
What they refuse to explain to the ignorant population is that these correspondences are somewhat generic, and that any British citizen can complain to the parliamentarian of his county on issues bothering him and will receive such a reply as acknowledgement of receipt.
It doesn’t mean that the matter will be looked into immediately. There is a whole battery of procedures to be accomplished afterwards. These range from the requisite amount of signatures, to even have a committee hearing. Another amount of signatures (is needed) to even consider a debate in Parliament. I don’t think the Southern Cameroonians will meet up with this battery of procedures.
Let us stop misleading the public and go back to school and research more!!
Many things have gone wrong, and many things are still going wrong because lawyers, who were the initiators of this sit-in strike, allowed events to slip out of their hands, into the hands of irresponsible individuals who know nothing about the law and about the sufferings of the Southern Cameroonian people. These self-proclaimed leaders and elites (especially those in the diaspora) keep on chasing the shadow instead of the substance. They keep on rendering the lives of the Southern Cameroonian very difficult as a result of their irresponsible acts and their quest for cheap popularity.
It is high time anglophone lawyers sit up and take command of the situation. If not, then posterity will judge us for letting Okada riders,some “stubborn teachers” and “journalists” lead us. There is a dictum that lawyers lead and others follow.
People come to lawyers for legal solutions, not the reverse…