Close to two years after the inaugural Cameroon Common Law Lawyers Conference in Bamenda, which called on the Government of Cameroon to respect the country's bicultural, bijural, and bilingual foundations, and to halt the "deliberate whittling away and replacement" of the Common Law system "with a system and culture of French-inspired or copied Civil Law"; nearly six months after Common Law lawyers went on strike due to repeated harassment and the Government's failure to acknowledge their demands; and some three months after the arrest and exiling of key members of the Cameroon Common Law Lawyers Conference, the Government of Cameroon finally conceded that the lawyers did in fact have a case after all.
During a press conference in Yaounde on March 30, 2017, the Minister of Justice outlined a series of steps that the Government of Cameroon intended to implement in response to the demands of the common law lawyers. Scribbles from the Den has simplified the key points from the Minister's lengthy, and sometimes rambling and overly defensive introductory statement. Here is what the Government of Cameroon has committed to on paper:
REORGANIZATION OF THE SUPREME COURT
- The Minister of Justice will draw up and submit a draft bill to amend the organization and functioning of the Supreme Court for the inclusion of a Common-Law Section.
- The purpose of this English Language Section of the Supreme Court is to hear in English, in compliance with the Common Law if need be, all cases from Courts of Appeal of the North West and South West Regions.
- Carry out a census of Judicial and Legal Officers of English expression with a view to increasing the number of English-speaking Judicial and Legal Officers in the Supreme Court. This is to ensure that the court would be able to entertain appeals in the English Language against judgments rendered in English.
DEPLOYMENT OF FRANCOPHONE JUDICIAL & LEGAL OFFICERS IN NW AND SW REGIONS
- The Government of Cameroon is fully aware that justice is not rendered for Judicial and Legal Officers, but for litigants. Therefore, it is proper for them to be able to follow their matters in one or the other of the two official languages which they master and through procedures they know.
- The President of the Republic has ordered an assessment on the mastery of the Common Law by Judicial and Legal Officers serving in the Courts of Appeal of the North West and South West Regions and of the Romano-Germanic Law in the jurisdictions of the other Courts of Appeal.
- Based on this assessment, the President of the Republic will redeploy Judicial and Legal Officers based on their mastery of the official language predominantly used in the jurisdiction where they are transferred, without putting into question the policy of national integration and the evolution of the career of Judicial and Legal Officers.
- Subjects that are not yet standardized or codified will continue to be taught in English-speaking universities based on Common Law.
- A Faculty of Legal and Political Sciences will be set up at the University of Buea.
- Departments of English Law will be set up in the Universities of Douala, Maroua, Ngaoundere and Dschang, similar to that at the University of Yaounde II in Soa.
- Public law will be taught in the Universities of Buea and Bamenda to take into consideration the fact that Common Law does not distinguish between Private Law and Public Law.
- For capacity building purposes, tailor-made training will be offered in universities to English-speaking Judicial and Legal Officers to enable them work in Administrative and Audit Courts.
NATIONAL SCHOOL OF ADMINISTRATION AND MAGISTRACY (ENAM)
- There will be recruitment of a larger number of Anglophone teachers at the Magistracy and Registry Division in ENAM, to complement the inadequacy and the unavailability of teachers of English expression. The Minister of Public Service and Administrative Reform and the Director General of ENAM have been instructed accordingly.
- With effect from the next entrance examination for the recruitment of Pupil Judicial and Legal Officers, a common core paper from legal disciplines already standardized will be instituted along with a specific Common Law paper for Anglophone candidates and a paper on Romano-Germanic (civil) law for Francophone candidates.
- The scripts of Anglophone candidates will be corrected by English-speaking markers.
- A Common-Law Section will be established in ENAM. It shall be responsible for teaching common law principles, along with unified Cameroon Law and residual Romano-Germanic principles, in the English language.This Section shall be open to all Pupil Judicial and Legal Officers who wish to be trained in the English Language.
SHORTFALL OF ENGLISH SPEAKING JUDICIAL AND LEGAL OFFICERS
- In order to increase the numbers and meet the shortfall of English-speaking Judicial and Legal Officers and Court Registrars, there shall be a special recruitment of English-speaking Pupil Judicial and Legal Officers and Court Registrars over a period of four (4) years, based on:
- Quotas provided for by Decree No. 2000/696/PM of 13 September 2000 to lay down the regime of public administrative examinations;
- Available means;
- Prior assessment of the human resource needs in the jurisdictions of the North West and South West regions.
- While waiting for this special recruitment to yield the expected results, the President of the Republic has authorized the special recruitment of specialized interpreters to provide services to courts as stipulated by the Law.
THE BAR COUNCIL
- The Government of Cameroon will continue consultations with governing organs of the Bar on the amendment of the Law to Organize Practice at the Bar.
- An Institute of Judicial Studies will be set up to train Advocates, Notaries Public, and Bailiffs.
PRACTICE OF THE NOTARY PROFESSION IN NORTHWEST AND SOUTHWEST REGIONS
- With respect to the practice of the profession of Notary Public in the North West and South West Regions, both the Law to organize Practice at the Bar and the Decree to organize the Profession of Notary Public lay down the principle of non-accumulation of both duties, and state that as a transitional measure pending the appointment of Notaries Public in both Regions, advocates shall perform the duty of Notary Public.
A little too late?
In subsequent blog posts, we will go into detail in the clash between the common law lawyers and the Government of Cameroon, showing how the government's intransigence made it possible for the lawyers' grievances to snowball into a full blown "Anglophone Revolt."