Common Law Lawyers Walk Out of Talks

Common Law Lawyers Walk Out of Talks

28 December 2016 – Common Law Lawyers from the Southern Cameroons (the two English-speaking regions of the Cameroons) have walked out of only the second day of talks with the government of La Republique du Cameroun.

The lawyers, whose ongoing strike has paralyzed courts in the English-speaking North West and South West regions of the country, justified their walk out by accusing the government of “maintaining bad faith”.

Dialogue collapsed after officials of the Yaounde regime failed to meet three of the most important preliminary issues (preconditions) the lawyers set for any talks.

These include but are not limited to the lawyers’ call for the of the immediate and unconditional release of several dozens (some say over 100) of mostly young men arrested and/or abducted from Southern Cameroons during peaceful street protests in the towns of Bamenda, Buea, Kumba and Kumbo and taken into and held in detention centers across Yaounde, capital of La Republique du Cameroun.

The second failure of the government side to the talks is their refusal to review the composition of the ad-hoc committee. Common Law Lawyers notably called for revisions to ensure that the committee is more inclusive of lawyers from the South West Region; that its membership not include a pair of Common Law Lawyers (who also happen to be husband and wife) and who have spoken publicly in opposition to the reforms the lawyers seek but have been included on the committee under the pretext they side with the lawyers currently on strike. The government side has also refused shrinking its overloading of the committee with French-speaking lawyers (who are not involved with the strike) but two of whom have been selected to chair the committee and run its secretariat.

A third precondition also not met by the government side was a call by the Common Law Lawyers for the government to lift the ban and/or suspensions it has imposed on their trade unions or associations of lawyers (NOWELA, MELA, FAKLA) all based in the English-speaking part of the Cameroons.

Without meeting these pre-conditions, the lawyers, therefore, had no reason to pursue the meeting and accordingly staged a walk out led by the President of the Consortium, Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla.

An eight-hour marathon meeting on Boxing Day by members of the Consortium – it brings together teacher, trader, and student unions, as well as political parties, religious groups and organizations campaigning for the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons – put together the prerequisites for meaningful talks to end not only the strike by lawyers, but another strike by teachers which has paralyzed schools.

In a brief statement on social media confirming the walk out, Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla simply added: “the resistance continues“.