Issues at stake

Absence Of Reliable Justice System Begets Violence, Jungle Law

By Bouddih Adams

Hardly a day passes by, these days, without one hearing or seeing someone meting violence on another. This situation is owed to the absence of a reliable justice system which, in turn, is a result of a collapsed State. The absolute opposite would obtain in a society where the rule of law and order prevail. This can only be on account of the clean minds and clean hands of the persons charged with the running of the State.

Dr Bate Besong, aka B.B., observed as far back as 1999, that “when citizens of a country start leaning more onto their tribal affiliations, know that the country is ruled by a dictator.” This attitude as well as the people resorting to taking the law into their hands, employ jungle justice and violence, are telling signs of a failed society.

Barrister Keme Ogbe, just recently, in his PhD thesis, observed that the people are being denied justice by the system in place.

Justice is sold to the highest bidder or served only to those in high places. This means that one cannot sue the State (Government) and win, no matter how hard and tight his/her evidence is, and no matter how tangible his/her claims may be.

A judge in Buea once averred, in a matter against the Government of Cameroon, that: “This kind matter fit carry man yi head go oh! (This kind of matter can cause one’s head to roll (my translation).

The violence that is so rampant today – man killing wife; girl/woman killing husband or husband’s concubine; a person burning the house of his/her enemy or offender; man killing brother or sister, or woman killing brother or sister, or even child killing mother or father or a parent killing the child over property or land disputes; student killing teacher; a person attacking and killing a neighbour over a disagreement, and so on – is due to a collapse in the justice system stemming from a failed State.

Taking the law into their hands and resorting to jungle justice is on the rise, because the people don’t trust law-enforcement officers and the judicial system in place. Once a suspect criminal is caught, the community “takes care” of him because, if they hand him to the law officers, he will buy his her way out and return to the community to become a threat on those who caught him or her. People these days look for the least excuse to settle scores, rather than taking the matter up, which would end nowhere.

Mbombog Mbengan of Equinoxe, a Francophone, quotes Anglophones in the good old days of the Southern Cameroons or West Cameroon, as always saying in the face of a challenge or conflict: “We shall meet in court,” or “I will drag him/her to court …” In those days, anybody on the street or any backyard dweller had the right to justice. Both the high and the low people of society were equal before the law. But if someone says that today, “We will meet in court,” know that he has the wherewithal to buy the judge and win the matter.

Why were Southern Cameroonians, later West Cameroonians, always resorting to the courts? Because they had unalloyed confidence in their magistrates and legal system that independently served justice, no matter whose ox is gored.

Nevertheless, the judges who are brow-beaten by the higher-ups not to dispense justice according the rule of law and their consciences, should know that they would not be spared by the monster they are feathering, when their time would come. If a Supreme Court Judge, a judge of the highest echelon, like Justice Ayah Paul Abine, can be picked and thrown in detention like a simple common law criminal; what will not happen to any other judge?

Nevertheless, some good seeds within the magistracy have shown that justice is the rule of law and the judges’ conscience: like in the Fogum Gorji Dinka case against President Biya in the 1980s; the Che Ngwa case in the 1990s, among others.

Until we rekindle this virtue and our value system, justice will continue to be auctioned to the highest bidder.

Are We Together?     

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