Over Delay In Bar Elections: Lawyers Petition Justice Minister, Want Electoral Adhoc Commission

Anglophone Lawyers

By Nformi Sonde Kinsai

The Minister of Justice, Laurent Esso, has been petitioned over the long delay in the convening of an Elective General Assembly of the Cameroon Bar Association.

The petition, endorsed by  Barristers Victor Siewe and Richard Tristel Tamfu Ngarka, dated March 7, 2022 and submitted at Justice Ministry on March 15, 2022; calls on Laurent Esso to set up an electoral adhoc commission and convene an extraordinary Elective General Assembly of the Cameroon Bar on a date to be determined by the Minister.

According to the petition, which The Post procured a copy, Barristers Siewe and Tamfu recounted that the last General Assembly of the Bar took place in Douala on November 24, 2018 during which the President of the Bar, including his Council and the Bureau of the General Assembly made up of the President and his Deputy, were elected. They had a mandate of two years each in accordance with the 1990 Law organising practice at the bar.

The petitioners told the Minister that, before the unfortunate death of the Bar Council President, Barrister Charles Tchakouté Patie, on October 4, 2020, a couple of weeks to the end of his mandate, one of its members, Barrister Slyvain Souop had equally died. Siewe and Tamfu noted that, following Souop’s death, partial elections were supposed to be organised to get his (Souop’s) successor at the Council, but it went unperceived.

They said following Tchakouté’s demise, the Bar Council met in an extraordinary session on October 7, 2020 and unanimously resolved that Barrister Claire Atangana Bikouna, the eldest member on the bar role, be appointed the Interim Bar Council President in tandem with the law organising the bar and its internal rules and regulations. She had to complete the mandate of late Tchakouté and obligatorily organise fresh elections within a period of one month following the end of that mandate in concertation with the President of the General Assembly of advocates of the Cameroon Bar.

The duo argued that in contravention of Article 9 of arête No 41/DPJ/SG/MJ of 12 April 2005 on the homologation and publication of the internal rules of the Cameroon Bar, the President of the General Assembly of the Bar failed in his legal obligation to convene an Elective General Assembly within the periods previewed by the text in force. Siewe and Tamfu, however, admitted that, with the corpse of the late Batonnier still in the mortuary after the expiry of his mandate by then, was a major concern to the lawyers to evoke electoral issues at the bar.

They told the Minister that with the burial of late Tchakouté on March 13, 2021, nothing justifies the delay in the convening of the Elective General Assembly but the President of the General Assembly, Barrister Evaristus Morfaw Nkafu, failed to do so within the first regulatory period which was May 2021. They talked of communiqués sent out by Barrister Morfaw on April 12 and May 28, 2021, respectively, justifying why the Elective General Assembly was not convened. One of the reasons was that the General Assembly President was concerting with the powers-that-be to put in place practical formalities for the organisation of such an Elective General Assembly.

The petition recalls that in the face of the delay and violation of the text in force, a group of lawyers, on August 19, 2021 launched an appeal to get signatures of 3/4 of members of the bar, a quota needed to convene an Elective General Assembly. In the wake of such a move, the Bar Council, through its Secretary, reportedly issued a communiqué dated August 27, 2021 containing highlights of its July 26, 2021, session announcing that in its next meeting of August 30, 2021 the issue of convening a General Assembly to renew the organs of the bar will be discussed.

The Secretary was mandated to invite and discuss the issue with the President of the General Assembly of the Bar on the occasion of the August 30 meeting. Meanwhile, Siewe and Tamfu regretted that it was rather through media outlets that the Interim Bar Council President and the President of the General Assembly reacted to their complaint. They said that since the outing, the normal opaqueness has taken precedence in an institution where the promotion of democracy, justice, ethics and all other virtues are supposed to be upheld, but that it has rather become a jungle where things are done in an arbitrary manner. They expressed fears that if the situation continues, then, the Cameroon Bar will be dead.

They equally argued that following the death of Tchakouté, his regional and special representatives, going by elementary obligations of the law, are supposed to stop acting forthwith. Meanwhile, the Interim Bar Council President is being accused by the protesting lawyers of moving from that temporary position to a full Bar Council President in violation of the law organising practice at the bar.

Thus, unable to get signatures of 3/4 of members of the bar to be able to convene the elective general assembly, the lawyers resorted to petitioning the only remaining avenue and supervisory authority which is the Ministry of Justice. They are protesting and requesting for the intervention of the Minister, Laurent Esso. They are, therefore, urging him to set up an adhoc electoral commission made up of lawyers who will have the task of facilitating the convening of an Elective General Assembly to enable advocates of the Cameroon Bar renew its leadership.

The petition that has as much as 10 other documents justifying the claims of the protesting lawyers, is copied the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the Cameroon Bar.

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