Common Law Lawyers in Meme Division, Southwest Region under the umbrella of the outlawed Meme Lawyers Association, MELA, have suspended their one year strike action.
The Lawyers also issued a six months’ ultimatum for Government to initiate an inclusive dialogue forum to look into the grievances of the Anglophone polity.
The decision marked the high point of a call-over court session at the Meme High Court on Wednesday, October 11.
It marked exactly one year since the Common Law Advocates downed their robes.
Speaking at the court session, the President of the Meme High Court, Justice Paul Ngute, said the Lawyers took the decision in the interest of humanity.
"Today marks the beginning of a new dawn in the courts, for many things have happened in the past one year. Our colleagues of the private bar have once more decided to be part of the judicial process. People have suffered; there are so many inmates who could be innocent. I know it is not an easy decision. It takes courage to be humble. This would help people who have issues to be handled by the courts," Justice Ngute said.
Shortly after the comments, Ngute gave room for the Vice President of the Meme Lawyers Association, MELA, Barrister Jacob Mpako Njume.
In his submission, Barrister Mpako gave reasons why the lawyers were resuming work.
Inferring from the deliberation of a September 25 conclave, Barister Mpako read out the resolutions of the advocates in Meme Division. He said, they agreed to ”suspend their decision of 11/10/16 to down their robes and resume court appearances for a period of six months to allow Government sufficient time to completely redress the grievances expounded in the declaration of May 9, 2015, in Bamenda".
Shortly after the pronouncements, the State Prosecutor, Justice Emmanuel Afah Annah, said it was time to give peace a chance.
Afah inferred from Mpako's speech that Government has gone the extra mile in handling the crisis and so it was time for things to return to normal for the interest of humanity and justice in Cameroon.
Mpako Faces the Press
Responding to questions from journalists, MELA Vice President made the following declarations.
'' the rationale behind the decision is first of all on humanitarian reasons...you have many people who are in prison awaiting trial and they need to be defended........ even if committees are formed they would not be as effective as if all lawyers are back and go to work and they can go to different towns and defend people differently’’.
On the absence of most lawyers, Mpako said “You see many of them are complaining that they didn't know that officially this was how the ceremony was going to take place but they are all aware of this date that we are starting today because this date was discussed in two different meetings and voted for”.
On why the appellation MELA and his position as Vice President was still being mentioned in open court whereas Government had banned the association, Mpako retorted: “I am not the person who called ...you can ask the person who called ....well that's is what I am saying that I am not the person who called that Vice President of MELA or so and if you want to know whether the decision has been revoked or not, you meet the person who made the statement’’.
Quizzed if the Meme lawyers were acting solo, Mpako said some zealots have hijacked the movement. “no..no..let me tell you, some zealots ....let me put it that way have hijacked this movement and think that their opinion must prevail over any other person. The constituent assemblies have made every effort to meet as a body and move ahead but threats will not permit them. So behind the door scenes, the constituent assemblies decided that let’s take respective actions and as we are sitting here, FAKLA is sitting. In some other places, some lawyers are already going to work. In Bamenda there are two camps those who are going to court and those who are not going to court. So why is it only Meme?”
Commenting on rumours of bribes to call off the strike, Mpako said he was ready for proofs. “I think that is not a new phenomenon.
According to some people when you don’t reason with them you have collected money. Must you collect money before you do something...I never collected money from anybody and anybody who knows that I was given money... anybody who knows that I have collected money please I am ready for interrogations at anytime. I work with my conscience and not because of pressure or name tag,” Mpako told The Post
Bar Council Representative
Barrister Divine Mboke, Southwest representative of the Bar Council President, said the occasion was very solemn given that it marked one year since the lawyers strike began.
“There is no situation that will last for eternity and at this point in time the wisdom of the Meme Lawyers prevailed and we decided that we paused a bit , come back to the courts, assist the litigants you know and that the machinery should flow the way it is supposed to.”
On the evident absence of the younger advocates, Mboke said “we will not drag them all or forcefully bring them to court, but we hope that in the days ahead, they will follow. Let us not make any mistake, this struggle concerns all of us and I will tell you it is our lives. We are resuming for six months, to give the Government time to fine-tune what they have started and if after six months it is not satisfactory, we will resume the strike".
Mboke also had a different answer on the issue of the ban on the constituent association of Common Law Lawyers in the Northwest and Southwest.
“Those issues are in process and they are in progress and we hope that in the days ahead all of that will be taken care of. In fact, I am sure the Vice President spoke to you about a memo we have drafted to the President of the Republic and all of that is in that Memo,” Barrister Mboke disclosed.
Business rumbled off at 11:11 am when a college of six Judges made their entry into the courtroom. Some seven senior advocates in Meme were present.
Six full professional outfit and one in assorted dresses. With brief submissions from all judiciary angles, the President of the Meme High Court closed the session at 11:28 am.
Scores of advocates mostly of a younger generation were spotted at different positions within and without the court premises.
While some looked indifferent to the recent developments, a host of others maintained a suspicious silence. A meeting of members of now-outlawed Fako Lawyers Association, FAKLA, has resolved to suspend Common Lawyers’ strike that has been running for one year (since October 11, 2016).
The decision was arrived at after the lawyers met at the Southwest Court of Appeal in Buea, to deliberate and settle on a consensual way forward.
The Fako lawyers’ decision will take effect as from Monday, October 16, when members of FAKLA will officially return to the courts.
At press time, the lawyers were yet to issue their official communiqué with details of their resolutions.