Yaoundé—Representatives of striking Cameroon Anglophone lawyers stormed out of a government summoned ah-hoc committee dialogue to examine and proffer solutions to their grievances in the capital Yaounde saying the government side had refused to grant the preliminary issues demanded of them as the talks entered day two on Wednesday December 28.
|Barrister Agbor Balla (middle) leading a lawyers' protest|
Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla one of the representatives of the striking lawyers said they had demanded amongst others that some young protesters ‘arbitrarily arrested’ during the strike in the two English speaking regions of the country and taken to Yaounde be ‘unconditionally released’ and also that a government ban on some three lawyers’ associations in the regions be lifted before they can proceed with the dialogue. But the government could not immediately yield to these demands.
“We therefore had no reason to pursue the meeting and accordingly staged a walk,” said Barrister Agbor Balla who is also chair of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC).
The about 1000-member Cameroon Common Law Lawyers Association said the striking men and women in wigs and black robes who have deserted courts in the country since October will continue their work boycott until government succumbs to their demands.
The minister delegate in the Cameroon Ministry of Justice, Mr Jean Pierre Fogui who headed the government delegation to the dialogue could not be reached for comments at the time of this report.
Teachers too will not be able to suspend the strike!
The striking lawyers walk out came a day after striking teachers in the two English speaking regions of the Central African nation also stormed out of a similar meeting in the Northwestern town of Bamenda saying the ad-hoc committee appointed to conduct the negotiations was ‘not balanced.’
“We noted that our brothers of the Southwest region have been left out of that ad-hoc committee giving the impression that it was a Northwest affair and creating conflict between the two regions,” said Mr Tassang Wilfred, national executive secretary of Cameroon Teachers Trade Union (CATTU) and one of the leaders of the strike.
He said the teachers representatives submitted a list of representatives from the Southwest; one of the two English speaking regions of the country who must be included in the committee before they can take part in the dialogue.
Like the lawyers, Mr Tassang Wilfred said they have also asked that government should release some youths who were arrested during the protest in Bamenda before the unionist can take part in the talks.
They vowed to continue with the strike that has paralysed school operations in the two English speaking regions of the Northwest and Southwest since November 21. Schools in the country are expected to resume next week after two weeks of Christmas and New Year recess.
“If government does not react, then schools will not resume because we will not be able to suspend the strike,” Mr Tassang Wilfred said.
The Bamenda dialogue that was chaired by Prof Paul Ghogomu Mingo, director of cabinet at the Prime Minister’s office took place in the presence of the Ministers of Basic, Secondary and Higher education as well as invited representatives of confessional private education and private higher education.
In a statement issued at the end of the talks, Prof Ghogomu said the teachers’ representatives displayed bad faith, describing them as ‘extremist trade unionists.’
“With regard to extremist trade unionists who publicly refused to be part of this working session for reasons that have nothing to do with the education of young Cameroonians, Government will take its responsibility,” the statement by the government appointed chair of the Bamenda dialogue said.
Thousands of teachers and lawyers in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon have resorted to work boycott, accusing the government of imposing the French language on their schools and courts.
Both the lawyers and the teachers have also been calling for a return to the federal system as obtained in the country before 1972; a demand that has attracted much sympathy from other groups and political parties in the regions.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi