By Ayah Paul Abine

Is Mimi Mefo on bail? Is the case against her on course (to continue)?

Those have been interesting issues that have been raised since her release yesterday? Some CPDM lawyer and lay bigots were quick to describe her release as a presidential act of magnanimity; and they were assertive that the proceeding against her shall continue to the end. A good many interested as disinterested members of the public sought to know whether bail can be granted on a Saturday…

One should begin by congratulating Mimi’s defence team – Tamfu Esq, Madam Alice Nkom etc – for their commitment and legal prowess. At the end, however, the legal team was uncertain about the nature of their client’s release and whether criminal proceedings had been discontinued.

On my part, my little reading of the law and practice do not conjure up any express legal provision that bail can be granted on a Saturday. But by reasoning a contrario, it CANNOT, by necessary implications. Firstly, the business of the court is limited to working days. Saturday not being a working day, bail cannot legally and regularly be granted on such a day.

Again, by providing that no suspect should be taken into custody on a Saturday, the Criminal Procedure Code is telling, in effect, that, as bail is not possible on that day, custody, its antonym, shouldn’t be either. The symbol of justice being a balance, there cannot be one scale without the other. And the code is explicit that nonobservance of such of its provisions renders the process null and void.

Also does the law grant in the alternative the prerogatives of granting bail and that of remanding into custody: it is either the one or the other. I cannot bring my mind to any law that permits a judge to remand into custody in the morning and grant bail in the evening of his own volition in respect of the same party. If bail is denied by the lower court (including the State Counsel’s Chambers), for instance, the party applies for bail to the High Court. The lower court has no legal power to go forward and backwards: rule and overrule its own ruling.

And where a party is represented by a lawyer, every aspect of the proceeding must be done in the presence of the lawyer. If otherwise, the process is null and void as it is interpreted that the party has not been heard.

What, then, is the nature of Mimi Mefo’s release ? We have already indicated that even her lawyers don’t appear to be in the know. What I know, though, is that, at that level of the process, any release outside of bail can only be by a nolle prosequi. The only person competent to file a nolle is the Procureur General having territorial jurisdiction; or the ‘commissaire du Gouvernement’. A nolle must, however, be in writing and argued by the parties. The person filing the nolle must first be authorise in writing by the competent minister (Justice or Defence). I repeat ‘competent minister’!

For all that has been my lot to read, the President of the Republic has no power to issue a nolle (by decree); or order the release of the suspect/defendant/accused. It is possible he has some such similar power in respect of political ‘prisoners’; but NOT in the judiciary! The action by the President of the Republic in this case, (though hailed by his party’s bigots and lawyers), is not covered by any law; and it can only lead to the conclusion that Mimi was held as a political prisoner.

Be the case as it may, what is the fate of her case ? If it was a release consequent upon a nolle, the action is automatically and immediately discontinued, without the court reserving the right to ask any question. That does not, however, bar subsequent proceeding on the same facts. But as already pointed out, it was not a nolle.

As it was not bail either, it is quite difficult to be very assertive at law. What is clear though is that Mimi was not properly before the ‘Commissaire du Gouvernement’ at the very beginning for want of jurisdiction. All that the military officer did was consequently null and void. Subsequently getting her out of the mess by the act of the very officer is of no legal consequence: it was a remorseful act of repentance in mitigation of potential legal proceeding on false imprisonment against the officer in question. It does not have the effect of legalizing the illegality committed ab initio.

If Mimi is to appear before the ’Commissaire du Gouvernement’ for some other offence within his jurisdiction, she has to be served afresh in compliance with the relevant provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. In short, nothing binds Mimi to appear before the officer tomorrow or before any court whatsoever in respect of the previous proceedings which are, for all intents and purposes, null and void!

All that has been said above is mere intellectual exercise since the military spokesman has declared that Mimi was released on the order of the President of the Republic; and that the said president has ordered the discontinuance of the proceeding. It does not fall to me to query whether the military spokesman also speaks for the military court. One may only rightly wonder, however, whether the President of the Republic as the Supreme Commander is a member of the military court; or whether he constitutes a higher military court with the power to overrule the lower military court. If otherwise, on what law was the President’s order(s) based?

The question appears to have no merits fundamentally. As Mimi was not properly before any competent court, and was therefore only under false imprisonment, whether the President’s act is legal or otherwise has no bearing against her ‘release’. In fact, she has only been liberated from captivity. Nor can there be any illegality in resorting to illegality to put an end to illegality!

All in all, Mr. President’s action is only consistent with the absence of the separation of powers in Camerouoon; and with the fact that all the three powers are concentrated in the hands of an individual. It is suggestive that the law has no binding effect in the country; and that justice NEVER can be done to an ordinary citizen who does not have the necessary popularity, or is not in a position to command the hue and cry from the members of the public (the masses)!

Anyway, for Mimi, all is well that ends well!



Anglophone General Conference To What Ends?

Justice Ayah Paul comments:

” A few weeks to the kick start of the All Anglophone Conference which has been described by some anglophones as a window dressing for the ongoing anglophone crisis in the North West and South West Region of Cameroon, revered form Cameroon Supreme court Justice Ayah Paul has questioned the objectivity of the conference amidst massive human rights abuses.
Speaking to the organizers, Justice Ayah writes on his Facebook wall
“To recur to the prelude of yesterday to this write-up, the appellation of what Cardinal Christian Tumi and others are organising is of little consequence. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, what is in a name? The crucial issues are the conduct of the forum and the implementation of the resolutions.

Before we attempt to tackle the points, a terse summary of the journey to the present devastating hostilities may add up to the better understanding of our queries and/or apprehension. After the fatal launch of the SDF political party in Bamenda on May 26, 1990, and the ensuing government crackdown, leading to the detention and torture of prominent anglophones, including such moderate elders like Learned Justice Nyor Wakai, All Anglophones Conferences held at Buea and Bamenda and presented memoranda to Mr. President of the Republic, with a list of Anglophones’ grievances for redress. When Mr. President would not as much as vouchsafe Anglophones even a reply, Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) was set up to pursue the issues with the government. The SCNC adopted as a motto : ‘The force of argument and not the argument of force’ – which is to say, their modus operandi was nonviolent!
Curiously, and in the like manner following the launch of SDF, Mr. President replied with gruesome crackdown. Some of the victims successfully sued the government at the African Commission of Human and People’s rights where it was held, inter alia, that Anglophones were a PEOPLE. Probably inspired by the appellation South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO), the victims in question christened their group Southern Cameroons People’s Organisation (SCAPO), almost in rivalry to the SCNC.
While Mr. President availed himself of an international judgment relative to the Bakassi Peninsular, the very person ignored and has ignored the international judgment in favour of SCNC (SCAPO) till date. SCNC continued on the peaceful path in the search for justice. But once every year, Anglophones wanting to celebrate their independence day on October 1 were systematically brutalized, arrested, detained, torture and, at times, taken to court…Even then, they stayed steadfast in their doctrine of ‘The force of argument and not the argument of force‘.
The situation took a turning for the worse when the head of SCNC, Chief Ayamba, died. It was no longer just a matter of contending with the rivalry between SCNC and SCAPO. The SCNC itself got split into some five factions. Disillusioned with the split and intestinal fratricidal squabbles, Ayah Paul Abine declined to take the hot chair, even as a faction purported to have elected him the SCNC leader at Kumba. In the absence of clear leadership, some Anglophones in the diaspora, consciously or unconsciously, stepped in to fill the gap – after all, nature does not allow a vacuum! When, in their systematic and characteristic crackdown Mr. President’s men brutalized Anglophone lawyers and the students of the University of Buea who were peacefully demanding the preservation of some Common Law values and fair scholarship conditions, the anglophone diaspora seized the opportunity to take over the Anglophone leadership…
As it stands, Anglophones, also known today as Ambazonians, constitute two complementary groups, indispensably interdependent – the one cannot do without the other. Record would show that Ayah Paul Abine has been consistent that a third All anglophone Conference (AAC3) was a condition sin qua non for any resolution of the Anglophone Crisis which has escalated into the declared Anglophone War. It seems most likely that the crucible of a lasting solution to the present situation is when Anglophones meet and freely resolve on the way forward : on what do the majority of the Anglophone want relative to the their socio-political/cultural destiny! Anything short of such vital come-together and democratic determination of their fate would be merely a test of the grounds.
We see, for instance, that upon the announcement of the Tumi initiative, our people in the diaspora met in Washington without the home front and took resolutions, including the listing of the persons that would represent us at any possible negotiations. Months since and the impact on the ground is not felt. Similarly, AGC without the diaspora shall produce little effective results. That seems to lend support to the argument that the appropriate solution lies in the two meeting and freely charting the way forward.
Another factor we may not neglect is that we have met internally twice before with little concrete results. Much as the home front is bearing the brunt of the current ruthless brutalities of the army; and the home front is the shield against those brutalities, the outer front is on the diplomatic offensive. And several times has the government averred that funding is from them. If so it is, the home front alone can never single-handedly influence the cessation of hostilities and any eventual negotiations.
How then can one appreciate the Tumi initiative? The African proverb is that you don’t stop the lullaby as long as the child cries on. In other words, we cannot stand idly by ‘while the souls of men are dying’. Yet should we not lose sight of antecedents, and the fact that Mr. President has treated with contempt all appeals for a peaceful resolution. Can it be conjectured that, with the wanton destruction of over 500 human lives, and the continuous losses on both sides, Mr. President may now capitalize on an internal face-saving endeavour to turn more to reason than to sentiments? Were that even to be the case, associating the diaspora would be of vital necessity. They have played no negligible role in bringing about any such turnabout; and their place at the final entente is, of necessity, indispensable.
All this brings us to the one all-important conclusion that the better approach would have been to prevail on Mr. President to take the necessary measures to guarantee the participation of Anglophones in the diaspora without incurring any official adverse reaction. And preceding the conference with the release of those in prison and detention would have been absolutely conducive to healthy discussions with fraternal disposition. Without attempting to wonder, without offending against decorum, whether the outcome of the upcoming Tumi initiative may not find comfort in the waste basket like previous initiatives, we still propose to try and see.
But in the meantime, we are losing men/women/children and property daily. In whose interest is it to beat about the bush instead of hitting the nail directly on the head? If I had the answer, would I still put the question to you, brethren?