The intimidation of defense attorneys poses a major challenge to Cameroon’s criminal justice system and Mr. Paul Biya leadership’s stated goals of building the rule of law and protecting the rights of the Anglophone minorities. The harassment pattern which has been highlighted by the recent interrogation of Barrister Akere Muna, one of Cameroon’s most prominent defense lawyers, has contributed to low morale in the Cameroon defense bar and a lack of aggressiveness in criminal defense. It has also demonstrated a steady decline in the percentage of Cameroon’s criminal defendants represented by legal counsel, despite a continuing increase in the number of lawyers in Cameroon. This trend has sparked a vibrant debate in Cameroon on appropriate protections for criminal defense lawyers.
Barrister Akere Muna returned home after a close to five hours quizzed at the Defense Secretariat by interrogators loyal to the Biya Francophone Beti Ewondo regime yesterday March 24, 2017. Akere Muna arrived SED at exactly 9am and came out by 2pm. A pro Biya online news portal, Cameroun Info.Net reportedly that he was questioned by interrogators on his numerous media outings especially an interview granted to Le Jour Newspaper last December 2016 in which the regime alleged that he incited secession, rebellion and terrorism.
The summon of Akere MUNA which attracted international attention has been seen as attempts by the Francophone government to bully to submission one of the Defense Counsel of the arrested leaders of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium. Barrister Ngnie Kamga Jackson, President of the Cameroon Bar who accompanied Barrister Akere MUNA, was quoted as saying that the public Commissioners will have to decide whether or not to open a trial against him.
Akere Muna’s case has sent shockwaves through Cameroon’s legal profession and highlighted longstanding concerns that some French Cameroun senior military officials are using criminal provisions on evidence fabrication to unfairly harass Supreme Court Judges such Justice Ayah Paul Abine and defense attorneys.
As such tactics have become more common in recent years; Cameroon attorneys have come to view criminal defense work as a high risk activity. Many Cameroonian lawyers and legal scholars cite this concern as a principal reason for low morale in Cameroon’s criminal defense bar, a lack of aggressiveness in criminal defense, and a steady decline in the percentage of Cameroon criminal defendants represented by legal counsel. In a legal system where criminal defendants and defense attorneys already face numerous obstacles and disadvantages, such trend are steps in the wrong direction and supports the case for an independent state of Southern Cameroons.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai
Cameroon Intelligence Report