The Persecution not prosecution of Marafa.
The PERSECUTION NOT PROSECUTION
By AYAH Paul ABINE, PAP National Chairman.
Cameroun was awash a few days back with press information that Mr.
Marafa had been summoned up by two courts on the same day. Not any less
was Cameroon! Mr. Marafa was to be before one of the courts to plead to a
charge of defamation consequent upon a complaint lodged in 2008.
By the laws of Cameroun, prosecution is time-barred if a complaint on
defamation is lodged more than four months from the publication of the
defamatory material. Prosecution is equally time-barred if four months
elapse between two actions in preparation (investigation) or in
The summons must have issued on the legal ground
that a complaint had been filed not later than June 2008 as the
defamatory material is said to have been published during the “hunger
strikes” of February, 2008. But what remains inscrutable is how the
judge issuing the summons could have conducted investigation every four
months at the least for more than four years for an offence least
complicated. Is not it true that nothing was required beyond recording
statements from witnesses and from the suspect? Necessarily therefore
must the judge show that he recorded those statements every four months
for over four years!
The judge in question knew or is, at
least, presumed to know, that if the contrary is true, then the
withdrawal of the complaint was nugatory. Surely does he know that it is
a matter of law that even where the complaint is filed within the legal
time frame, the lapse of four months without the judge performing an
act in investigation or prosecution automatically leads to prescription.
Was there any matter legally before that judge at the time the summons
Let us begin by supposing that the judge recorded one
statement a week, (which is quite a good record for a diligent
Camerounese judge), then there should be at the least 200 witnesses for
the prosecution. In that event, the learned judge must redefine the
ingredient of corroboration that entailed the hearing of such an
astronomical number of witnesses for corroboration to be found in a
matter least complicated. Even that granted, one would not be
apprehensive of being contradicted in suggesting that, by taking four
years to record a statement from the suspect,such a judge has not done
much honour to the Camerounese judiciary, on the ground that the
prolonged delay smacks of apprehension.
Again, the coincidence
between the trial of Mr. Marafa by the so-called Special Criminal
Tribunal and the order for him to appear on the same day before a common
law court does lead those familiar with the Camerounese judiciary to
perceive instruction from the executive arm of government to the
judiciary. That raises the whole issue of the independence of the
judiciary in a country notorious for a domineering executive. It is an
affront to common sense that the subjugation of the judiciary to the
all-powerful executive over the decades has met with beneficial
complacency from those calling themselves learned. It is all the worse
that such is the situation in spite of the constitutional provision that
the judiciary is an independent power, and, additionally, that the oath
of office of a member of the judiciary enjoins the member, inter alia,
“to do justice to all manner of people without FEAR or FAVOUR…”
One should easily understand that the oath absolutely precludes a
member of the judiciary from operating under the apprehension of
incurring possible adverse consequences from his acts. Submission to
apprehension does equally contradict the legal duty to determine issues
solely in accordance with the “law and (the) conscience” as stipulated
in the oath formula. Few bold jurists would hesitate to read perjury
into a judge’s compliance with unlawful orders from whosoever. It is
immaterial that a member of the judiciary only indirectly seeks to curry
favours because the President of the Republic determines his promotion,
appointments and transfers.
A member of the judiciary must be a
person of character: impartial, honest, fearless and disinterested.
Anyone lacking in any one of these minimum prerequisites falls short of
attaining just the threshold of the realm of the “learned profession”.
If there can be no democracy without democrats as Mr. Paul Biya once
declared, one could by analogy proclaim without fear or favour that
there is no judiciary without judges. Assailing Mr. Marafa upon the
foundation of extra-legal dictates inevitably leads to the conclusion
that Cameroun, in the main, is still in search of judges – independent
judiciary much more.
It is difficult in the circumstance to
hold otherwise than that Mr. Marafa is being persecuted and not
prosecuted. Verily my brother, was not he arrested on the same day with
Chief Inoni Ephraim for the same offence? Why is Marafa’s case being
rushed when even persons arrested close to five years earlier on are
still awaiting trial? Could some learned lawyer explicate whether it is
within the law these special expeditious actions by the Special Criminal
Tribunal behind the celebrated international principle of “equal
protection of the law”! Or is it one of the exceptions à la
PERSECUTION! PERSECUTION! PERSECUTION!
When News Breaks Out, We Break In. Minute by Minute Report on Cameroon and Africa