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Saturday, October 6, 2012

The BBJ 2-Affair: U.S. Supreme Court May Give Yves Michel Fotso Reason Denied in Cameroon

  By The Oregon-Cameroon Connection
 Having been updated by correspondents covering the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., TOCC takes a front row seat in the high-profile case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., number 10-1491 before America’s High Court.  TOCC’s own Elizabeth Armstrong reports that Kiobel, one of the Supreme Court’s “biggest human rights cases in years”, is rich with good omens for the federal case of embattled Cameroonian business mogul, Yves Michel Fotso.  The case is Fotso v. The Republic of Cameroon, et al., cause number 6:12-cv-01​415-TC before the federal district court in Eugene, Oregon.
       Both the Kiobel and Fotso cases are based on the “Alien Tort Statute” (ATS), a law that got popular in the 1980s as a way to litigate international human rights claims in American courts.  Esther Kiobel filed what became her U.S. Supreme Court case for her husband and several other Nigerian protestors injured during government violence allegedly instigated by Royal Dutch Petroleum Company in the oil-rich Ogoni region in the Niger Delta.  Kiobel now lives in Dallas, Texas which is where Fotso legal advisor, Professor Ndiva Kofele-Kale, teaches law at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law. This U.S. trained lawyer and native of Cameroon confirmed that the “United States Supreme Court is the nation’s highest court.  When it rules, all subordinate courts are expected to comply and apply and all of America listens.”
       Professor Kofele-Kale reports being “guardedly optimistic” about the outcome of Fotso’s federal case despite concerns over non-Americans suing in U.S. courts expressed by multiple U.S. Supreme Court Justices.  Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor emphasized the need for a factual connection between ATS claims and the United States.  Alito asked with regard to the Kiobel case, “why does this case belong in the courts of the United States when it has nothing to do with the United States other than the fact that a subsidiary of the defendant has a big operation here?”.
       Of course, Fotso’s federal claims are premised on a contract reached in the United States by the Republic of Cameroon and a U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee among others.  TOCC detailed the underlying events, commonly known as the BBJ-2 Affair, in its debut issue.  In response to the story, an American constitutional law scholar explained that “Cameroon sought the assistance and protection of Oregon’s bankruptcy court, only to essentially disavow its related settlement agreement and the bankruptcy court judgment that followed.”  He continued, “it’s ironic that American taxpayers helped pay the cost of Cameroon using one of their federal courts and enjoying certain legal rights that the African Republic seems to have denied its own citizen, Yves Michel Fotso.” 
       A lawyer for Royal Dutch Petroleum argued that the Kiobel case “has nothing to do with the United States.”  Professor Kofele-Kale says the Fotso case has “everything to do with the United States in a variety of ways.”  Another American law professor is credited with saying that “Kiobel raises perhaps the largest question of them all:  the relationship between America and the world.”  It seems the BBJ-2 Affair puts a question mark behind considerations of America’s relationship with the Republic of Cameroon and Cameroon’s relationship with the world.  Stay tuned


When News Breaks Out, We Break In. Minute by Minute Report on Cameroon and Africa

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