Renowned international legalist, Batonnier Bernard Muna Acho has in his critical eyes observed that the Anglophone legal system which was implanted to Anglophones by the British, is suffering from immense humiliation. This according to him, has almost stonewalled the legal practise in Cameroon in favour of Francophones. In a chat with the press, Batonnier Bernard Muna popularly called Ni Ben categorically said from all indications, Anglophone lawyers have a point to make as far as their advancement and harmonization of the legal practise both in the French and English speaking parts of Cameroon are concerned. He spoke among others about his 75th anniversary and the beginning of his 50th years in the legal practise. Excerpts:-
Today is May 27, 2015 exactly 75 years since you were born. Happy birthday Sir.
Thank you very much!
How do you feel on this day?
I feel very grateful to the Lord. I feel that God has loved me so much; has allowed me to attain this age. The party yesterday (May 26) added to this feeling because my colleagues of the Bar; all past Batonniers who were free to come were present: to recognize the leadership that I gave to the Bar in Many times of crisis. But it must be noted that if they were not around me, I would not have achieved these alone.
It is true that I am the one getting the praises now. But it must not be forgotten that all past Batonniers were around me, when we did the marches; when we defended Yondo Black in the military tribunal, all the lawyers marched for us. So, I feel very honoured.
Yesterday’s ceremony helps us to reflect and see whether the young are going towards the right direction: where they would arrive 50 years of practice as I am arriving, they could look back.
When I look back, I thank God that those things that I believed in, I was able to fight for them with might. I dealt with them with honesty, rigour that was demanded.
Interestingly, it was a dual event: 75th anniversary and the beginning of your 50th year in legal practice. So when will you retire?
Retirement from what? I can not retire from life! The real retirement is when you are placed in a coffin and nailed. I can go back to Ngyenmbu, stay there but I can not retire. I will be with the people. The little knowledge I have, I will be able to put it to use to advise my people.
Retirement, which is a notion is a wrong aspect of life. Nobody should think of retirement. There are certain things I can do better, when I am young and there are certain things I can do better, when I am old. I don’t thing anybody should thing about living his regular job to go home and sit by the fire side (retired)
Can we now know some of the good and bad moments of your 49 years in legal practice?
The good moments was: being able to work in West Cameroon in absolute freedom. We had judges of integrity, not corrupted. Good moments when people like Justice Endeley led the Judiciary; Magistrates who loved over justice.
The bad moments came with the spreading of corruption in the judiciary. Going to court was no longer a pleasure. I already knew what the verdict was. The bad moments for me was when justice became a sellable commodity.
Good moments is when the Bar was united to defend certain fundamental freedoms like multipartism. We were in Meridian Hotel in Douala where 99% of Lawyers stood for the institution of democratic freedoms.
Good moments of the Bar again was when all the Lawyers of Cameroon filled the Military Tribunal in Yaounde to defend Yondo Black and co. To know that Cameroonians can rally around a good course.
Some good moments were spoilt when a lawyer was shot to dead in Bafoussam by a policeman.
Again, when some lawyers tried to reduce the Bar into an arm of government. Two attempts were made in 1987 and 1989.
Also, another moment was when the President of the Republic refused to promulgate this text in law, because the Bar made it clear that they were opposed to it. These were good moments to know that government can listen to the Bar.
You have just returned home to take part in your dual anniversary. But while you were out, Anglophone lawyers threatened to cut-off following the introduction of the French language in English courts. What do you hold about this?
Government must look very carefully on the letter of intention of the constitution. In instituting bilingualism was to allow people to express themselves in the language of their own culture like English or French in whatever official situation they find themselves. Therefore in the English speaking area, the language in the court should be English and vice versa in the French system. Why have they not introduced that in the French (francophone) courts, it should be English?
I think Anglophone Lawyers have a point. You don’t make laws for its sake. It is not because we have now abolished the federation that the spirit of reunification is gone. There are some francophones who feel that West Cameroon (North and South Cameroon) should be colonized by francophone system.
The purpose of reunification was that we take the best of each system and build a stronger and united country.
Anglophone lawyers have a point and I hope government will listen.
Any last word?
My last word on this particular day is that if they are reading this piece, it is because there is a God. There is a God who would bless us to do things that are right: A God who will hear us when we pray for pardon and forgiveness.
We should not be too disappointed. There is no country in the world that something suddenly changed and everything was going on right. Whatever is happening in our country, we should recognized that we are building up our history. The mistakes we are making, we hope that the younger people who will take over would learn from them.
I hope that the Lord would bless our country so that we move from good to better and the best.
When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)