By Chief Charles A. Taku
On April 14, day, 40 years ago, the chain of systemic prejudice and cultural genocide broke loose and I was authorized to do pupillage to practice law in the Chambers of the legendary lawyer and politician Hon B.T.B Foretia in Victoria. I was the first in several regards. The most important was being a chain breaker, a role I have played with determination, faith, humility and fortitude. I am grateful to God for the journey I have travelled so far. Today, in this occasion, I faithfully recommit my determination to serve God, the Merciful, the Liberator, the Truth, the Life, the Light and the Saviour with all the strength in me.
This event in my life came with a mission and a commission to defend, protect, free and give strength to the weak, the poor and the oppressed. I have been faithful to the mission and the commission. This is a mission and a commission of honour. These are the very essence of life which is humanity at its best and closer to God. God, we know, breathed the spirit of life so that we may live and serve him in humility and in faith. Yes, in humility and faith; for these are the true attributes of greatness.
Each time, that I reflect on these attributes, I remember the emphatic gestures with which my secondary teacher explained to us, the parable of the rich fool. Despite the reality of this parable, the butchery of the innocent lives of the weak, the poor and the oppressed; the thievery by the rich from the poor, primitive accumulation of wealth and the genocide of innocent people to satisfy the power ambition of a few, continue unabated. I dedicated these 40 years leading the fight to protect the majority poor, the weak and oppressed victims from these criminal kingpins; leaving the ultimate victory to God.
I have dedicated more than two decades of this eventful career in international practice in many international courts and tribunals which were established by the international community to fight impunity. During this time, I visited battlefields in different countries and witnessed unimaginable human suffering. I went in as a lawyer but was blessed with the human value of sharing the pain and suffering of persons at risk and in dire need. This provided me an opportunity to share the values of love and sharing which were implanted in me by my mother by contributing to give back to the suffering people, the true essence of humanity which they deserve. I have found the joy in recognizing in these children, women and men, dead or alive through my humanitarian engagements and the several trials in which I have participated, the face of humanity to which we are all connected.
This occasion falls in the month of April, which is the mythical month of the Saints in my family, from Fontem Asonganyi and his first son Asabanchi Fontem, Fontem Defang, Mama Helen Atabong Asaba Fontem, Fontem Njifua and several others too many to name. This occasion 40 years ago, was not an innocent co-incidence. It occurred because it is the month when these Saints pay greater attention and are united in prayers and supplication to the living God for me, the family they left behind and all persons world-wide who are engaged in the worthy mission and commission in which I am engaged. I am grateful to them and their fighting spirits which live on through their blood which is flowing in my living veins. The history books and the museums in imperial Germany kept records of the bravery of Fontem Asonganyi which have prolonged the battle for freedom and justice long enough for me to come on board to lead a world-wide crusade for the restitution of all the works of art which were looted during the German incursion more than a century ago. These arts are today in museums in Germany, USA, France and the Netherlands. The blessing of these 40 years, helped me to focus my attention on the search for these arts and their lost cultural significance in our lives and in our time.
The 40 years provided me an opportunity to train and mentor young colleagues from all legal cultures, races from all the continents who are today, leading lawyers in their respective countries and in international practice. We remain professional connected. This closeness is what the beauty of this profession is about. I am fascinated by the sense of enquiry, curiosity and mental alertness of my interns. I call them the offspring of modern technology because of the remarkable contributions they have brought to workplace during these changing times. Many of them are today, successful academics and lawyers in many parts of the world.
During this period, my peers, elected me as member of the Cameroon Bar Council for many years; President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association and a member for life of the governing council of the African Bar Association. I am grateful to my colleagues in different courts and tribunals for giving me an opportunity to serve and to contribute to the enthronement of the culture and the cause of the rule of law. I am particularly grateful to the distinguished lawyers of Taku Chambers for their professionalism and the outstanding successes they continue to record in courtrooms and professional environments around the world. The most distinguished Hon B.T.B Foretia was an astounding lawyer and a fearless crusader for justice. He put me on my feet during my first appearance with him in Court. From thence, I have not relented these forty years.
I am grateful to the women and men with whom I have been engaged in all the aspects of the administration of justice and the struggle for a just, free and peaceful world. Although we play different roles we are united in a common objective, in which justice is the sole winner.I am grateful to my family and the entire Taku and Fontem families. Mbe Taku was a hero and a warrior while his wife Mama Helen Atabong Asaba Fontem was a distinguished community leader, education advocate, politician, development agent, philanthropist and an extraordinary crusader for justice. My wife Antonia, my children Kelvin, Barbara, Ngwing and Atabong are my best friends of all times. Above all, there is a time in one’s life when a sister is everything in one’s life. My sister Bibiana Taku was a class and bench mate, a friend and a manifestation of the endless love of God to me and humanity. Miss Anne Bustarret