There Is Still Unfinished Business-Barrister Morfaw Evaristus Nkafu On Second Term Bid As President of the Cameroon Bar Association General Assembly
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Barrister Morfaw Evaristus Nkafu, a seasoned advocate who has put more than twenty-three years in legal practice and is the current President of the Cameroon Bar General Assembly has said he is standing again for the Bar General Assembly presidency for the “general interest of the Cameroon Bar Association.”
On June 18, the lawyers concerned will elect the President of the Bar General Assembly before they will elect the President of the Bar Council and the fifteen members of the council. These elections are coming two years after initial schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of the former President of the Bar Council, the late Barrister Charles Tchakounté Patie
A human rights lawyer who continuous to unassumingly and unobtrusively defend the rights of several political activists including but not limited to those in the wake of the multi-party political crises and those prosecuted on trumped-up charges, Barrister Morfaw Evaristus has been doing tremendous work in fighting for justice for the oppressed and down trodden. He has made invaluable contributions to the Human Rights Commission of the Cameroon Bar in the drafting of its human rights reports and did publish an article in the maiden White Book “Livre Blanc” of the Cameroon Bar Association’s human rights report.
Squeezing time off his super charged schedule for a Q & A with Pan African Visions, Barrister Morfaw says if elected, he plans to address the issue of our laws that have become obsolete and other issues like the protection of lawyers, monopoly of practice payment of emoluments will be settled automatically once and for all. With the elections usually characterized by lots of uncertainty, ups and downs, the Bar General Assembly President is supremely positive that the elections of June 18 will be transparent.
May we start with your overall assessment of the state of the Cameroon Bar Council today?
Barrister Morfaw: The Cameroon Bar Council has witnessed an exponential rise in number for the past five years. Elections have been overdue because of the demise of the president of the Bar council coupled with the sanitary conditions of the state at large.
In 2018, you were elected as the Bar General Assembly President, how would you sum up your term of office, what are some of your signature accomplishments, and what were some of the challenges you faced?
Barrister Morfaw: My mandate was dedicated to the rule of law. We had very lofty ideas but the mandate was bedeviled with what I just mentioned earlier. Because of the said sad events, our activities were impacted negatively. However, I can boast of having been very accessible to lawyers because I set up and caused an office to be refurbished for me and my vice. The relationship between the two organs of the Bar Association which is usually tense was cordial. I have successfully planned for an elective general assembly to hold on the 18th of June 2022 despite the odds, and I can assure you the elections will be transparent.
Elections are around the corner again, is another term of office in consideration for you?
Barrister Morfaw: I intend to run again for the general interest of the Cameroon bar association.
If you get elected for another term, what are some of the reforms or areas of interest that you will like to focus on?
Barrister Morfaw: First, I would like to address the issue of our laws that have become obsolete. Being a member of the commission (Ministry of justice\ Bar association) that was set up to address the said issue and other problems plaguing the Bar in particular and the Cameroon judiciary in general I shall focus my attention on this goal. Once these laws are revised, other issues like the protection of lawyers, monopoly of practice and payment of emoluments will be settled automatically once and for all.
What is the current state of relations between the Ministry of Justice and the Bar Council?
The relationship between the bar and the titular ministry is not as bad as it used to be. The Ministry supported us against some fellows who wanted to encroach into our field.
There has been talking about friction between Francophone and common law members of the Bar, is there any currency to this?
Barrister Morfaw: There is no friction as such between francophones and the common law at the bar to the best of my knowledge. What I know is that the position of the Bar President usually rotates from civil law lawyers to common law lawyers but this is not statutory; it is left for the electorate to make the decision. For about 50 years of existence of the Cameroon Bar association, a woman has never held the position of Bar President. Today three female lawyers are vying for that position. Should they not contest? I think the general interest of the Bar is primordial without which we risk polarizing the Bar which already has some challenges.
Considering that grievances from Common Law Lawyers were a major trigger of the crisis, may we know how the Bar Council coped or viewed the frustrations of its members from the North West and South West Regions?
Barrister Morfaw: Neither being a member of the Bar Council nor the President of the Bar council, I am incompetent to address the issue. I do not know the role the bar council played or failed to play concerning the said crises. However, the scars of the torture meted on lawyers at the inception of the crises in the South and North West Regions remain indelible.
As we speak, some members are still in detention, is there anything the Bar has done in their defence?
Barrister Morfaw: There are lawyers still imprisoned in Yaounde. They were convicted and sentenced to very heavy imprisonment terms. Lawyers assisted them at all the levels of the procedure but the Cameroon legal system as it stands did not even take care of the issues raised by the defence counsel. I was part of the team that defended them in the Yaounde military Tribunal.
On broader challenges of human rights, democracy, corruption and do on facing the country, may we know why the Bar Council has not been more forceful in making its voice heard?
Barrister Morfaw: Of recent, the Bar has been vocal decrying the constant violation of human rights, undemocratic practices and corruption. The Bar council even went as far as deciding to suspend all court activities by lawyers for one week. On the alleged misappropriation of funds meant for the fight against COVID 19, the Bar made a pronouncement castigating the suspects.
What future do you see for the Cameroon Bar Council, and what other stakes would be in play during the upcoming elections, what should Lawyers have in mind when choosing those to lead them?
Barrister Morfaw: These Bar elections mark a turning point in the history of the Cameroon Bar. First, with the increase in the number of green wigs, the election outcome may bring surprises. I call on lawyers to maintain their independence. They should not sell their consciences. What they should vote for, includes but is not limited to: Competence; Availability; Humility; Dignity and Trustworthiness.
And at the end after the proclamation of various results I entreat them to support all those who shall be voted to pilot the affairs of the Bar for the next two years, after all, elections come and go but the Bar remains with its members and ethics. I wish all good luck including my humble self.