Lawyers in Cameroon occupied the court complex in Bamenda on Tuesday, demanding that their voices be heard in the ongoing battle over education and legal reforms.
The protesting lawyers were met with a heavy security-force presence in and around the court building, the Cameroon Concord reports. Local media accounts also said that the common-law lawyers were joined by hundreds of citizens and civilians motivated by the protest, who were met with tear gas by security forces as the crowds escalated. There also were unconfirmed witness reports of shots fired.
The lawyers began a strike in October that has essentially paralyzed the courts in some western regions of Cameroon. The Social Democratic Front (SDF), the chief opposition party to President Paul Biya, has supported the strike that the lawyers say began in the interests of social justice and the rule of law.
The protesters also want French magistrates to be removed from the English-speaking courts.
In Cameroon, disparities between French-speaking communities and the anglophone minority have existed for decades, at times leading to regional calls for secession. The Bamenda protest comes as the educational system in Cameroon seeks to close Anglophone schools, and amid renewed tensions over the decades-long political and cultural split detailed in a public letter by Daniel Mokwe Modex, leader of the New Cameroon movement and an internationally recognized author and community leader.
In recent weeks, the lawyers and SDF leaders have met to promote awareness of the disparities the anglophone lawyers see in the justice system, as well as their commitment to educational reforms.
Image: Contra Nocendi