Justice System: Salutary Introspection

Another solemn reopening Court Session in Cameroon took place on 21 February, 2024. It marked the official opening of the judicial year. And as tradition warrants, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Daniel Mekobe Sone made a submission. A topical theme: “The role of justice in the consolidation of the rule of law in Cameroon” was selected by the Chief Justice. It bordered on the inherent challenges or weaknesses of the judicial system in the country. 
Dissecting such a critical issue could not have been without touching on the various actors of justice, the situations that they are confronted with on a daily basis, how they go about their job, public appraisal of their work and even how they perceive their work. Many clichés have existed to reflect the numerous facets of the execution of justice in Cameroon and some even say across the globe. From the standpoint of those involved in the application of the law, the people are told that: “Ignorance of the law is not an excuse”. While the population, on the other hand, argues that: “Justice delayed is justice denied.” It is therefore not an excuse for the accused to say they were ignorant and when people seek reparation through the justice system, they expect to have a fair hearing and within a reasonable timeframe. Unfortunately, knowing when to get even a fair hearing does not depend on the complainant. It is not even known if the people are fully aware of the functions that the different actors within the judicial system in the country do perform. Take for instance, the difference between the Magistrate of the Legal Department and the Magistrate of the Bench. Judicial auxiliaries such as the Court Registrars, Judicial Police Officers involved in temporary detention, interrogations, search, execution of warrants and court decisions. Then the penitentiary staff who cater for inmates, lawyers that hold briefs for the parties in court, the bailiffs mostly seen during the execution of court judgments and finally the notaries. These are public and ministerial officers charged with drawing up authentic deeds on lives and properties of citizens such as mortgage loan agreements, real estate sale deeds, tenancy agreements, drafting of wills, setting up of companies and so on. Summary reminders of this nature about the various actors in the judiciary proceedings are enough to let anyone who has been to the law courts in the country to figure out the experiences that they have faced in the process. Coming back to some of the anomalies as the Chief Justice did on 21 February must have been a way of calling public attention to the fact that there is something that has to be done to ensure that the population does not feel cheated at any time that they have to do with the justice system in the country. 
Such malpractices in the way justice is rendered quickly result in what many continue to witness in several parts of the country. It has either been mob justice taking precedence or people taking to the social media to pronounce fast sentences after making an X-ray on the personal lives of supposed offenders. Victims in cases of that nature are often recruited from the public officials since they are not exemplary in sharing out information about what they owe to the citizens they are called to serve. Yet, information sharing and the importance of good justice decisions remain key in building any modern society. Citizens at all levels, the business community, companies, and the concerns of investors depend heavily on how well the justice system goes about its duties for there to be confidence in the judiciary. Those who count on the courts may not be so naïve to think that those in the legal department have enough understanding of their profession, possess the guarantees of independence that enable them resist all forms of pressure and only abide by the law and their consciences. Even the Head of State who is also the President of the Higher Judicial Council reaffirmed on 31 December, 2023 that: “As you rightly know, justice is one of the pillars of the rule of law. Therefore, it is essential to rule in total fairness and free from interference of any kind. I hereby assure that, as the custodian of its independence, I will pursue all necessary actions to safeguard its independence.” In making this declaration, the Head of State was actually acknowledging his awareness of the inherent setbacks that the justice system in the country is ...



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