By Kini Nsom & Nformi Sonde Kinsai
The Supreme Court in Yaounde, acting in lieu of the Constitutional Council, October 22, quashed all 12 petitions filed by various candidates against the irregularities of the October 11 Presidential election.
The candidates called for the cancellation of the election. Paul Biya might, consequently, succeed himself as the very court is expected to declare him winner, Monday, October 25.
The Supreme Court took exceptions to the petitions, thereby approving the results the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, broadcast on state radio a few hours after polling on October 11.
The results put incumbent Paul Biya, candidate of the ruling CPDM party, in the lead.
Opposition said this was a gross violation of the law because only the Constitutional Council has the right to proclaim election results.
Ni John Fru Ndi, candidate of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, and Adamou Ndam Njoya, candidate of the Cameroon Democratic Union, CDU, and many others, seized the court for redress, on the basis of fraud allegation. They wanted the court to declare the election null and void.
The atmosphere in the court hall was calm when the session began at 10.00 am. But the serenity was broken when debates came to a head.
Jean Jacques Ekindi, who was candidate for the Mouvement Progressists, ignited fireworks, defending his two petitions on the annulment of the Presidential election.
The SDF and Fru Ndi called the numerical shots by filing six of the 12 petitions.
The first petition that the President of the court, Chief Justice Alexis Dipanda Mouelle, and his panel examined, was that of Dr. Joachim Tabi Owono of l’Action Pour La Meritocracie et l’Egalité des Chances, AMEC.
Tabi Owono, who was disqualified as a Presidential candidate, had called on the court to cancel the October 11 polls because, as he said, it was fraught with irregularities and fraud. But the court rejected his petition on the grounds that he had no locus standi since he was not one of the candidates for the election.
The court used Section 94 of the law governing Presidential elections to quash Tabi’s motion.
According to the law, only a candidate has the right to file a petition on the conduct of the election.
Another petition filed by one Ouafo who fought in vain to qualify as an independent candidate, was equally thrown out.
There was laughter in the courtroom when the Judge announced that a certain Bruno T. Towa, based in the US, sent in his own petition through the telephone, calling for the cancellation of the election.
Invoking Articles 55 and 58 of the April 2004 law creating the Constitutional Council, the Court rejected petitions filed by lawyers instead of candidates.
he Court had a field day rejecting all the cases because of procedural lapses.
It was this fate that befell the CDU candidate, Ndam Njoya’s petition for annulment. The party’s lawyers signed the petition on his behalf.
Fru Ndi’s Presidential Fate Sealed
The Supreme Court ruling portrayed the SDF candidate as the greatest loser. All the six petitions filed on Fru Ndi’s behalf were rejected.
Fru Ndi filed two petitions advocating the cancellation of the election on account of the widespread irregularities and fraud.
The SDF equally called for the partial annulment of the election in Balikumbat (Northwest), Limbe (Southwest) and Zoétélé (South Province), where agents of the CPDM candidate allegedly executed massive fraud.
he rejection, observers believe, has cast doom on Fru Ndi’s bid for Etoudi Palace this year.
A battery of lawyers including Ben Muna, Joseph Lavoisier Tsapy, Francis Sama, Augustin Mbami, and Innocent Bonu argued their case, noting that the law that regulates practice at the Bar, says a lawyer can represent his client in Court. But the Court said they violated Articles 55 and 58 of the law creating the Constitutional Council.
At one point, Justice Depanda made a mockery of SDF lawyers for demonstrating gross ignorance of the law.
The Attorney General of the Court, Justice Rissouck, in a sarcastic remark, thanked the SDF lawyers for speaking good grammar but urged them to master the law. He said they were applying only the law no matter how much refined English was spoken against them.
In a remark to Barrister Sama’s plea, Justice Depanda held: “No, I don’t want my name to go into the history of this country; I will apply the law as it is.”
J.J. Ekindi, Still Hunting The Lion
The two petitions Jean-Jacques Ekindi filed raised the debate in the Court. In the first case, he called on the Court to annul the election. He said the incumbent should not have been allowed to run because he is holding two incompatible cumulative posts as President of the Republic and Chairman of the CPDM against the constitution.
His second petition called for cancellation of the election on account of the irregularities and fraud at the October 11 polls.
The Court rejected both cases after its panel of judges deliberated in a private chamber.
Narrow Interpretation Of The Law
In a chat with The Post, Lavoisier Tsapy, dismissed claims that SDF lawyers were ignorant of the law organising the Constitutional Council.
Hear him: “This is a new law which is being narrowly interpreted by the Court to suit its purpose of supporting the CPDM. Our position is that the Constitutional Council has not yet been set up. Its members have not yet been appointed and so it is not functional.”
Quoting Article 65 of the law creating the Constitutional Council, the lawyer said the Supreme Court should be using its own laws, while acting in lieu of the Constitutional Council. He said he was surprised that the Court started using the laws of the Constitutional Council.
sapy regretted that the Supreme Court always acts like a political court that tailors its ruling to please the CPDM on electoral matters.
He said it was unfortunate that the Court did not entertain complaints on the falsification of results and massive fraud in the Wouri and Kupe Muanenguba Divisions.
In Defence Of Paul Biya
Besides a battery of lawyers, senior CPDM officials stood in court to defend their candidate Paul Biya. They included the Deputy Scribe of the party, Grégoire Owona, Prof. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, Minister in charge of Special Duties at the Presidency and Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, Chief of Cabinet at the Prime Minister’s office.
Barrister Guy Noah and Mary Orock led the CPDM lawyers.
When Ekindi brought up his case against Biya, Ngolle Ngolle charged to the dock in defence. He stressed the power of incumbency, dismissing the claim that Biya has incompatible and cumulative functions. He said their candidate conducted himself in strict conformity with the law.
Speaking to The Post later, Ngolle Ngolle said, “the Constitutional Court has proven that the rule of law prevails in Cameroon.”
He dismissed claims that the election in his Kupe Muanenguba constituency was mired in fraud, noting that what the SDF lawyers presented in court had no substance.
Court In Biya’s Pocket
Fru Ndi's spokesperson, Martin Nkemngu, said his party is not surprised that the Supreme Court rejected all the petitions.
“We are not surprised, but we are embarrassed that justice was so blatantly trampled upon,” Nkemngu stated in a telephone chat with The Post over the weekend.
According to Nkemngu, the court refused to render justice thereby opening another stalled chapter of the country’s democratisation process.
“I am not surprised because the judiciary and the legislature are in Biya’s pocket. There is no separation of powers. The Supreme Court is also in his pocket,” Nkemngu complained.
He said if the Supreme Court were a court of justice, it would have entertained most of the glaring cases of fraud that marred the October polls instead of basing its ruling on procedure.
In one of such cases, Nkemngu recalled that the falsification of return results sheets was so enormous that in Wouri Division, there were 10.198 votes more than the registered voters.
Nkemngu also said the SDF was rejecting outright, the verdict of the election. Thus, party officials are expected to chart a new plan of action in the coming days.
Ndam Njoya Accepts Verdict
The CDU candidate, Dr. Adamou Ndam Njoya, whose bid for the cancellation of the election was equally rendered null and void at the Supreme Court, says he will embrace the outcome of the controversial polls.
He made the remark at a press conference in Yaounde on October 21.
Reacting to claims that the election was flawed, Ndam Njoya made it clear that the Coalition would not protest the outcome of the poll.
Talking to The Post shortly after his two petitions were dismissed, MP Chairman, J.J. Ekindi, said there has been a positive evolution at the Supreme Court.
He said a lot still needs to be done for the court to effectively play its role.
“The press has to introduce debates on the constitutionality, checks and balances and the limitation of power in our country,” he said.
Commenting on the fact that the court rejected his two petitions, Ekindi said he was denied justice. Said he: “The court didn’t take legal grounds to ascertain its decision. The problems I raised needed legal responses in a state of law. But we did not obtain any response in that direction.”
According to the Inspector General in charge of Electoral Matters in the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, Eyebe Ayissi, the Supreme Court ruling on the petitions is a testimony that his Ministry organised the election well despite a few irregularities.