Impunity Paralyses State of Law

The much talked of dialogue to dissipate the socio-political crisis that has hit the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon for the past three years has finally been announced. The Head of State, President Paul Biya in his radio/televised address to the nation yesterday, September 10, solemnly announced the convening of an enlarged national dialogue by the end of this month to enable participants within the framework of the constitution, examine ways and means of responding to the profound aspirations of the population of the North West and South West Regions. This Presidential decision opens the floodgate for positive and constructive ideas with the pious hope that what finally comes out put to rest the crisis that has taken away so much lives, destroyed property and paralysed the economy. The crisis, one would imagine and it's not just an imagination, has resulted into series of arrests, detentions, judgments and imprisonment. All these have been done within the ambit of the nation's law. In unequivocal terms, the Head of State recalled in his speech that the "respect of the law and the fight against impunity constitute the pillars of consolidation of the State of law which all of us aspire to." For this reason, the decisions already taken in respect of the law cannot be an "obstacle to the envisaged dialogue." The dialogue he emphasised is not out to erase the crimes committed for this would tantamount to promoting impunity. "It is therefore fundamental to dissipate the rumour which gives the impression one can quietly loot, rape, burn, kidnap, mutilate, murder with the hope that an eventual dialohgue will help erase these crimes and assure impunity to the authors", he said. Such imaginations, he said, will open the way for more violence in the regions concerned with the risk of expanding to other regions where there was no violence before as experienced in several other countries of the World.

The new dispensation ushered in by yesterday's nation address does not eschew the existence of the country's legal system. The country functions within the realms of a set of laws most of which are voted in parliament. Whether or not the laws are good is a different matter but once something becomes a law, it must be respected till the day law makers decide otherwise. President Biya reminds of constitutional prerogatives which give the President of the Republic the right of grace to those who have been imprisoned for whatever crime committed. "It is through the use of these powers that I, during my oath taking, offered a hand of peace to armed groups." The convening of the dialogue is a challenge to all actors, most, if not all, who have openly declared their willingness for such an exercise to take place. International partners have equally expressed the same wish with some going as far as advising that there shouldn't be any precondition.

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