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Nature and sources of law in Cameroon

This module article looks at the nature and sources of Law in Cameroon



If law was not created, it could have been invented. Discuss.

Nature and scope of law

         The word law is very difficult to define. It has been a subject of controversy amongst great thinkers and scholars. However, they agreed on one thing that there is no society without law.

      Cameroon is a bi-jural sate. This implies that Cameroon have two legal systems, the common law and civil law. The common law is practiced in the English speaking Regions of Cameroon and the civil law in the French speaking Regions of Cameroon.

     According to the Black Law Dictionary 6th edition, law is defined as a body of rules prescribed by a controlling authority, having a binding legal force.

    Some schools of thought define law as a rule of human conducts imposed by a state upon its members and enforce by a court.

     For the sake of our studies and to ease understanding, law will be defined as a set of rules and regulations that governs human conduct in a given society backed by sanctions.

Characteristics of law (legal rule)

  1. Law must possess an obligatory characteristic. This implies that it should be respected by everybody irrespective of age, sex, and religion.
  2. Law must emanate from a constituted authority.
  3. Law should aim at doing justice and not injustice.
  4. Law should be obeyed by all without exception.
  5. Law should be backed by sanction.

Functions of law (importance)

  1. Law maintains peace and order in a society.
  2. Law resolves or settles social disputes between citizens in a country.
  3. Law regulates human conducts in a society.
  4. Law act as a standard settling and control mechanism in a society.
  5. Law defines the right and obligations of citizens in a country.
  6. Law structures the organs of government and confesses to them the power they exercise.
  7. Law acts as an instrument of communication and enforcement of social value.

Sources of law in Cameroon


State and explain any 4 sources of law in Cameroon  

  1. Constitution

The constitution is the supreme law (highest law of the land) from which other laws derive their validity. It defines the organs of the state and also the relationship between these state organs and the citizens.

Any other law that is contrary or inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution shall be null and void.( The constitution we use today in Cameroon is the 1996 constitution amended by the 2008 law)

  • Local statute or legislation.

These are laws that emanate from the main legislative aim of the state (parliament) and other bodies or authorities empowered by the law to do so. Local statute will therefore include: law, ordinance, decree and administrative decisions.

  • Customs

A custom is the practice, traditional, believe or way of life of people living within a given community or society. For a custom to be consider as law in Cameroon, the custom must fulfill the provisions of section 27 of the southern Cameroon High court laws of 1955, (27 SCHL 1955),

according to this section, customs is only considered as law if that custom is not repugnant (contrary/ against) to equity, natural justice and good conscience.

It goes further to state that the custom should not be contrary to the policies of the state, must have existed  for a long period of time, observed as upright and accepted by all.

  • Received foreign laws

These are laws inherited from colonial masters. On the 12th July 1884 after the signing of the German Douala treaty between the Cameroonian kings and German authority, the kings handed over their sovereignty and administration to the German authority. In 1914 due to the outbreak of WW1, Britain and France decided to extend the war to Cameroon.

At the battle of Mora Germany was defeated and sent out from Cameroon. The territory at this moment was administered by Britain and France. The two parties attempted to form a joint administration (condominium) but it failed.

In 1916 Cameroon was a partition between the two parties with France taking the lion share 4/5 and Britain 1/5. France introduced the civil law system in their own part of the territory which is practised to date in the French-speaking regions of Cameroon.

The British introduced the common law system in their own part of the territory which is practised to date in the English speaking regions of Cameroon.

  • International treaties and conventions

An international treaty is an agreement between two or more states. According to section 45 of the constitution, all international treaties duly ratify by parliament shall be enforced in Cameroonian courts. In a situation where a national law is in conflict with a treaty, the treaty shall override the national law.

  • Binding precedents or case law

This is a common law doctrine or practice whereby decisions of the past cases are used to deliver a present judgment. This reduces efforts and time and it is mostly used when both cases have similar material facts.

State and explain any 4 sources of law in Cameroon    

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