A critical assessment of the application of the new provisions of the Cameroon penal code
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1.1 Background of study.
The political evolution of Cameroon is very complex on account of the differences in the culture and political thinking of the three countries which ruled it. Germany ruled Cameroon from 1884-1915 as a colony and in 1916 Cameroon was divided between Britain and France following the defeat of the Germans in the First World War.
Cameroon, under German administration, was governed by German Laws. The native and the whites had separate courts. The ·’Bezirksgericht’ was for the whites. It was the Court of First Instance presided over by a judge, the ·’Bezirksrichter’, assistedby two or four lay assistants, ‘Beisitzers’.
The ‘Obergericht’ was the Court of Second Instance for the whites. It comprised the High Judge, ‘Oberrichter’, and four lay assistants; it had the final judgment. Whites were never imprisoned in Cameroon. For the Cameroonians, the Court of First Instance was composed of the native chiefs who passed judgment according to native laws.
The native chiefs presided over civil cases where the offense was not above 100 marks (minor offenses) or with regard to criminal cases; Appeals from the Court of First Instance could be sent to a second tribunal which could be attended by the Governor or his representative.
It did not judge cases punishable by death. The commonest form of punishment was whipping which was done in the presence of a doctor of medical personnel; women were exempted from whipping. The death penalty was given only after the approval of the Governor but in most cases the culprit was fined.
The next of kin was usually punished if a culprit escaped and in some instances chieftains were held responsible for the escape of a culprit.
Britain and -France ruled their· respective portions of Cameroon as mandated territories -0f the League of Nations from 1919-1945.
After the Second World War, France governed her portion as a trusteeship territory of the United Nations Organization until it was granted independence in 1960; Britain also administered her portion as a trusteeship territory of the United Nations until 1961 when it was two Cameroons under the name of the Federal Republic of Cameroon which in 1972 became the United Republic of Cameroon.
The task of transforming Cameroon from a divided colony into a united and independent state was not easy.
The stability of Cameroon after independence reflects the political maturity of the granted independence.
The reunification of British Southern Cameroon and French Cameroon in 1961 marked the achievement of the union of the peoples of the new state and the growing economic viability of the country
The French system of administration was assimilation which was to make Cameroonians behave and think like Frenchmen and women.
They punished indigenes using the “Indigenat” which was a name given to the then provisions in the Criminal Code to punishments directly without reference to a court of law.
Britain on her part administered her own small part of Cameroon through the “Indirect Rule Policy” in which she administered her portion as a part of Nigeria.
They punished crimes through courts ordered in grades A,B,C and D with grade A court having full judicial powers in all civil and criminal matters except on death sentences. The beginning of nationalism and independence started from the end of the Second World War (1945).
This was as a result of the spread of western education, acquaintance with other people’s socio-political system, ideas and manner of independent living which Cameroonians sought to copy.
A hard struggle against French colonial system was waged by the UPC. At the time when Ahmadou Ahidjo was appointed prime Minister he had to a lead French Cameroon into independence on 1st January 1960.
After the independence of The Republic of Cameroon, January 1st 1960, by voting reunification with the Republic of Cameroon while the northern part voted to reunified with Nigeria on the 11th February 1961.
After this reunification, came the need of holding meetings between Prime Minister Foncha of British southern Cameroon and the president Amadou Ahidjo of The Republic of Cameroon on the form reunification should take place.
As a result, The Foumban Conference was held in July 1961 where a draft constitution was worked out and a federal state system was agreed.
The constitution was agreed in August 1961 and fully consummated in Buea as British troops and officials were gradually leaving . So came the birth of the Federal Republic of Cameroon. Here, there existed the constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon but not yet a penal Code.
The first federated penal Code was promulgated by law no. 65-LF-24 /12th November done on the 12th 1965 and law no. 67-LF-1 of the 12th June 1967 of the Republic of Cameroon.
This Code defined and sanctioned crimes if violated by offenders. It was divided into four parts ranging from its applications to simple offences, and two books.
It has been a reference to barristers, law officials, law students or even ordinary persons until the coming into law of the new Penal Code of the Republic of Cameroon. Lawmakers complained that the Penal Code of 1965 is outdated and contains contrary provisions obtained from the period of French and English colonial rule.
There was therefore the need for amendment.
On the 22th of June 2016, the Lower House of the Cameroon Parliament voted to amend some provisions of the Penal Code, with regards to tenancy, adultery and death sentence
These amendments were promulgated by The President of The Republic of Cameroon and put into law on the 12th of July 2016. This marked the amendment of the new Penal Code in Cameroon.
Statement of problem.
The outdated nature of the 1965 penal code which could no longer apply in Cameroon due to evolution in all aspect of the society prompted the enactment of a new penal code in 2016 after serious controversies.
The birth of the new penal code amended some provisions and added some flesh to the old one. Even after the modification and additions, it was still pregnant with lot of problems.
One problem glaring in the 2016 penal code is the inconsistencies between the French version and the English versions because it gave different interpretations of the same law due to poor translation from the original text to English.
For instance section 344 defining minors gave different definitions. The English version defined a minor as somebody under the age of 18 while the French version defines a minor as someone und the age of 21.
Again the new penal code prescribed death penalty for a number of offences in spite of repeated calls from Cameroon’s Human Right Commission and the United Nations for Cameroon to abolish the death penalty which is contrary to Cameroon’s international treaty obligations to no avail.
The code again laid more emphases on aspects which was normally supposed to be civil than criminal in nature such as sections 322 on renting fraud, section 127 on bride price and even adultery.
The code equally faces problem of implementation and effectiveness. For instances the code criminalized prostitution but it is still a rampant phonemon in our society today especially in major cities such as Douala and Yaoundé since prostitutes can be seen on major streets at night.
It also punishes child’s marriage and it hasn’t stopped even with child labor. Theact still exists as little children could be spotted hugging everywhere. Just to name a few since the problems are so many.
Main Research question
What are the amended provisions of the 2016 Cameroon’s penal code?
Specific Research Questions
This research seeks to answer the following questions;
What are the amended provisions of the new penal code and what new offences were added in the 2016 penal code in Cameroon?
- Are the amended provisions and the new offenses added in the 2016 penal of Cameroon implemented?
- What policy recommendations can be made to redress the problem caused?
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY.
This work has both main and specific objectives.
- The general objective of this study is to examine the amended provisions of the 2016 Cameroon’s penal code.
- Specific Research objectives.
- To find out the amended provisions of the new penal code and the new offenses added in the 2016 penal code in Cameroon.
- To examine the implementation of the amended and new provisions added in the 2016 penal code in Cameroon.
- To make policy recommendations and conclusion.
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