Ambazonia and Law Firms

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The International Criminal Court building is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

If my memory isn’t failing me, Ambazonia retained the services of Foley Hoag in 2017! Yesterday, March 12, 2020, Ambazonians announced the retention of another law firm. Unfortunately, I have not read the content of the retainer agreement but reading from Innocent Chia’s tweeter feed, the new law firm Fein and DelValle have promised to drag Paul Biya and Macron to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

Definitely, this is good news and Ambazonians must celebrate such developments because they bring the revolution to the eyes of the international public.

Such good news, however, invokes a journey down memory lane.

As mentioned above, Ambazonians retained Foley Hoag in 2017 and we know nothing about it today. Curiosity demands that Ambazonians should ask what those who hired Fein and DelValle fixed based on the Foley Hoag experience. One thing I know is the Foley Haog contract was terribly expensive and Ambazonians could not foot the bills. Unsure how much this new firm charges, I won’t dwell on that.

Now, to an important issue that Barrister John Fru raised during the press conference – jurisdiction.

Very basically, jurisdiction is the court’s power/authority to hear cases brought before it.

Both the ICC and the ICJ accept and hear cases only by state parties as a matter of principle. However, as a matter of exception, both courts could hear cases referred through other channels.

  1. The UN Security Council under Chapter 7 of the Rome Statute can refer a case to the ICC;
  2. A state party can refer Ambazonia’s case to the ICC as the Gambia did with the Mynamar;
  3. The Prosecutor of the ICC could initiate a case though the pre-trial chamber must approve of it. For a non-member state like Cameroon, this will still need the UN Security Council’s approval.

These hurdles have impeded the Ambazonian Revolution from accessing a court of law. The only international judicial institution that’s accepted to hear Ambazonia’s case is the African Commission of Human and People’s Rights. Though the commission found that Ambazonians have the right to self-determination and are a people under international law, and mandated that Cameroon negotiates with Ambazonia, the decision has not been enforced. The right to appeal is bestowed only on the Commission and Cameroon because Ambazonia is not a member state of the African Union.

Under the current dispensation, it’s mandatory to interrogate the added value/advantage this new firm brings to the Ambazonian Revolution.

With Russia’s recent declaration that there’s no humanitarian situation in Ambazonia, it may be difficult to convince them that Paul Biya and Macron have committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. Thus, Russia will most likely veto any Security Council resolution referring Cameroon to the ICC. China is known for siding with dictators and will likely veto any security council resolution to refer Biya to the ICC. How Macron’s France will vote in favor of such a resolution remains a mystery to me.

If these practical realities caused Foley Hoag to abandon the case, then the new law firm must have crafted new strategies to beat those hurdles.

These strategies could be identifying a member state to the ICC and the ICJ to take the Ambazonian case forward.

Will the firm represent Ambazonia in the Swiss talks or will the firm serve as a lobbying firm in Washington DC?

Bernard Ngalim