The date of Wednesday, October 16, 2019 was marked by the launch of the training seminar of volunteers and paralegals for the PAAJEDEC project in Cameroon-YMCA.

The IPONI college has been chosen as suitable location to host this event. It is located in the heart of the town of MENDONG, in the city of Yaoundé.  About fifty volunteers took part to this training seminar who last for four days.

This project has been set up since 2016 with the aim in providing social and legal assistance to prison inmates in Cameroon. Since the launch of its first phase (from October 2017 to April 2019, for the period of 18 months), a hundred inmates have been able to see their situations resolved and others in the process of resolution. This was made possible through the efficiency of volunteers and paralegals. They had access to two prisons in Cameroon, namely those of MONATÉLÉ and MFOU. The official launch of the second phase of this project took place at the head office of the Cameroon-YMCA on August 21, 2019 (see related article). It is now extended to the prisons of NGOUMOU and that of BANGANGTÉ.

Reached to the second day of this seminar, three specialists of prison and legal fields have honored by their presence, namely: Mr. ENOUNGA ONANA Symphorien, Substitute of the Prosecutor N°1 of NGOUMOU, Mr. ETEME Cyrille Augustin, Director of the Prison of MONATÉLÉ and barrister TCHUDJO Christophe, lawyer of Cameroon bars. They entertained the participants, successively on the following themes:

  • The penitentiary system of Cameroon and the rights and duties of detainees
  • Identify the inmate’s mind and understand his family
  • Life in the prison
  • The drafting of pleadings
  • The constitution and the follow-up of the files of the defendants.

It’s really interesting to provide assistance to detainees because, due to their social status that has changed in terms of deprivation of their freedoms, any contribution to help them is welcome. The advice I can give to volunteers and paralegals is that, they must always put themselves in the detainee’s shoes as to help them better by understanding and solving easily their problems. Also, listening to them carefully can help to reveal their problems. When these problems are well expressed, solutions come naturally. In addition, we are experiencing alarming cases in some prisons where the release of some detainees could not be effective for reasons such as slow processing of cases, ignorance of the field of law or insufficient assistance (because of the cost of legal fees which is not affordable by everyone). The key word that must be remembered here is listening always and always, ” said Prosecutor ENOUNGA ONANA Symphorien

As I said in my presentation, it is amazing to see people here in Cameroon, who commit themselves as volunteers and paralegals to give back a smile to people who have lost it because of their incarceration. The field of criminal law is very broad, but here we are talking about human rights and the importance of getting involved into it, is no longer to be demonstrated. Regarding the purpose of their engagement, I ask them to take themselves seriously because, even if there is no institutional framework in Cameroon reserved for paralegals, the body can create the function. They can, through their activities, push their peers to study the effectiveness of this function, obtain an institutional recognition as a whole body. Like anything else, we can start volunteering but we do not know where it will lead us to”, said Barrister TCHUDJO Christophe.

This Training Seminar for Volunteer and Paralegals ends on Saturday, October 19, 2019 and regarding the atmosphere that has prevailed since the beginning, it is timely to be assured that the new phase of the PAAJEDEC program actually begins under better auspices.