An Attack on Common Law Practice: Section 919 of Cameroon New Bill on the Code on Persons and the Family


We acknowledge that there is a need for lawmakers to put to rest disputes arising as a result of family problems, especially when it comes to inheritance. Coming up with this new Bill by the Cameroon Law Makers to regulates inheritance is a welcomed initiative. Section 919 addresses the most challenging family property related problem of our time which is intestate succession (when a spouse dies without leaving a will), but unfortunately, the line of succession undermines the right of the surviving spouse as Descendants, Forebears, and Collaterals came first in the line of inheritance before the Surviving spouse and then to the state (Section 919). The line of succession in times when the spouse dies intestate in the new Bill is a replica of what obtains in the French system and contrary to the common law practice. The Human Rights and Legal Research Centre (HRLRC) believes that it is unjust for the immediate brothers and sisters and far relations including Uncles and aunts to come first before the surviving spouse. According to Berinyuy Cajetan, Human Rights activist and founder of HRLRC, the Law Makers should rearrange the line of succession when the other spouse dies intestate, the interest of the surviving spouse should be taken into consideration before that of the uncles and aunts. Voting into Law the Bill on the Code on Person and the Family without taking into consideration the rights of widows in particular,  is double standards in the eyes of justice.

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It is worthy to note that there also is a lacuna in SECTION 922 of the said law which fails to define the origin of the property of the deceased. Section 922 is and will be a problem in the nearest future if the Bill is voted into Law. For example, there will be a problem when the origin of the property is as a result of succession/inheritance and when the origin fo the property is as a result of the contributions from one spouse and when the property is as a result of the contribution from both spouses. Section 922 out-rightly states that “The law shall not take into account the nature or the origin of property in order to regulate succession thereto”

According to the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (CHRDA), the Bill undermines the interest of Widows and openly water down what is being practiced in the Common Law Jurisdiction.CHRDA, therefore, calls on the lawmakers, as they prepare to make this groundbreaking legislation by voting this Bill, to put much thought into ensuring the protection of the woman and the widow in particular in the line of inheritance. CHRDA while working with women over the years recognizes that some customary practices are stacked against the widow. A review of the order of succession proposed in the new law will open a new door of justice to the widow who has often been left at an impoverished position”.

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