On May 31, 2020, Endangered Scholars Worldwide learned that the University of Buea in Cameroon fired a law professor a month after he asked his students a legal question on an exam given for his political and constitutional history course. The test was part of the first semester examinations, which were held days before the school’s closure due to COVID-19 on March 17.
Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla, a law professor and former United Nations human rights officer, asked: “The Anglophone crisis since 2016 was caused by the lawyers’ and teachers’ strike. Assess the validity of this statement.”
The University of Buea is an English-speaking university in a predominantly French-speaking African region. On April 20, 2020, Cameroon’s higher education minister, Jacques Fame Ndongo, recommended in a written memo that the university’s Vice Chancellor Horace Manga suspend the Agbor Balla for “breaching the university’s code of ethics and conduct.”
Manga summoned Agbor Balla to appear before a university disciplinary council to answer questions about his course, “Political and Constitutional History of Cameroon,” and specifically about the question he asked on his exam.
On May 5, 2020, in a written response to the summons, Balla wrote, “Should I honor the said invitation, which is a manifest and gross violation of the law, it would amount to setting the wrong precedent, which would hurt and have a negative impact on teachers who in the future may be invited without any regard for due process to appear before the disciplinary panel and the long term credibility of our institution.”
The disciplinary council met on May 6, 2020, without Agbor Balla.
Professor Nol Alembong, deputy vice chancellor of Gee university, issued a statement that read in part: “Cognizant of Question 1 set on the course LAW entitled ‘Political and Constitutional History of Cameroon’ which violates Articles 40 and 42 of Decree N0. 93/027 of 19 January 1993, the contract of Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla, recruited as Instructor in the Department of Law . . . is hereby terminated with immediate effect.”
“Being invited to a disciplinary panel was a privilege Buea University accorded him on humanitarian grounds, since his contract had expired,”