After a remarkable outing during the parliamentary session of November 2016, the SDF MP had disappeared. He was said to be in exile outside the country while an arrest warrant was also announced. Last Wednesday he returned to the Assembly. To challenge his opponents? Will Joseph Wirba, MP for the Social Democratic Front (Sdf), be arrested? This question, several people have had to ask themselves after the last exit of the parliamentarian.
Absent during the March session, Joseph Wirba took part in the plenary session last Wednesday at the glass palace of Ngoa Ekellé. A session during which he did not fail to be noticed. He took the floor to discuss the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions (which he calls West Cameroon) against the opinion of the President of the National Assembly. It was with great difficulty that Cavaye Yeguié Djibril was able to stop the Sdf MP who was able to place a few sentences.
“I have been chased in the bush for the last three months (…). Our children are not going to school, our lawyers are in jail and everything that happens in West Cameroon says nothing to you. Where, in your agenda, do you foresee that this is going to be talked about? Tell me, because you do not seem to have an agenda for us, “he said, among others.
In fact, Joseph Wirba, as he pointed out, came to rely on a problem he had already raised during the parliamentary session of November 2016. On December 2, 2016, in a speech that will not be forgotten in the hemicycle of Ngoa Ekellé, he had questioned the government about the situation that the populations of the Northwest and the Southwest are going through. According to him, they had been suffering for many years. He had tried, he said, to draw the attention of the members of the government to what they were feeling and to the possible consequences.
And there, he thought it was time that the two states that joined together in 1961 separate.
“You make us think that we went to the wrong place (…). Does the President of the Republic know that the administrators sent to West Cameroon behave like an army of occupation? (…) 50 years is too much (…). I was a supporter of the unified Cameroon, but with what is happening in Bamenda and Buea, I am finally convinced that those who say that Cameroon must separate are right, “he said.
And, as a slogan, he quoted a number of times American activists:
“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty.”
On the southwestern and northwestern side, the speech pleased. The member for Bui was carried in triumph when he returned to his constituency. But on the side of the authorities, he made less smile. The exit of Joseph Wirba was understood as a call to secession. What was considered by the Yaounde power as a horrible crime. A few days later, on the occasion of his traditional speech at the end of the year, Paul Biya did declare:
“We must remain open to the ideas of improvement, but excluding those that would come to touch the Form of our state “.
In January, leaders of the Anglophone protest were arrested and thrown into prison. The rumor of an attempt to arrest Joseph Wirba ran. On 10 April 2017, Sdf MPs made a statement during the parliamentary session in March denouncing an arrest warrant against their fellow yet covered by parliamentary immunity.
Joseph Wirba, himself, had earlier informed the Chairman of the Sdf of an attempt to kidnap. In a letter to John Fru Ndi on March 7, he wrote:
“The order for my arrest was given by Mbarga Nguele on instructions from the SG of the Presidency in collaboration with the Interior Minister. I was warned on January 19th and that same day they came to me. I drove them in my vehicle to a safe place. I parked the car and entered the building where I made arrangements for my safety. They spent all day and night waiting around the car before realizing what had happened. “
Questions: How was an MP to be arrested without first waiving off his immunity? Was it planned to arrest him first and then to convene a session of the National Assembly for this purpose? The member said he did not want to take risks. Despite the fact that relatives have repeatedly reminded him that he enjoys parliamentary immunity, he has kept in mind that Cameroon was a country where “laws exist only on paper“, says in his letter to John Fru Ndi. Absent from the parliamentary session in March because he feared for his safety, he nevertheless wrote a letter to his comrades in the National Assembly.
Targeting mainly the elected representatives of the South-West and North-West regions. This correspondence signed on March 28, 2017, is about “Historical moment to rise together for the people of West Cameroon“. He writes that the people of West Cameroon have been mistreated and oppressed and it is time for all the MPs to come together to defend him. In particular, he calls them to leave the National Assembly. The appeal did not echo. Was it the inaction of others that drove him back? For, as he said on Wednesday, in what other place can the National Assembly pose the problem of her people? In the columns of Le Jour, the MP of the Bui declared:
“I am back to continue the fight that the populations of West Cameroon have been fighting for some years“.
He also confirmed that there was an arrest warrant against him.
“If imprisonment is the price to pay for speaking on behalf of the population, I am ready for it. I had no guarantee to return. You should know that there is no guarantee in a country like ours. I took the time to think and realized that the people needed me. I am here to defend their interests. Wirba is back, “he said.
Back, but for how long? On Thursday and Friday, the Sdf MP was no longer seen in the National Assembly. Did he pick up the keys of the fields? His departure last Wednesday naturally embarrassed Cavaye Yeguié Djibril, the president of the National Assembly. But it seems to have embarrassed also his comrades of Sdf who certainly did not expect him.
The elected representatives of this political group had to come together to discuss it. We did not know what happened. A party official whom we approached to have the position of the Sdf in relation to its stalwart parliamentarian sent us back to the press conference given in April 2017. If during this exit the MPs of the Sdf had risen against “ The warrant of arrest issued illegally by the Delegate General to the National Security against the Honorable Joseph Wirba, an MP covered by parliamentary immunity “, it nevertheless remains that the latter did not always feel the support of his own.
Abandoned by John Fru Ndi?
At a meeting of the Sdf National Executive Committee, the Sdf Chairman stated that Joseph Wirba had expressed a personal opinion in the National Assembly. In his letter to his president on March 7, 2017, the hon. Member expressed frustration. He says John Fru Ndi did not stand by him during the difficult moments he was living.
“I may be mistaken, but I think that your total silence on such an important subject that I have raised and which is close to the hearts of all the West Cameroonians, at home and abroad, encourages the oppressors to hunt me with impunity. Your silence made me realize that I was alone and being a man who can stand on his own feet, I went forth to defend our people and myself. And thank God, the people stood by me, protected me and defended me. “
Although Joseph Wirba has been mostly talked about since the outbreak of the current Anglophone crisis, he is not in his first fight. Born on January 8, 1960 in Jakiri in the Bui division of the North-West Province, he attended primary school in Kinsenjam, then secondary school in Bamenda and Nkambe. He then studied literature at the University of Yaounde before starting a career as a teacher. His teaching career will be disrupted in the early 1990s when he engaged himself body and soul in the struggle for democracy.
Through Sdf, among which he claims to be one of the militants of the first hour. Joseph Wirba will also be an early activist of the cause of the populations of the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. He will participate actively in the All Anglophone Conference in Buea in 1993, as will the subsequent meetings in Bamenda. He will also be at one time very close time to the Southern Cameroon National Council (Scnc), a movement that has spoken for the secession of Cameroon. A pan-Africanist, he has participated in several seminars throughout Africa. In recent years, Wirba has set up an association called CORA (Care Organization for Rural Assistance) in his village.
Through it he fights for the health of women and children. In particular, through cancer screening and treatment campaigns. CORA also runs campaigns in schools to educate young people about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. He is married and has nine children, four of whom are adopted. Joseph Wirba joined the National Assembly after the 2013 legislative elections.