An opposition lawmaker has castigated parliament and the government over the “oppression” of Anglophones in Cameroon, in the wake of recent security forces’ brutality against unarmed protesters in the South West and North West regions.
Hon Joseph Wirba (SDF, Bui) said Francophone administrators sent to English-speaking regions worked like “armies of occupation”. He referred to the Francophone-led administration and military as “oppressors” and part of a “master plan to finish our culture, our people.”
It was a rousing speech, delivered in the National Assembly during the just ended session of the House, which has fired up strong sentiments throughout the Anglophone community, with many taking to social media to praise his courage and brilliance.
Wirba referred to the North West and South West regions as West Cameroon, the name of the territory between 1961 and 1972, when Cameroon was organized as a federation of two states. Through out the speech, he referred to two Cameroons, a notion that has repeatedly been denied by pro-Government politicians and academics.
The MP’s choice of words resonated both as a show of defiance as well as an endorsement of recent calls for a return to the pre-72 federation. He fell short of advocating secession, an old demand that has also picked fire during the past weeks. Separatists are “correct” in the light of recent happenings, he said.
We the people of West Cameroon will resist you and if you want to take that territory by force, you will kill to the last man before you take it
– Hon Jospeh Wirba
The Anglophone Problem is at the center of the recent wave of strikes and demonstrations against what is viewed as French language dominance and the dismantling of the Anglo-Saxon institutions and values that give Cameroon’s English speakers their identity.
Unlike many public figures who have commented on the issue, Wirngo was direct, rash at times. He used expressions like “oppression”, “armies of occupation”, “slaves” and “colonial masters” to convey Anglophone marginalization sentiments.
“The people of West Cameroon cannot be your slaves,” he said. “The people of West Cameroon are not. You did not conquer them in war. If this is what you are saying we should live in, I say no. It would not work.”
The speech was in response to clashes between protesters and armed security forces across the South West and North West in which four people died. Scores of people were either injured or arrested. The government says two people died in Bamenda and denies the Anglophone Problem.
I was one of the believers in a unified Cameroon and I want to tell this House that what has happened to those children in Buea and Bamenda has convinced me that the people who say we should go in two parts are correct
– Joseph Wirba
Wirba said the uprising in the South West and North West was the result of years of oppression and the refusal of the central government in Yaoundé to address Anglophone grievances. Citing an expression often attributed to US politician Thomas Jefferson, he said: “When injustice becomes law; residence becomes duty.”
“The people of West Cameroon have a duty to resist your oppression,” he said.
Later in the speech, he added: “We the people of West Cameroon will resist you and if you want to take that territory by force, you will kill to the last man before you take it. And, you can start with me.”
Lawyers and teachers who began the protests against the “Frechisation” of the legal and school systems in English Cameroon have called for a federal system of government. Strikes by both corps have paralyzed courts and schools throughout most of the South West and North West.
Authorities have dismissed the call for federalism, calling it detrimental to national unity. The communication minister and government spokesman Issa Tchiroma says it was a disguised plan for the separation of Anglophone Cameroon, which formed Southern Cameroons before independence.
“I was one of the believers in a unified Cameroon and I want to tell this House that what has happened to those children in Buea and Bamenda has convinced me that the people who say we should go in two parts are correct,” Wirba said. “And, there are more and more of us out there who now believe that it is the ultimate end.”
Wirngo held the House spellbound as he decried the maltreatment of Anglphones. He cited personal experiences, include cases in which government ministers mocked him when he raised the Anglophone Problem with them.
Only one word is relevant today: RESISTANCE.
– Ayah Paul
The speech could easily be more than two weeks old. Parliament closed on 9 December, but it only emerged early this week. Nonetheless, it earned the politician a great following.
Former presidential candidate and supreme court judge Ayah Paul hailed Wirba after the speech went viral on social media this week.
“When the Southern Cameroon’s delegation came out of a meeting in London with a firm commitment by the British crown of autonomy for the motherland, late SA George in tears declared: ‘I can now die'”, Ayah wrote in a message of his Facebook wall, which was widely shared on social media.
“Dear Wirba, I would not say ‘I can now die’ after hearing you. Let me say ‘I Can now rejoice’. In your place, I could not have said it any better. Only one word is relevant today: RESISTANCE.
“And I do hereby pledge that I am your faithful disciple. But why not? People died for the independence we are enjoying today. We too would die for freedom for posterity! God bless you!”
The video of Wirba’s speech was viewed more than 13,000 times, after only 14 hours on a page called “Hon Wirba Fans 2017”.