The Return of Hon Wirba: Changing the Dynamics of the Anglophone Crisis?

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The government of Cameroon has taken a high-handed approach towards English-Speaking Cameroonians. The only response to the ongoing crisis has been the arbitrary arrests and detention of all those challenging the abuse of Anglophones. Things have however been different the time the corrupt regime decided to go after one of the Members of Parliament. The MP from the Jakiri constituency in the Northwest Region was chased around the region while the internet had been shut down and he was eventually reported to have escaped to Nigeria where he spent a few months planning his return. His reappearance at the House of Assembly took everyone by surprise. This was unexpected given that all the others who had fled the country had not dared return for fear of being arrested. Wirba did not only abruptly appeared in parliament; he seized the rostrum and addressed the house in the exact forceful manner he last did before going under months back. A visibly confused House Speaker, Cavaye

Joseph Wirba did not only throw caution to the wind and abruptly make an appearance in parliament; he took the moment to address the house in the exact forceful manner he had done before and was declared a persona non grata. A visibly shaken and confused Speaker of the House of Assembly, Cavaye Yegue Djibril, failed to stop Hon Wirba from putting across his message.  With the same eloquence he has come to be known for, with the same logical arguments for the government to pay serious attention to the plight of West Cameroonians, a determined Wirba made his arguments for justice for Anglophones.

Below are some excerpts:

“Where else should we say these things? If we belong to the National Assembly then Mr Speaker, you must hear me out. Mr Speaker, you will hear me out. With all due respect Mr Speaker, I have been chased through the bushes for the past three months. I cannot come here and you are discussing…
“Our children are out of school, our lawyers in jail and all that is happening in West Cameroon means nothing to you. Where is your standing order to suspend for us to discuss issues that have to do with the people of West Cameroon? You tell me because you don’t seem to have an agenda for us…
“Mr Speaker, I am now telling you that the person who ordered for my arrest… tell him I am here; he can come and take me out of this National Assembly and the people of West Cameroon will know that they don’t belong here…

“The representatives of the people have the power to say it as it is at any time. I mean, we come here and you shut us down… what should we do? I should have waited for them to bring my head to you. That’s what you would have wanted. I simply say NO!
Mr Speaker, can you now on this floor, give us where this National Assembly can discuss the issues that have to do with the people of West Cameroon? Because it is more important than anything you have discussed in this Assembly from independence. Can you tell us? Because if we cannot talk about these things here, where are we supposed to talk about them for God’s sake? “You keep humiliating us like this, every time, it is the same thing. Get to the church leaders, we are humiliated, get to the lawyers, we are humiliated. We come here to represent our people and you tell me that I cannot talk about my people then, you will need to shut my mouth with death.

Can I have the time when we will talk about the problems of our people? If you have no space here for that it means that the country completely excludes us from its programme and I do not want that to be. You are supposed to make sure that we come here and represent the people, talk about their problems so that you understand the problems.
“I am happy that I am coming here when the Minister of Territorial Administration is here and I am wondering because Mr Minister I said here on the 2nd of December that the reign of terror over in West Cameroon is bringing down the country and nobody seems to listen and then I come here and we are told that we cannot talk on behalf of those people? It is the right of the MP to represent his people, Mr Speaker.

“I am not bringing any disorder. If you let us talk about our problems, nobody will be wasting this time because I have a full file here to discuss the problems of my people, so can you give me space to talk about it? If I don’t have it, then you are saying and with the order on my head that I should be arrested for representing my people. You are saying that the last remnants of anything we call democracy has died in this country. If an MP cannot talk, who else? And if an MP for the country is not safe, who else is safe in this country…?”

The question now being asked by all remains: is there something Wirba knows that others do not know? What is the position of his party the Social Democratic Front (SDF) which seems to have abandoned him when he needed them most? Why did the government not go ahead and arrest Wirba?

One scenario is possible. Hon Wirba might be someone who clearly understands how the government of Cameroon operates and knowing that their hands are tied with regards to the prosecution of the other Anglophone leaders, chose the right moment to reappear.

If this is the case, he surely has exposed the government’s weakness and given a new lease on life to the Anglophone crisis. The renewed energy across the country and diaspora is a testament to the fact that Hon. Wirba could not have chosen a better time to return.

Foley-Hoag: Lobbyists, Activists or Lawyers? An Analysis of the SCACUF Dilemma

This analysis is published on Ambasbay Blog. The name of the author is not included, but the analysis is solid. From the introduction, it seems to have been written by Boh Herbert, but that also is not clear.
That notwitstanding, this article analysis the role being played by Foley-Hoag, the firm retained by SCACUF to help advance the legal case of human rights abuses being committed by the Cameroon government against the people of English-Speaking regions.
I am normally not a fan of Boh Herbert, but I must say I do agree, completely, with his assessment of the Foley Hoag interview and much more.

It was interesting that they cited, as an example of their work, the Polisario and the peoples of Western Sahara. That conflict has been going on for more than 30 years now and resulted in Morocco leaving the OAU only to get back a few years ago. That’s an ongoing conflict that is yet to be resolved. Not sure for how long the firm has been involved with it or what they would consider success in this scenario.

I would have thought they would cite their recent work with the Philippines in the case against China about the disputed islands. The legal aspect of that was a resounding success for the Philippines, the political aspect not so much. As usual, there was no enforcing mechanism in the judgment. So the Philippines has ended up in bilateral negotiations with China – something China always wanted and the Philippines never wanted. Not sure what, if any, is Foley Hoag’s role in this crucial part of the problem.

There is nothing inherently wrong with eliciting support from lobbyists. The problem lies with the approach. If I have an issue that needs the US government to intervene from a policy perspective, then a US lobbyist will be a logical approach. Even there, I will seek a firm closer to the current administration. A Clinton era lobbyist or surrogate is unlikely to be very helpful in a Republican, Trump government – note Foley Hoag’s Clinton connections.

Then there is the International aspect of this. How, would a US firm be helpful in lobbying the EU, Russia, Australia or the UN for that matter on our behalf? If we have to go down the expensive route of Lobbyist, should we then have to hire country or institution, specific lobbyists? Normally, these guys are hired by corporate interests for specific policy objectives in specific countries. Issues related to Human rights, minority rights, governance in tertiary countries have typically been dealt with through pro bono services and NGOs. Amnesty International, Transparency International the UN etc. are essentially not for profit organisations and their bureaucracies have little patience for profiteering law firms or lobbyists.

It is no wonder, the legal support teams of the ICC are usually pro bono or paid for by NGOs. The fact that we consider paying a left-leaning lobbyist in the US or any lobbyist for that matter indicates we have been either unable to, or unwilling to take advantage of the pro bono services out there at our disposal.

We have essentially outsourced the converted job of lobbying our case to a third party. In liberation struggles, the key role of leadership is lobbying the international community for support. The most effective way to do so is through individuals from, the country that are the direct victims of that abuse. Paying lobbyist gives the impression our leaders are either too rich or too busy to engage in such mundane tasks. If they see it fit to outsource the leadership of the struggle, should the people on the ground also outsource their support; Or should they look elsewhere to leadership?

I have read and watched videos of SCACUF leadership indicating that only $3k has been spent so far by the law firm as an argument that they have been diligent with finances. A couple of things come to mind.

 

1. Considering that there has been no change in the terms of the contract between Foley Hoag and SCACUF, then $3k, spent over a month working on the case would indicate they really have not been doing anything so far. If, as we know, the billing intervals is 15mins, then the interview alone, with 2 senior Foley Hoag partners already cost SCACUF about $350. Judging by how little information came out of that press conference, I am not
surprised they have not done much work at all.

2. A declaration by Atam Milan, of an item of expense, hardly rises to the realm of accountability; it actually raises more questions than it answers about SCACUF’s accounting practices. The government of Cameroon, unfortunately, has a better track record than that!

 

3. SCACUF was supposed to ensure $75k be in that account 30 days from the day they met the first $35k requirement. We are well past that threshold and have heard nothing in that regards. It is clear in the contract SCACUF provided, that failing to meet that obligation, the law firm reserved the right to walk off the contract. It is curious that nothing has been said more than 30 days after.

 

4. Without that $75k, it is likely the law firm is uninclined to commit any more resources to the struggle and any indication that very little had been spent by the law firm only goes to buttress the point that they are scaling back on committing resources.

5. As noted in point 1 above, our esteemed lobbyist, by their contracted fee structure, have hardly committed up to 2hrs of billable time to the SCACUF file. Shouldn’t SCACUF or the people it represents be worried?

 

As self-appointed, sole representatives of Southern Cameroons, you would expect the third SCACUF conclave to address issues related to where they are in the struggle and the way forward. We’ve heard nothing to that effect; SCACUF spent time and money discussing their internal structural issues and very little if anything about SC they represent. The one thing SCACUF has on its plate as an external activity is the Lobbyist they hired. I believe they can relax and sip some champagne now having outsourced the struggle to a lobbyist.

Occasional 15 mins conference calls with 2 white guys is enough to pacify its followers.

SCACUF leadership, mostly through surrogates, has been bullying people online peddling the notion that there is no need to be critical of SCACUF and no need to ask what they have done so far. Pointing to SCACUF’s, in my opinion highly flawed, internal structure – and of course Foley Hoag, as evidence of success and traction! There is the further troubling notion that any Anglophone or group of people critical of SCACUF’s actions must be traitors!

It is important to clear the air as to where we were prior to SCACUF and where we are today:-

 

1. We were able, through public and mostly, private campaigns able to bring the UN to address the issues in Cameroon and get the UN to send representatives to go visit our leaders in jail. Note the SCACUF only just thought about sending emails to the UN a few weeks ago.

 

2. Get the Canadian government to sympathise with us to the extent of supporting our Federal position. They actually sent their officials to the provinces to interview local leaders and common people to get an informed sense of the situation on the ground prior to taking their position.

 

3. Move a few western governments to and parliaments to look into the issues related to the marginalisation of our peoples as part of a long diplomatic push.

 

4. Got Amnesty International and, through the lawyers’ international esprit de corps, had the Bar associations of many countries take strong positions in support of our detainees and lawyers and Anglophones at large.

 

5. Assemble an international legal team, working pro bono, to defend our leaders and detainees in jail.

 

6. Rally and unify the entire Anglophone community in opposition to the current state of affairs.

 

7. Built support for our course from the larger Francophone leadership and peoples in Cameroon who easily identify with the mostly governance and human rights aspect of the struggle.

 

After SCACUF came into existence what have we achieved?

 

1. Tribalised the Anglophone struggle.

 

2. Lost the support of the Canadians, who now believe a benevolent despot is better than utter chaos. The only support we now have from them is towards the release of our level headed leaders and detainees.

 

3. Lost the support of the US and other nations that were considering supporting us in our quest towards legitimately achievable goals.

 

4. Lost the support on the ground in Cameroon as SCACUFs ambivalent flirtations with uncoordinated violent groups, as a persuasive tool has alienated the very people it seeks to represent.

 

5. Alienated the sympathetic francophones in Cameroon who would have been sympathetic to a fight for good governance and the rights of a minority; ticked off when it was hijacked by hate speech directed towards peoples rather than systems.

 

One thing that’s common to the Anglophones is our sense of critique; our need to accountability and our penchant to question authority. I must say, SCACUF did its best to tap into the anger of the arrests or our leaders, the intimidation of our peoples and the perceived need to unify our voices in opposition to the status quo. Unfortunately, with no vision or plan of action, no accountability, and resorting to violence and blackmail as a means of persuasion; the train, in SCACUF terms, has since moved on with the people leaving them behind.

I could go on and on, but I am better served addressing real issues we have on the ground than any more time with self-serving narcissists who for some reason think they are leaders.