Joseph Wirba (1960 – ). Cameroonian, Professor, Freedom Fighter, Humanitarian
Early Life & Education
WIRBA JOSEPH MBIYDZENYUY was born to parents Mama Theresia Biy and Papa WIRBA Dor, into the household of the warriors of Mbisha-Kwe’ebiri, Rohntong, in Jakiri, Bui Division of West Cameroon. His exact date of birth is unknown, as he was born in a rural setting having neither a health facility nor birth records, at a time when women were assisted by traditional birth attendants (the ma’nkoiy). He was delivered at his family home, before, on, or about January 8, 1960.
Joe attended the local primary school in Kinsenjam, then went to secondary school in Bamenda and completed high school in Nkambe.
In high school, Joe faced his first political fight against injustice when he was incorrectly listed as having applied for a student government position. Joe publicly denounced it as a fraud since he had not applied. He was given a snake beating, suspended and threatened with dismissal for defying school authorities. He stood his ground and reported the incident to the Provincial Delegate of Education, who ordered that Joe be returned to class and be left alone.
As a student of the Yaounde University, Wirba majored in Comparative Literature, the Teaching of Literature in English and English as a Second Language.
Career & Revolutionary Beginnings
Joe Wirba had been teaching for several years when in 1990, he dived headlong into the Social Democratic Front (SDF) revolution, fighting for a democratic Cameroon alongside Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi. Wirba was a founding member of what was popularly referred to as “The Hunting Dogs” in the SDF party. This small group of deeply committed members worked closely with Pa Ebibi (John Fru Ndi), to prepare the groundwork for launching the SDF.
The military took over the North-West Region and the streets of Bamenda in an attempt to stop the SDF. Wirba and an inner circle of leaders worked to bypass, frustrate and push back the army in order to successfully launch the SDF on May 26, 1990. The launch did not occur without violence; verifiable accounts report six civilians were shot by the army on the day of the march to establish the party.
Wirba lost his job and career as a result of his political involvement, and nearly lost his life at the hands of the party in power, for standing up for democracy and for demanding the restitution of John Fru Ndi as the legitimate winner of the 1992 presidential election.
The push for political pluralism became a dangerous venture as the military and secret police killed, tortured and jailed multitudes of SDF members. But Wirba, along with the other revolutionaries, kept pushing forward until the party stood tall and strong.
When the All Anglophone Conference was held in Buea, on April 2nd and 3rd 1993, with follow-up meetings on April 29th to May 1st 1994 in Bamenda , Wirba was an active participant and advocate for the freedom of the people of West Cameroon. As conferences came and went Joe saw no positive change for his people. He played a major role when a team of Elderly Statesmen, Rt Hon Papa Muna, and His Excellency, Papa Foncha, returned from the United Nations, where they went to present the case of the illegal union between East and West Cameroon. From the Mungu Bridge to Buea, Limbe, Kumba, and onwards to Bamenda and Kumbo, Wirba advocated for the rights of the West Cameroonian people.
When the SCNC had its famous meeting at Mount Mary in Buea, and the colonial governor and his military attacked, Wirba was one of the many who was lucky to escape to safety.
The key leaders of the struggle for West Cameroonian liberation, like Barrister Ekontang Elad, Ambassador Fosung, Pr Carlson Anyangwe, Dr Munzu, Dr Nfor Nfor and many others, had Wirba aligned with them for the struggle. Pa Albert Mukong, Chief Ayamba and PA Ndi, are ancestors of the struggle who Joe Wirba worked with toward this cause.
With his vision of freedom, Joe Wirba is a well-known Pan-Africanist. His strong belief drove him to participate in a major Pan-African project, The United Africa Association (UNAFAS), led by the vocal visionary, Barrister Bernard Achu Muna. There he worked with renowned Pan-African leaders like President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, OAU Secretary General Ide Oumarou of Niger, and many others with whom he shared the dream of moving Africa forward. He organized and attended seminars both within and outside of Africa, including attending seminars in England, France, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Japan on issues related to freedom and democracy.
HON WIRBA… Joe The MP
Joe Wirba won a landmark election in Jakiri in September 2013, gaining a seat on the National Assembly. In his first speech to Parliament in December 2013, he lambasted the House for having sat for over half a century without enacting one law that could benefit the suffering Cameroonians. He challenged the House, claiming this was the only parliament he knew of in the world, whose main job was babysitting the government and clapping for the ministers who were ruining the country. This drew anger from the house, including those from his own party.
From then on, Hon. Wirba defined his own parliamentary political path. He took some of the most feared ministers to task, challenging their laxity and open corruption, and warning them that Cameroon was “not the property of the president and his ministers!” Some of the ministers he has confronted and challenged in the House include the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Interior, the Minister of Higher Education, and Minister Amadou Ali.
In 2016, the crisis in Buea University that led to the violent torture, rape and arrests of West Cameroonian students by the paramilitary police and gendarmes, as well as the killings in Bamenda during a street demonstration, outraged Hon. Wirba and put him on a collision course with the government. This recent crisis coupled with memories of continuous humiliation, and oppression of the West Cameroon people, led to a historical moment on December 2nd 2016, in which Hon. Wirba, in a demonstration of pain and frustration, held the floor of parliament where he strongly condemned the long oppression and abuse by the government that rules West Cameroonian like a colony. There have been recent reports of plans to assassinate or arrest him, and various news sources claim that he has left the country to protect his life.
Joe Wirba is well known for insisting that his highest values are human, as opposed to religious, financial or economic and political. In alignment with this value, he has contributed much of his effort to charity and to working for rural communities that struggle for survival.
For the last seven years, Wirba has worked to build and strengthen CORA (Care Organization for Rural Assistance), a rural-based, rural-focused NGO that he created. CORA focuses on the forgotten: the rural communities of men, women and children living in the most impoverished and neglected corners of the Cameroon nation.
CORA puts its focus on women’s and children’s health. Its main initiatives include working with young people in rural schools to raise awareness of the ravages of HIV/AIDS and other STDs; providing free cervical cancer screening and treatment; and offering education assistance to poor rural youth while improving basic rural infrastructure. Wirba is known as “Daddy Joe” by many of the women served by CORA.
The CORA director of programs revealed to a group of research journalists that Wirba stopped HAVING breakfast, saving $3 a day for years to raise funds for CORA. The savings later enabled the renting of a bigger office space, as well as paying for school for orphaned kids on the CORA program.
Major CORA Initiatives:
#CORA Cameroon, led by Joe Wirba in collaboration with the CBC HEALTH SERVICES, has screened well over 8500 women for cervical cancer and treated over 700 in the North- and South-West Regions of Cameroon.
#The CORA Youth Health Project has impacted 124 schools and over 45,000 students and other young people in the same two regions.
#The CORA Mother and Child Health Program has brought services to 87 health centers, with more than 5,000 women and 6,500 children.
#Each year, The CORA Back-to-School Program provides books and other learning materials to pupils in the poorest outback areas and farming communities, where kid have little motivation to attend school.
#The CORA Special Conditions Health Assistance Program gives help to women with epilepsy and other life-threatening conditions.
#The CORA Drugs Donation Program offers free authentic medications to poor village health posts with no access to primary health care facilities.
#The CORA Environmental Program plants environmentally friendly trees in school yards, gardens and farms. In the last three years, CORA has planted over 7,500 trees in 110 schools, both primary and secondary.
#CORA Infrastructure Assistance goes to improve the despicable school, health and other key infrastructure shortfalls like sorely needed culverts and bridges in our rural areas.
CORA has 14 paid permanent staff members, 35 volunteers and 50 partners. Partners and collaborators include the BBC Health Services, Councils, local hospitals, health centers, partner NGOs, traditional authorities, and divisional and regional administrations.
CORA is working on extending its outreach to seven other divisions despite its financial limitations.
Marriage and children
Joseph Wirba is husband and father of nine children – 5 biological and 4 adoptive.
Wirba’s affection and devotion to his wife and children, his dedication and commitment to the betterment of human experiences, are deeply rooted in values instilled in him by his mother, Mama Martha Dufe who taught him that, if people have enough love for children, then they would never lack children to abundantly give love to.
Wirba is adamant that doing good comes from a caring human heart and not from religion. He is known to believe that someone’s purse can have billions, but if his or her heart doesn’t have a cent to give the needy, nothing will leave that purse. Wirba places his mother, his family, and his people at the epicenter of his existence and all he does, not religion. It is his core belief that reaching out to those in desperation adds value to their lives, and consequently to his.