Joseph Wirba, an opposition member of the Cameroon national assembly from the Anglophone Northwest region, has gone missing.
The Africa Review reports that Mr. Wirba was absent from the opening session of the 2017 legislative year on Monday. Local media outlets reported that he fled the country in fear of being arrested for his activism on behalf of the rights of English-speaking Cameroonians.
The legislator was allegedly last seen in public last week.
Mr. Wirba, a member of the opposition Social Democratic Front, made waves in Cameroon after delivering a two-hour speech in parliament denouncing the government’s marginalization of Cameroon’s Anglophone community. He vowed that the oppressed Anglophones would resist all attempts by the government to infringe upon their rights.
The maverick politician then organized a rally in support of Anglophone rights, attended by some 5,000 people. He reiterated his message delivered to parliament, urging those present to fight for Anglophone rights and resist further marginalization.
English-speaking Cameroonians have been protesting since October 2016 demanding greater autonomy from the majority-Francophone government. The demands range from a return to the federalist system, which was scrapped in 1972, and complete secession from the Cameroonian state.
As the protests escalated the Paul Biya government began cracking down on dissidents. Prominent Anglophone activists were arrested and detained in unknown locations. In an attempt to silence the protesters, the government issued a ban on the internet in primarily Anglophone regions, leaving millions of Cameroonians without internet access for over fifty days.