Gunmen Storm Cameroon School, Kill Eight Children
According to the United Nations, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the bilingual school in Kumba, but the area has been caught up in violence between Anglophone separatists and government forces for three years.
Local UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated that;
At least eight children were killed as a result of gunshots and attack with machetes at the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy.
Another twelve were wounded and taken to local hospitals.
The attack, according to UN, would make it one of the worst such attacks in the region to date.
A source close to police added that the children were killed when a “group of nine terrorist assailants” stormed the school and opened fire on pupils aged between nine and 12 years.
Reacting to this, President of the African Union Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed;
There are no words for the grief nor condemnation strong enough to express my horror at the brutal attack which targeted primary school children while they were sitting learning, in their classroom.
On his part, Cameroon Public Health Minister, Malachie Manaouda noted;
I unreservedly condemn the acts of barbarism committed in Kumba. Murdering children is to attack the very foundations of our nation.
Two English-speaking regions of Cameroon, Southwest and Northwest provinces, have long chaffed against perceived discrimination from the country’s French-speaking majority.
The regions have become the centre of a conflict involving separatist militants who have targeted the army and demanded local government offices and schools close.
Fighting has claimed more than 3,000 lives and forced over 700,000 people to flee their homes since 2017. Authorities did not blame any group for Saturday’s attack.
Chamberlin Ntou’ou Ndong, prefect of the Meme department where the Kumba school is located, vowed however that “these people will be caught whatever it takes. I repeat, whatever it takes”.
In early September, the army launched its latest operation against militants in the Northwest region.
Since it began, the movement became more radicalised, and separatists renamed the regions the Republic of Ambazonia, which has never been recognised internationally.
Arrey Elvis Ntui, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group in Cameroon noted that their strategy included a school boycott, stressing;
Around 700,000 young people were excluded from the school system owing to the conflict.
The government and anglophone civil society have put a lot of pressure on separatist groups to allow their children to go back to school, and some that had closed in recent years have begun to resume classes again.
Last year, two students were killed by separatists in Buea, the capital of Southwest Region in what an official described as “reprisal” for opposing the forced school closures.
In 2018, insurgents killed a principal, mutilated a teacher and attacked several high schools.
Separatists have also increasingly resorted kidnappings and extortion, along with attacks on troops and police, and arson assaults on public buildings and schools.
The government has responded with a crackdown, deploying thousands of soldiers.