Eight children were killed and a dozen others wounded Saturday in an attack on their classroom at a school in English-speaking Cameroon. The attack has not yet been claimed and the attackers have been identified by the authorities. The Prime Minister held an emergency meeting on Saturday.
“A brutal attack”, “acts of barbarism”, “an absolute horror,” political leaders expressed their indignation after the terrorist act on Saturday, October 24 in a school in English-speaking Cameroon, in conflict for nearly three years. Eight children were killed and a dozen others wounded in this attack.
Around 11:00 a.m. local time, “a group of nine terrorist assailants” burst into the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy, before opening fire on the pupils present in the classroom, aged 9 to 12, according to a source close to the police.
Opposition leader Maurice Kamto spoke of “absolute horror”. “How many more deaths are needed for a political solution to bring peace in the NOSO (North-West and South-West, the two English-speaking regions),” he reacted, while the Cameroonian Prime Minister held an emergency meeting after the attack.
For nearly three years, separatist groups and the army have been fighting each other in the two Cameroonian regions of North-West and South-West, where most of the English-speaking minority lives, some of whom feel marginalized by the French-speaking majority of the country.
“There are no words for grief and no condemnation strong enough to express all my horror at the brutal attack on primary school children as they sat, learning, in their classrooms,” tweeted African Union chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.
Schools already targeted
“I unreservedly condemn the barbaric acts committed today in Kumba. Assassinating children who are going to learn is attacking the very foundations of our Nation” reacted the Minister of Public Health of Cameroon, Malachie Manaouda.
“The boycott of schools was a strategy of the separatists in recent years. About 700,000 young people were outside the school system because of the conflict,” Arrey Elvis Ntui, senior analyst of the International Crisis Group in Cameroon, told AFP.
“The government and English-speaking civil society have put a lot of pressure on the separatist groups to get their children back to school, and schools that had been closed for years have started to reopen,” he continued.
Schools had been a target in the recent past, but never before had there been a massacre on such a scale. In mid-May, a teacher at the University of Bamenda in the northwest was shot dead by separatists for refusing to stop teaching, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Kumba’s attack has not yet been claimed and the attackers have not yet been officially identified by the authorities.
“These people (the attackers) will be caught by all means. I say by all means,” nevertheless warned Chamberlin Ntou’ou Ndong, prefect of the department of La Mémé, who was affected by the attack.
He also insisted that the school was “undeclared” and that he would give instructions that “all schools in the department of La Mémé be declared” for security reasons.
An unstable region
Fighting in English-speaking Cameroon, but also atrocities and killings of civilians by both sides, according to many NGOs, have caused more than 3,000 deaths and forced more than 700,000 people to flee their homes.
“The security forces and armed separatists have repeatedly, each on their own side, attacked hospitals and medical staff” in recent months, said the NGO HRW in July.
Accusations of abuses by the army have also increased in recent years.
In June, three Cameroonian soldiers had been charged with the “murder” in February of civilians, including 10 children, in the English-speaking part of Cameroon.