The United Nations agency for children is calling for the immediate release of more than 80 people, including students, abducted from a school in one of Cameroon’s Anglophone regions late Sunday.
The overnight attack at a Presbyterian school in the Nkwen district of Bamenda was confirmed by government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary. He told Radio France International that 79 students were taken by an armed group in a coordinated attack, along with the principal and staff members. Most of the students were boys.
Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba, above, told reporters that Anglophone separatists demand that he close the school. Forba is the moderator for the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon.
“UNICEF strongly condemns the reported attack and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all the children abducted,” the agency said in its statement. “UNICEF is deeply concerned about these reported acts of violence. Attacks on schools are a violation of children’s right and schools should be safe spaces and protected at all times.”
UNICEF also expressed concern over the escalating conflict in the English-speaking North West and South West regions of Cameroon, where hundreds have died since activists – led by Cameroonian lawyers, teachers and doctors – began pressing for reforms in October 2016. They wanted to address the political, economic and social frustrations of Anglophone communities, long tied to cultural rifts that date to the colonial era in the primarily French-speaking nation.
The peaceful rallies and protests were met by force under President Paul Biya, and have spiraled into political violence, deaths, mass detentions, repression of journalists and other human rights issues. It also led to the vision of Ambazonia, a secession movement advanced by armed separatists and conflicts that have sent thousands fleeing.
The attack comes less than a week after the death of Charles Wesco, a newly arrived missionary from the United States who was shot not far from Bamenda.