Teachers kidnapped in troubled Cameroon region
Between six and 11 teachers have been kidnapped from a school in a western Cameroon region gripped by a three-year-old armed campaign by anglophone separatists, local sources said.
The abduction comes on the heels of the killing of seven schoolchildren, which the government has blamed on militants.
The incident happened on Tuesday in Kumbo, in Cameroon’s Northwest Region.
Armed men raided the local Presbyterian primary and secondary school, taking away 11 teachers, said Reverend Samuel Fonki, head of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon, and Stephen Afuh, head of a presbyterian teachers’ union called PEATTU.
A local official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that six teachers had been kidnapped.
There was no immediate response from the armed forces or government to a request for comment.
In October 2017, anglophone militants declared an independent state in the Northwest Region and neighbouring Southwest Region, home to the most of the anglophone minority in the majority French-speaking country.
The declaration, which has not been recognised internationally, sparked a brutal conflict with the security forces.
More than 3,000 people have been killed and more than 700,000 have fled their homes. Rights groups say crimes and abuses have been committed by both sides.
Schools and other institutions deemed to be emblems of the Cameroonian state have been repeatedly targeted for attacks and kidnappings, often for ransom.
On October 24, seven children were shot dead in their classroom in Kumba, in the Southwest Region.
In that attack, the government in Yaounde described the armed men as separatists “scaring off parents from sending their children to school.”
The killings have not been claimed.
In November 2019, the UN children’s agency Unicef estimated that 855,000 children were without schooling in the two anglophone regions.
Around 90 percent of state primary schools and 77 percent of state secondary schools were either closed or non-operational at that time.
Anglophones account for about four million of Cameroon’s 23 million population.
Their presence is explained by the decolonisation process in West Africa some 60 years ago.
In 1961, a British-ruled territory, the Southern Cameroons, voted to join the newly independent former French colony of Cameroon. The Northern Cameroons joined Nigeria.
There has been decades-long resentment among anglophones in Cameroon at perceived discrimination in such areas as education, the economy and law.
Demands by moderates for reform and greater autonomy were rejected by the central government, leading to the declaration of independence as radicals became ascendant in the anglophone movement.