Armed attackers stormed a private school in the restive southwest region of Limbe in Cameroon on Wednesday and ordered students and teachers to strip naked in a new wave of violence in the Anglophone regions of the country, authorities said.
“After firmly ordering the students and teachers to strip naked, and having subjected them to physical abuse and other physical violence, the assailants ransacked the premises and set a large part of the establishment on fire,” Mr Rene Emmanuel Sadi, Cameroon’s Minister for Communication and government spokesperson said in a statement confirming the attack at the Kulu Memorial College.
The statement said no casualties were recorded during the attack.
Wednesday’s incident happened barely 24 hours after between six and 11 teachers were kidnapped by several gunmen from a mission school in Kumbo in the northwest region of the country.
Rev Samuel Fonki Forba, head of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, in a statement confirmed that armed men “carted away” 11 teachers when they raided Presbyterian primary and secondary schools in Kumbo on Tuesday morning. The Minister of Communication’s statement a day after the incident, however, put the number of teachers kidnapped at six.
There had been no claims of responsibility at the time of this report, but the government has blamed both incidents on armed separatist fighters who have been battling government troops in the Anglophone regions for nearly four years now.
The aforementioned attacks took place less than two weeks after the gruesome killing of seven schoolchildren in Kumba in the southwest region which the government blamed on the armed separatists.
On Saturday, October 24, gunmen stormed the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Kumba and opened fire. Seven students were killed and over a dozen others injured in what Cameroon’s long-serving leader Paul Biya called “horrific murder.”
Cameroon’s Prime Minister, Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute, will represent President Paul Biya at an official burial ceremony of the seven schoolchildren in Kumba.
The government said the “odious and cowardly acts” against students and teachers were tactics by armed separatists who Yaoundé refers to as terrorists to dissuade parents from sending their children to school and to “create psychosis within the educational community.”
Schools and other government institutions have been targeted by armed separatists fighting for the secession of English speakers from the majority French-speaking country and the creation of an English speaking country called Ambazonia.
A declaration of the independence in 2017 met with heavy military crackdown that has escalated into an armed conflict with over 3,000 people killed, according to early 2020 statistics from national and international rights groups.
Schools resumed in Cameroon last month for the 2020/21 academic year after a break imposed by the coronavirus pandemic but, in the Anglophone regions, some schools were opening their doors for the first time in nearly four years.
Armed separatists had enforced a school lockdown as part of measures --including civil disobedience -- to mount pressure on the government to recognise “their country,” Ambazonia.
No fewer than 855,000 children remained out of school, with almost 150,000 having been displaced from their homes and forced into the bush, according to late 2019 figures by Unicef. Some groups on the ground have reported higher figures.
Yaoundé said normalcy was returning to the regions, before schools re-opened on October 5, 2020, but the wave of recent attacks, observers say, goes to show that the region is still volatile.