The volatile situation in Cameroon is increasingly taking ugly turns as 79 students were abducted from their school by separatist militias in the country's North West city, Bamenda, which is also the capital of the North West region.
79 students and three other people, including the principal, were kidnapped on Monday from a boarding school in Bamenda. A government official revealed to the CNN how the events unfolded. Louis Marie Begne, spokesman for Cameroon's Northwest government, said the men entered the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda, overwhelmed the guard and forced him to take them to the sleeping children.
A huge search involving Cameroon's military has now begun. Cameroon is currently reeling under secessionist rebellious fights in the North West and South West regions. Separatist militias want the creation of a new state called Ambazonia. They want the separation of these English-speaking regions from Cameroon.
So far, no single group has said it carried out the kidnapping at Bamenda's Presbyterian Secondary School, which has pupils aged between 10 and 14. There is a video being circulated on social media showing some of the children kidnapped, who look terrified and nervous. They only say they have been taken by the "Amba Boys" (short for Ambazonia) and that they do not know where they have been taken to. They say out their names and where they come from.
The militias only want the schools to be closed down. They are calling for a boycott of schools in these English-speaking regions. The Right Reverend Fonki Samuel Forba, who is the moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, told the BBC that he had spoken to the kidnappers.
"They don't want any ransom. All they want is for us to close the schools. We have promised to close down the schools," he told the BBC. "We hope and pray they release the kids and the teachers," he added.
The separatists say that the French system suffocates the English educational system in these two regions inherited from the British. Hence, this is not the first time that abductions have happened in the area. On 19 October, five students of the Atiela Bilingual High School were taken by unidentified gunmen. Their whereabouts are still unknown.
President Paul Biya, who recently won the elections in Cameroon for a seventh term, does not entertain talks of separation. He has been accused of using excessive military force on those who call for separation. The complaint of the French government marginalizing the English-speaking region takes centre stage and is the root cause of all this chaos.
Speaking of the root causes, the BBC postulate, "The government was accused of relying heavily on people trained in the French legal and educational tradition to work in key posts and generally marginalising Cameroon's English-speaking minority, who make up about 20% of the population."
Header Image Credit: CNN
Sources: CNN and BBC