Cameroon is in shock and grief after nine children were killed and a dozen were injured in an attack on a school yesterday. For four years, the region has been plagued by a conflict between English-speaking separatists and government forces.
The pictures are hair-raising. Empty wooden benches in the small classroom in the town of Kumba in southwestern Cameroon, on the floor are several dead bodies in puddles of blood. It was here unidentified men, armed with firearms and machetes, suddenly went on the attack yesterday morning. The victims are all school children between the ages of 12 and 14 – several were injured when they tried to jump out of the windows.
No group has undertook the attack, but the government has not hesitated to single out separatists operating in southwestern and northwestern Cameroon. In 2017, a state of its own was proclaimed here – a culmination of a conflict between the English-speaking minority and the ruling French-speaking majority. The state has not been recognized internationally. Several thousand have been killed.
Saturday’s attack is not the first time that children have fallen victim to the war, says Unicef’s representative in Cameroon, Jacques Boyer.
In the affected regions, separatist leaders have often used school closures and curfews as a protest against the government’s military campaigns. At least 800,000 children have lost their education in the last four years, according to Unicef.
But lately, the violence has calmed down. When the semester started a few weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of children dared to return to school at the beginning of the semester, says Jacques Boyer, and that makes this attack extra shameful.