CAPE TOWN – The Cameroonian government has given an official burial ceremony to the seven schoolchildren who were killed in an attack at a school in Kumba in the country’s conflict-ridden South-West region.
The children were killed in their classroom on October 24 at the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy when a group of unidentified armed men stormed the school and opened fire. Thirteen other children were wounded.
The Cameroonian government and armed separatist groups have accused one another of the attack, but no one has yet officially claimed responsibility for the horrific incident, while rights groups have said crimes and abuses have been committed by both sides.
The burial ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute and other representatives.
The UK on Wednesday condemned the recent attacks on educational institutions in Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions, which have been marred by violence since 2017.
“The UK condemns the recent attacks on educational institutions in North-West and South-West, including #Kumba, #Kumbo and #Limbe. Every child has the right to a safe education & every teacher to safety at work. This violence must stop. Those kidnapped must be released unharmed,” the UK embassy in Cameroon tweeted on Wednesday.
Armed men raided the local Presbyterian primary and secondary school in Kumbo on Tuesday, carrying off 11 teachers, said Reverend Samuel Fonki, head of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon, and Stephen Afuh, head of a Presbyterian teachers’ union called PEATTU.
There was no immediate response from the armed forces or the government to the latest incident, according to international news broadcaster Al Jazeera.
On Wednesday, a group of men armed with machetes and guns broke into a school in the coastal city of Limbe in the South-West, according to Turkey-based news agency Anadolu.
It said students and teachers were stripped and locked in a classroom and the fire was immediately lit. Security forces intervened and there were no human casualties.
At least eight students have reportedly been kidnapped in Fundong, North-West Region, on Wednesday.
The central African country has been marred by protests and violence since 2017, with residents in English-speaking regions saying they have been marginalised for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.
They are calling for independence or a federal state.
Violence in the anglophone regions over the past three years has claimed an estimated 3,000 lives and caused the displacement of more than 730,000 civilians, according to Human Rights Watch.
In June, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said that for a second year running Cameroon topped the list as the most neglected crisis on the planet in 2019.
– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Yaron Blecher