Cameroon: 79 kidnapped school children freed


Source: Fides/WCC

The 79 students of the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda, the capital of one of the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon, kidnapped on 5 November have been freed, but three staff members are still missing.

A church spokesman said the children were left in a Presbyterian church near Bamenda. He said that the students - aged 11 to 17 - "appear tired and psychologically proven".

The kidnappers belong to an English-speaking secessionist group, the 'Amba boys', suspected of having recently committed other abductions regarding students of the school, later released in exchange for a ransom of 2.5 million CFA francs (about 4,000 US dollars).

Because of the kidnapping, the school's management decided to send its 700 pupils home and to suspend classes, stating that the safety of students and school staff "is not guaranteed by the State while armed groups continually attack and abduct them" .

For more than a year the areas of north-west and south-west of Cameroon have been prey to the instability caused by the English-speaking separatists, who have proclaimed secession from the rest of the Country and the creation of an independent state, called Ambazonia.

The violent repression carried out by the military and the clashes between these and the different secessionist groups have caused the death of hundreds of people. Over 200,000 civilians have left the two regions to escape violence and instability.

In September, ahead of the presidential elections held in October, the religious leaders of Cameroon had appealed to the government and political parties to give priority to resolving the crisis in their programs and to return to normalcy in the north-west and southwest.

The appeal was signed by the President of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, Mgr Samuel Kleda, Archbishop of Douala, by Rev Fonki Samuel Forba of the Council of Protestant Churches of Cameroon, and by Sheikh Oumarou Malam, of the Upper Islamic Council of Cameroon.



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