Oct. 26, 2020 (GIN) – A long-running conflict between Cameroon’s French and English speaking communities brought new horror this week with an attack by armed terrorists on a bilingual school that took the lives of six children and left over a dozen seriously injured.
Communications Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi called it “a terrorist act of unbearable cruelty and barbarity”.
African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat condemned the attack in a statement on Twitter Saturday: “There are no words of grief nor condemnation strong enough to articulate my full horror at the brutal attack targeting primary schoolchildren … as they sat learning in their classroom.”
Doctors Without Borders (MSF), whose staff were treating some of the wounded, described the attack as “a reprehensible and indecent act”.
“Civilian structures including schools and hospitals must not be targets,” said Alberto Jodra Marcos, MSF emergency coordinator in the region. “What happened yesterday is beyond anyone’s comprehension,” he told the French news agency AFP.
“There is anger, but there is also fear regarding what is going to happen now. The violence is going to intensify and the civilian population will be in the middle of it, unfortunately,” he added.
On Sunday, a small crowd of people, mainly women, gathered to march and protest the killings.
Some children reportedly jumped from second-story windows. Videos circulating on social media appeared to show adults rushing from the school with children in their arms, surrounded by wailing onlookers.
The country’s northwest and southwest regions have been gripped by conflict since separatists declared independence in 2017 after decades of grievances at perceived discrimination by the French speaking majority.
According to Human Rights Watch, both armed groups and government forces are guilty of widespread human rights abuses. Freedom of expression, association, and assembly continued to be curtailed after President Paul Biya, 86, won his seventh term in October 2018, in elections marred by low voter turnout and allegations of fraud.
Also speaking out was the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee which in a resolution urged Cameroon to initiate “a credible, inclusive, good-faith effort to end the armed conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions by addressing the root causes of the crisis and grievances and seeking nonviolent solutions to resolve the conflict, including possibly involving an independent mediator in negotiations.”