At least 78 students are missing after being kidnapped on Monday in Bamenda, the capital of the North-West region of Cameroon.
Rabat – A government official told the BBC that the 78 students, along with at least three others, including the school’s principal, were abducted on Monday morning. Regional governor Adolphe Lele L’Afrique in a statement said separatist militias were to blame.
Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions have both experienced secessionist movements in recent years. Militias have made calls for independence for the two English-speaking provinces.
The militias rose to prominence in 2017 after Cameroon’s security forces cracked down on protests. Teachers and lawyers led the demonstrations over what they say was the government’s failure to properly recognize the English legal and education systems in the North-West and South-West.
They accused the government of instead favoring the traditional French-speaking system. In response, the militias have called for the creation of a new state named Ambazonia. Cameroon’s English-speaking minority makes up about 20 percent of the country’s total population.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but Reverend Fonki Samuel Forba, the moderator of a Presbyterian church in the area, told the BBC that he had spoken to 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 said. “We hope and pray they release the kids and the teachers.”