BFF-59 79 school pupils abducted in restive anglophone Cameroon

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CAMEROON-UNREST-ABDUCTION

79 school pupils abducted in restive anglophone Cameroon

YAOUND, Nov 5, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Seventy-nine school students were
kidnapped on Monday in an English-speaking region of Cameroon where
separatists are fighting an armed campaign for independence, a government
source said.

The students were abducted along with their principal, a teacher and a
driver, the official said, as a source at the school confirmed the kidnapping
of the pupils.

They were enrolled at the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda,
capital of Cameroon’s Northwest Region — one of two regions hit by attacks
by anglophone militants that have met with a brutal crackdown by the
authorities.

“The search for the hostages has been launched — every man has been
called in,” the government source said, speaking after a crisis meeting.

The kidnapping — the gravest incident so far in 13 months of unrest —
coincides with an upsurge of political tensions in the majority French-
speaking country.

It comes after elections on October 7 that saw President Paul Biya, 85,
who has ruled the country with an iron fist for 35 years, secure a seventh
term in office.

Biya was credited with 71.3 percent of the vote, although the ballot was
marred by allegations of widespread fraud, low voter turnout and violence.

He takes his oath of office on Tuesday.

Around a fifth of Cameroon’s 22 million people are English-speaking — a
minority whose presence dates back to the colonial period.

Cameroon, once a German colony, was divided between Britain and France
after World War I.

The French colony gained independence in 1960, becoming Cameroon. The
following year, the British-ruled Southern Cameroons was amalgamated into it,
giving rise to the Northwest and Southwest regions.

But resentment at perceived discrimination at the hands of the francophone
majority, especially in education and the judiciary, began to build.

In 2016, demands for greater autonomy grew but met with a rebuff by Biya.

As radicals took ascendancy, the anglophone movement declared the creation
of the “Republic of Ambazonia” in the Northwest and neighbouring Southwest
Region on October 1, 2017.

No country has recognised the self-declared state.

The separatists have gunned down troops and police, boycotted and torched
schools and attacked other perceived symbols of the Cameroonian state.

The authorities have responded with a massive crackdown by police and
troops.

At least 400 civilians have been killed this year as well as more than 175
members of the security forces, according to a toll compiled by non-
governmental organisations.

According to UN figures, 246,000 people in the Southwest Region have fled
their homes, and 25,000 have sought shelter in neighbouring Nigeria, many of
them living hand-to-mouth in the forests.

Estimates of displaced people in the Northwest Region are not available.

BSS/AFP/BZC/1945HRS