Several teachers have been kidnapped from a school in a western Cameroon region gripped by years of armed uprising by anglophone separatists, a local teachers’ union told the AFP news agency.
Armed men raided the local presbyterian primary and secondary school in Kumbo, taking away 11 teachers, said Reverend Samuel Fonki, head of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon, and Stephen Afuh, head of a presbyterian teachers’ union called PEATTU.
A local official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP six teachers had been kidnapped.
There was no immediate response from the armed forces or government on the latest incident.
The abduction came on the heels of the killing of eight schoolchildren in Kumba in the neighbouring Southwest Region last month, which the government blamed on the separatists.
In that attack, the government in Yaounde described the armed men as separatists “scaring off parents from sending their children to school”.
No group has claimed responsibility for the killings so far.
In October 2017, anglophone fighters declared an independent state in the Northwest Region and Southwest Region, home to the most of the anglophone minority in the majority French-speaking country.
The declaration, which has not been recognised internationally, sparked a brutal conflict with the country’s security forces.
More than 3,000 people have been killed and 700,000 fled their homes. Rights groups say crimes and abuses have been committed by both sides.
Schools and other institutions representing the Cameroonian state have been repeatedly targeted for attacks and kidnappings, often for ransom.
In November 2019, the UN children’s fund, UNICEF, estimated that 855,000 children were without schooling in the two anglophone regions.
About 90 percent of the country’s primary schools and 77 percent of secondary schools were either closed or non-operational at that time.
Anglophones account for about four million of Cameroon’s 23 million population. Their presence is explained by the decolonisation process in West Africa some 60 years ago.
In 1961, the Southern Cameroons, a British-ruled territory, voted to join the newly independent former French colony of Cameroon. The Northern Cameroons joined Nigeria.
There have been decades-long resentment among anglophones in Cameroon at perceived discrimination in education, economy and law.
Demands by moderates for reform and greater autonomy were rejected by the central government, leading to the declaration of independence by the hardline separatists.