Scores of School Children killed in Cameroon as Anglophone Crisis Worsens
At least six children have been killed by unidentified gunmen in the Anglophone Cameroon town of Kumba, South West region. The incidence occurred on Saturday as the children were met in their classroom studying by the heavily armed men who also wounded 13 others. Condemnations have come from all over the world including the United Nations, the African Union, European Union, United States and many others. The United States government which has been under pressure to use its leverage on the Cameroon government to initiate fruitful negotiation between the two warring sites went further to call for an end to the four year conflict.
According to the government of Cameroon, the attacks were perpetrated by Ambazonia activists fighting for a separate Anglophone state from the majority francophone Cameroon. Speaking immediately after the incidence, Communication Minister and Government spokesman, Rene Emmanuel Sadi said government would increase security in the town of Kumba while urging countries harbouring Ambazonia activists to arrest and repatriate them back to Cameroon. Meanwhile, the jailed leader of the Ambazonia Interim Government (IG), Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe has blamed the Cameroon government forces for committing the attack to tarnish the image of his movement. He cited other attacks including the Ngarbuh Valentine’s day attack in the Anglophone North West region wherein after pressure government soldiers admitted of having killed at least 22 persons mostly children and women.
However, horrific the attack may seem, such killings have become the daily realities of minority English speaking Cameroonians since 2016 when the conflict started. Many of these killings go unnoticed or far from public view. News of this latest attack easily hit media organs and social media sites because Kumba is the economic nerve centre of the region dotted with a certain degree of infrastructure including communication arsenals. It took days before the Ngarbuh incident could be uncovered when some of the evidence had been tampered because of its enclave nature, just like many others which go unreported. And after that a military base was created in the area which itself has not healed the hearts of the people but a source of more tension. More militarization has been transformed to more bloodshed especially in rural areas wherein ferocious and unreported battles and human rights abuses take place every day without any reflection on the real cause of the conflict.
The Kumba incidence is happening exactly one year after the Major National Dialogue organized by the government to seek solutions to the conflict. However, the meeting was largely boycotted by Ambazonia activists accusing the Cameroon government of bad faith and insincerity and a trap for them to be arrested. 12 months after, even the political smoke-screen solutions adopted void of touching on the root causes of the conflict have not been implemented. According to Sisiku Julius Ayuk, only negotiations in a neutral country, supervised by a third party and in the presence of the UN can guarantee a sustainable peace.
Just like many other incidences in the past, the Kumba tragedy has received an avalanche of condemnation from around the world; however, it all ends at the level of messages without concrete actions to end the bloodshed and transcend the conflict. And a month after this the conflict would be eclipsed from global view and it would only take another bloodshed for similar messages to be received. Meanwhile, countries like the United States can save the bloodshed and messages by using their influence on the Cameroon government to initiate a third-party mediated negotiation. It would be less costly in all ramifications and void of bloodshed. The international community must avoid the politicking over the Cameroon case which is costing the lives of human beings especially the less privileged, and act now to avoid another genocide before responding with condolence messages which, though welcomed are unable to pay for lives and property lost.
In 2016, Common Law Lawyers and Teachers of English expression in Cameroon organized peaceful demonstrations decrying the “marginalization” of minority Anglophones by successive Francophone governments in Cameroon. They called for reforms including a return to the 1961 Federation which guaranteed autonomy for Anglophones and likewise for Francophones under a Federal political canopy. Government responded with violence and one year after, activists took up arms demanding for a separate state for Anglophones called Ambazonia. Since then, thousands have been killed by both government and Ambazonia separatists with human rights groups accusing the government of burning over 200 villages. With the shaky political situation currently in Cameroon as a whole, and Boko Haram insurgents very active in the North of the country, the country risks crumbling with disastrous consequences in the West and Central Africa sub-regions.