Cameroon children freed after kidnapping


Paul Biya's inauguration on Tuesday for a seventh term as Cameroon's president is eclipsed by the search for 79 school pupils kidnapped by English-speaking separatists.

Dozens of people, majority children, have been kidnapped from a school in the city of Bamenda in Cameroon's northwestern Anglophone region, which is struggling with a separatist insurgency. Cameroon is a country still deeply divided by colonial influences of English and French- some of the English minority support the creation of a separate English state in the West called Ambazonia, and in the previous year militias have formed in pursuit of that goal. "You will be going to school now here", say the men who identified themselves as Amba boys.

Separatists in Bamenda, where most of the people speak English, are fighting to form a breakaway state.

Cameroon is split between majority French and minority English speaking regions - a legacy of the United Kingdom and France dividing the country between them after the First World War defeat of the original colonial power Germany.

There has been no official statement from the school authorities and as reporters spoke to the parents, a lot of them believed a number of children who had not been kidnapped were being held by the authorities, something that only piles up their frustration. "Whoever is responsible must release and return the victims immediately", said Ms Samira Daoud, the Amnesty International deputy regional director for West and Central Africa.

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Violence between armed separatists and the Cameroon military have increased over the past year after a government crackdown against protesters who say they are marginalized by the French-speaking government.

"We shall only release you after the struggle".

"I was taken from school last night by the Amba boys", one said, while a heavily accented man shouted at him to "talk louder". The separatists claim that they have been marginalised in Biya's regime.

The priest did not say precisely when the children were freed, or whether any deal had been made with the kidnappers. Armed separatists have even killed teachers who defied instructions to keep schools closed.

Some 79 students were held by gunmen after being seized on Sunday near Bamenda, the capital of the English-speaking northwest region of the country. Global actors - especially the African Union, the United Nations, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States - should unanimously condemn violence against civilians and make clear that no political objective justifies tampering with the right to education and abducting sleeping schoolchildren from their beds.