Southern Cameroons: Details Emerging on Saturday School Shooting Spree that Left Six Children Dead and Several Others Injured
It is 11 am Saturday, October 24. School kids at the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy Kumba, Southern Cameroons are seated in class, in pursuit of knowledge. Then over ten unidentified gun-toting and machete-wielding men strike. They shoot at some and slaughter others. Six children, between 12 and 14 years lie dead, in their pools of blood.
A macabre video circulating on social media shows the last kicks of a dying girl-her chest cut open and video watchers bear witness to her last heartthrobs.
The same video also shows the brain of a child strewn on the blood-stained floor, and some shoes left behind by the dead kids. One left behind a Mickey Mouse jacket. Then, a water bottle and a food container are found at the centre of the class.
Thirteen of the children are now battling for life in various hospitals around the area, but the nature of their wounds offers little hope.
“My wife and I were in the house when a little girl rushed in shouting: ‘Pastor! Pastor! Your son has been shot! Victory is dead,” said a parent to one of the kids.
“I rushed to the school and saw him lying there: dead. He was one of the three children who died on the spot,” he said.
The killings have sparked national and international outrage. The People’s Action Party called it “appalling and gruesome.”
Barrister Akere Muna said it was “Unimaginable and unacceptable!”
“What happened in Kumba should wake us all up. What barbaric instinct can push anyone to go to a school and randomly fire at kids, killing some? Is this who we have become? Numbered by savagery and mayhem we are slowly losing our humanity. To the mothers who are struck with lifeless bodies and all those families forced into mourning, we offer our condolences and our prayers. Suffering and mourning have to stop being the lot of some citizens only,” he twitted.
Barrister Agbor Balla of the Africa Center for Human Rights and Democracy said “It is unacceptable for anyone or groups of persons to harass, attack, and or kill children. It is a fundamental right for children to be educated….”
Barrister Charles Taku, a former President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association- ICCBA wrote: “this senseless slaughter of civilians, children, in particular, must stop, and the perpetrators held accountable. These acts of impunity must not go unpunished. The massacre of these children adds to a long list of civilians killed in this senseless war. It warrants the intervention of the UNSC to establish a transitional justice mechanism to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of this and other crimes against civilians and civilian targets in the ongoing genocidal campaign in the Southern Cameroons. The fact that no credible investigations and Prosecutions have occurred despite the widespread and systematic nature of the crimes is a slur on the conscience of the civilized world. The international community can no longer sit back while the responsibility for these crimes is determined by speculative war propaganda. Submitting to this subterfuge will give tacit blessings to impunity. The UNSC should urgently intervene and send an urgent fact-finding mission with a robust independent investigation authority. Doing so, will foster the objectives of the UN and international justice,” said.
While condemning the killings and offering condolences to the families of the dead, the US Embassy in Yaounde has in a statement said that the “heinous, despicable act shows contempt for innocent lives which most represent the hope of a positive future. The violence must stop now, and children should be allowed to exercise their right to go to school without fear for their safety. The perpetrators of the attack must be held accountable and be brought to justice”.
“I am shocked and outraged by the killing of innocent school children [who] were attending school to get an education,” said Matthias Z Naab, the UN’s Resident Humanitarian Coordinator in Cameroon.
“Children have a right to education. Violence against schools and innocent school children is not acceptable under any circumstances and can constitute a crime against humanity, if proven in a court of law. I call on the competent authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into this tragedy,” he added.
African Union Commission Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat twitted: “There are no words of grief nor condemnation strong enough to articulate my full horror at the brutal attack targeting primary schoolchildren … as they sat learning in their classroom.”
The Senior Divisional Officer for Meme, Chamberlain Ntuo’Ndong has promised hard times for the killers. “We are going to track down the killers and bring them to justice,” he said.
“They may run, but we are behind them,” he added. He said he could not understand how gunmen could come into a school in broad daylight, kill children and go away with the local population looking on. While committing to taking up his own gun in pursuit of the killers, the Administrator also called on the population to rise up against “the Amba boys,” a reference to Southern Cameroons armed groups seeking to restore the independence of the former UN Trust Territory.
The Cameroon Communication Minister in a release said the government was shocked and deeply outraged by the killings.
“The Government is of the opinion that no cause in the world can justify or legitimize such systematic attacks on the life of human beings, not to talk of the lives of innocent children, pupils, or students, who should attend school, college, high school, university, be educated and be able to look after themselves, and be able to conveniently take over from their elders tomorrow!” Mr. Said wrote.
He blamed the attack on pro-independence movements, fueled by “fellow citizens, who, lurking in the shadows abroad, in their host countries, mastermind these unspeakable assassinations and fuel the climate of insecurity in the North-West and South-West Regions.”
As has often been the case when such acts occur in the region, Mr. Sadi called on the countries harbouring the ‘sponsors’ of the ‘separatist war' in Cameroon, as well as international humanitarian organizations to “help track down these armed groups, so as to ease and consolidate the pacification process of the North-West and South-West Regions”.
But the pro-independence groups have rejected the notion that they carried out the attack. Raymond Akoson, the Spokesperson of the Ambazonia Governing Council has in a statement instead accused security forces of carrying out the killing.
“There’s palpable and overwhelming evidence that the terrorist forces of French Cameroon are to blame for this heinous act. The signature and fingerprints of Cameroon’s occupation forces are conspicuous,” the statement reads.
The Ambazonia Governing Council’s statement is not so different from another issued by the Southern Cameroons Civil Society Consortium (also known as the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium), which brings to light some facts that likely suggest the military carried out the attack.
The Consortium’s release reads in part: “The Consortium…notes with regret that local administrators of the Cameroon government and the military have been promoting an unfortunate slogan: No Government Schools, No Mission and Private Schools across Southern Cameroons…We have received complaints from Church leaders and private school proprietors on how local administrators, in the company of soldiers in Ngoketunjia, Bui, Meme and Manyu, storm their schools, brutalize teachers and Clergy and carry school children away in armoured cars to government school premises where there are no teachers and force them to sing the Cameroon Anthem”.
The Communication Minister refutes the allegations as false, accusing the “armed bands” of “unscrupulously tending to push the blame of all sorts of atrocities against the populations of the North-West and South-West Regions, like the horrific attack of today, on the Cameroonian Armed Forces, through endless campaigns of false propaganda through social media. As it is, there is no doubt that the terrorist attack committed in Kumba this day, reflects the disarray and rout of these separatist armed bands, as to the resolve of the educational community, notably, the parents, teachers and students, to defy their threats and slogans, in deciding to resume classes in their respective localities, in accordance with the recommendations and prescriptions of the government of the Republic…the objective of these separatists is to break the fresh impetus observed in the resumption of classes as part of the start of the 2020/2021 school year in the North-West and South-West Regions, and to thereby dissuade parents from sending their children to school”.
This is not the first time such hideous acts perpetrated in the region resulted in a blame game between the government and pro-independence groups. On February 14, 2020, over 20 children and women, among them a pregnant woman were brutally slaughtered in Ngarbuh, a locality some 185 km away from Bamenda, leading to accusations and counteraccusations. Months later, a commission of inquiry committed by the Cameroon government established that the country’s military in coaction with some local Fulani armed individuals carried out the attack.