JOSIANE KOUAGHEU and BLAISE EYONG
A 12-year-old girl has died from wounds sustained when gunmen stormed a school in the South West Region of Cameroon on Saturday and opened fire on the children, taking the death toll to seven with 12 injured.
The attack on the school, in the region where separatist insurgents have been battling government forces since 2017, has drawn widespread condemnation and is likely to pile further pressure on the government to do more to end the conflict.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack in the town of Kumba, where the grieving father of the 12-year-old girl said he saw the gunmen drive by on motorcycles in the direction of the school, and then back after a barrage of gunfire.
What began as protests by people in the English-speaking North West and South West regions of Cameroon over perceived marginalisation by the dominant French-speaking majority has escalated into violence with separatists demanding independence.
More than 3,000 people have died since 2017, with both sides regularly accused of committing atrocities.
“I blame the government for everything that is happening,” said Claude Ngwane, whose 12-year old daughter Renny, died from her wounds early on Sunday.
He added that if the Cameroon government would acknowledge that it cannot win a civil war, it would act differently to avoid the escalation of a conflict that has so far displaced over half a million people.
The Cameroon government organised a national dialogue in September 2019 aimed at addressing some of the issues raised by the two regions. But the talks were boycotted by separatists and moderate politicians, and they ended in acrimony.
Since then, the bloodshed has festered unabated, leading to towns and villages in the regions emptying out, and schools closing.
Ngwane, a 36-year old carpenter, said he had sent his daughter to the capital, Yaounde, to complete her primary education due to the conflict. He brought her back to Kumba to start secondary school this year.
He said he was at his work shed near the school when he saw the gunmen, 12 of them on four motorbikes, one armed with a rocket launcher, drive by twice.
“I thought they were just passing. Suddenly we heard sustained gunshots. It lasted for around five minutes, then they drove by again,” he said.
“I went out to see what had happened. I saw my wife and saw a man carrying my daughter. I was confused. I saw my child, blood all over her body. I collapsed,” Ngwane said. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.