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Church condemns attack on school in Cameroon’s restive region

Church leaders have condemned the 24 October attack by unidentified gunmen on a school in Cameroon which left several children dead and others injured. It is thought that the massacre is part of ongoing tensions between Cameroon’s French and English-speaking communities that began in 2016. Sarah-Leah Pimentel reports.

On Saturday, 24 October, unknown gunmen entered a private highschool in Kumbe, in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, and opened fire on children aged between 12 and 14 as they sat at their lessons.

News reports say that at least eight children were killed and a dozen others are receiving hospital treatment for their injuries.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the massacre is thought to be connected to the ongoing violence between Anglophone separatists and the majority Francophone government.

In 2016, violence broke out in Southwest and Northwest regions when the minority English-speaking Cameroonians accused the government of political and economic discrimination and called for reforms. The government responded with force, prompting separatists to seek the autonomy of the Anglophone regions by declaring independence from Yaounde. This led to an escalation of violence and an even harder crackdown by the government.

The Kumbe massacre has heightened tensions in the region, with the authorities blaming the separatists for the attack on a bilingual schools that “represents a united Cameroon.” The local community, however, blames the security forces for the attack.

Catholic Church condemns the attack

The Catholic Diocese of Kumba condemned the attack, describing 24 October as the “darkest and saddest day” since the start of the political crisis in 2016. The diocese called on the government and international community to work to restore peace to the restive regions. It also called for prayers for divine intervention so that “a lasting solution to the crisis” can be found and “justice and peace may reign.

The Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar similarly condemned the attack, saying that “this heinous and despicable act shows no regard for innocent lives which represent the hope for Cameroon and Africa.” The Conference offered its prayers and support for the victims and their families and called for the perpetrators of the attack to “be brought to justice.”

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.