By Tata Mbunwe
Three students and a language teacher have been reported dead after gunmen broke into Government Bilingual High School, GBHS Ekondo Titi, Southwest Region, early Wednesday, Nov 24.
Preliminary statements from eyewitnesses identify the hoodlums as separatist fighters. The attackers blew explosives to break into the school campus, before killing three students and a female French language tutor at about 7:40am. Some say this is linked to the recent declarations by Christopher Anu, the spokesperson for one of the separatist factions, who called for a total shutdown of schools in the English-speaking Regions.
Innocent children pay the ultimate price
Witnesses say bullets from the gunmen killed two male students and one female student on the spot, while the French Language teacher, whose name MMI got as Song Celestin Fien, died at a Baptist Health Centre in Ekondo Titi, after being shot while in class.
Though difficult to independently confirm their identities, the students killed have thus far been named as: Emmanuel Orume, 12; Joyceline Iken, 16; and Kum Emmanuel, 17.
Before disappearing to where they came from, reports say the gunmen took with them some students and teachers after committing the atrocity.
Some other students were injured during the attack as they struggled to escape from the scene where loud sounds of explosives emanated. Pictures that have been circulated on social media show sections of classrooms ripped off by the explosives detonated.
Not an isolated attack
Today’s incident adds to a wave of bloody attacks that have resurfaced against civilians in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, in a conflict pitting Ambazonia independence fighters against Cameroon government forces.
The attack comes exactly a year and one month since a similar attack on a school in Kumba, on 24 October 2020, left seven school children dead and several others injured. The attack on Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Fiango, Kumba, was blamed on separatist fighters and a Cameroon military court slammed the death penalty on four suspects in September this year.
The recent Ekondo Titi killings are occurring at the same locality where Chief Esoh Itoh, former Paramount ruler of the Balondos, was pulled out of a church on a Sunday morning and killed by gunmen.
Earlier this year, separatist fighters kidnapped five divisional delegates who were on a visit to Ekondo Titi Subdivision, with one having been killed so far and the whereabouts of others still unknown.
Government failure to protect children
The responsibility for the safety of children so far rests with the Cameroonian authorities, who have failed in every regard to put structures in place to protect them. The many instances of children killed either in or out of school, have received very little action from the government to prevent a repeat.
Without a lasting solution to the ongoing conflict, it is feared that the lives of children and women will remain precarious as both factions show blatant disregard for the international principles and norms governing armed conflict.