Schoolchildren, parents and teachers hold a protest after gunmen opened fire at a school in Kumba, Cameroon, October 25 2020. Picture: REUTERS/JOSIANE KOUAGHEU
Schoolchildren, parents and teachers hold a protest after gunmen opened fire at a school in Kumba, Cameroon, October 25 2020. Picture: REUTERS/JOSIANE KOUAGHEU

Kumba —  Gunmen stormed a school in Southwest Region of Cameroon on Saturday and opened fire on the children, killing seven and injuring 12.

On Sunday,  12-year-old  Renny Ngwane died of her wounds sustained in the attack on Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in the city of Kumba. Her father said he saw the gunmen in civilian clothes drive on motorcycles in the direction of the school, and then back after a barrage of gunfire.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, described by the UN as “an atrocity”. The  school year resumed in October, reports said.

It was not clear if the attack was linked to the ongoing struggle between government forces and armed groups that flared  in 2017. What began as protests by people in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon over perceived marginalisation by the dominant French-speaking majority has escalated into violence with separatists demanding independence.

The attack has drawn widespread condemnation and is likely to pile further pressure on the government to do more to end the conflict.

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 Ngwane's father.

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 more than 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 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 in 2020.

Reuters

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