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After students kidnapped, Cameroon bishop said ‘only crime’ was providing education

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon Crux | About 170 students at a Catholic school were taken by separatists in Cameroon earlier this month and later regained their freedom.

Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo

Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo told Crux that the kidnappers complained that the school was not abiding by Anglophone separatists’ call for a school boycott.

“That is the crime we have committed: Allowing children to go to school,” the bishop said.

According to a diocesan statement, unidentified gunmen came into the campus of Saint Augustine’s College shortly after 6 a.m. on Feb. 16 and abducted 170 students, 2 college security guards, one teacher and three of his children.

“The children were in the dormitory and they (the attackers) first picked the girls, and by the time they got to the boys’ dormitory, some of them had hid themselves in the ceiling. So, only 15 boys were taken. The rest were girls,” Nkuo told Crux.

The bishop said they took the students “without a single gunshot.”

Nkuo said the children were shepherded “far off into the forest, about 30 kilometers, on foot.”

Asked whether the students were ill-treated by their captors, the bishop answered in the negative.

“From the echoes I got while they were still out there, they were well treated. They were given good breakfast – rice – and they even commented that there was some good meat inside.”

Nkuo said the children and the staff were released in the evening of Feb. 17.

He said the release was “a big relief” for him as their bishop, but an even “bigger relief for the parents.”

“I could see pain and anxiety; the parents were so traumatized. They weren’t sure whether the children would come back alive or dead. There is great joy, great celebration to see them all return,” the bishop said.

“We managed to recover all of them, they are back in school and the parents have come and collected them. It was a very difficult and horrible experience for the parents,” he said, “a good number of them (the children) have had a very difficult experience. Some of them were crying, some could barely walk, and some even fainted.”

The bishop said he was horrified with how the children looked when they returned.

“It’s painful, very painful indeed to see the state in which the children came back looking worn out with swollen feet,” he said.

Quizzed on whether the church paid any ransom to secure the release of the children, the bishop blurted out: “Ransom to whom? No, no, for God’s sake, we paid no ransom.”

The Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon are majority English-speaking, a legacy of the colonial history of the country: Cameroon was originally German, but after World War I the defeated country transferred it to the allies, and it was divided between France and Britain.

At independence, the two parts were reunited, and currently about 20 percent of the country’s nearly 25 million people is anglophone. The Catholic Church is the largest religious group in the country, representing about 40 percent of all Cameroonians.

In October 2016, strikes by lawyers and teachers over perceived attempts by the Francophone administration to assimilate the legal and educational systems practiced in the two English-speaking regions turned violent, and morphed into rising demands by Anglophone Cameroonians for independence.

The government has been accused of razing entire villages and extrajudicial killings in their hunt for separatists, who are calling on the English-speaking areas to form a new country, called ‘Ambazonia.’

Separatists have also been accused of atrocities, and have attacked Cameroonian security forces, and kidnapped opponents for ransom.

The militants have also called for a school boycott and have enforced their demands with violence.

Nkuo said Kumbo has been infested by several separatist groups making the school environment very dangerous for students.

“Most of the parents have taken their children home because it is no more safe for the kids here.”

As a result, the bishop has now closed down the school.

“We have no choice other than to close down the school. That has been our only crime: That children are going to school,” he said. “I close this college with deep tears and regrets. That the children are deprived of the great opportunity to excel is something that we really worry about.”

Nkuo said he was grateful to all the sympathizers and persons of goodwill who gave the community moral support in these two days of “grave concern and anxiety.”

It’s not the first time the school has come under attack. Some months back, the principal was taken, along with some members of staff. On Feb. 12, some students and staff were taken by yet another group.

The latest kidnapping happened barely three months after nearly 80 students were kidnapped by suspected separatists in a Presbyterian school in the regional capital, Bamenda.

On Monday, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, reportedly offered to mediate in the conflict when meeting with Cameroonian officials on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.

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11 comments

  1. Any news coming from Crux news outlet is filled with suspicion. La republic agent. How can schools be going on in the mist of a war?

  2. Who kidnapped Barrister Fru John Nsoh and why? Is it only students kidnapping that matter?

  3. You jungle folks must understand that forbidding education is not the solution it will rather deeper your chronic idiocy people claim to be educated and they reason the way we have been seeing talk less of prohibiting school??

  4. You jungle folks must understand that forbidding education is not the solution it will instead deeper your chronic idiocy people claim to be educated and they reason the way we have been seeing for the past two years talk less of prohibiting School?

  5. Kumbo and most of Nso has been burnt down by the tribal militia.
    The homes of said parents and even some of the parents have been burnt down in their homes.
    They want us to believe the tribal militia cares so much about the children being in school that’s why they kill their parents, burn down their homes and villages.
    When a government refuses to make a simple structural reform as English in classrooms and Courtrooms in Anglophone Cameroon but prefers google translate Francophones to mis-educate your children, then declare war on your parents, who can believe that the Yaoundé tribal government cares about these kids!
    Mr. bishop do you think it is responsible to open the school and collect fees from parents without being able to protect their children from Ongoing war around them?

  6. Fan of Makontripipo-com

    @Chongwah the wonderful international idiot?

    How can people eat and drink during war? If people can eat drink and have sex during war, why can they not study (attend school) during war?

    @Amba Pikin another wonderful international idiot

    You are free to report the kidnap of Barrister Fru John Nsoh if you think it is news worthy! You may want to contact Ebenezer Akwanga the kidnap boss who masterminded the kidnap and extortion of funds from Father Jude-Thaddeus Langeh Basebang, a Claretian Missionary, Deacon Placid Muntong and a Cetian student.

    @Lum the delusional and wonderful international idiot

    When a group of terrorist conmen decide to abolish education for the poor, the government has the moral duty to annihilate the terrorists and their enablers.

  7. Fan of Makontripipo-com

    @Lum,

    Your question to the Bishop is extremely stupid!

    Boarding schools were not created to protect students from terrorists! The Bishop has provided a conducive environment for students to learn on the school campus.

    The forces of law and order are responsible for providing nation wide security and protecting all citizens from terrorist attacks and kidnappings! The government is doing a great job of identifying and annihilating these terrorist scum bags and will keep on doing that.

    Do not pretend that you do not know that only the very poor children are prevented from going to school because any parent who can afford to has sent their children to the French provinces to go continue their studies. THAT IS PLAIN EVIL!

    Lum you are nothing but an evil wonderful international idiot!

  8. What would have happened, if any stodent was killed? Let the Bishop, shut up because no
    student was killed. This is war time and the nonsense of `providing education` is a misplaced
    priority for now. These are the same people preaching the gospel of obedience and yet, they
    are the first and highest in going against it. Church my foot. Did Biya not pass through seminary
    etc? Who is busy, targeting and killing all the youths because they dared to protest, even with
    peace plants? One of the guys who ran with mountain race, carried a peace plant. No one
    has threatened his life. What a paradox. For once, people should be able to see and learn
    from the hypocracy of these church peoples. Obedience, is a divine principle.

  9. The education is useless anyway because Anglophone education is substandard. Is that not why only an exconvict allegedly as Atanga Nji is referred to can be a minister of interior.
    We know all those Anglophone children will never be good enough for power in larepublique so what’s the point?
    Aluta continua

  10. Everyone, knows that it is not too late to learn. When Biya declared war on those children,
    he did not forget this fact, please. Stop being an appologist for the `love of money`, Bishop
    G Nkuo.

  11. Fan of Makontripipo-com

    @Joshua the wonderful international idiot

    According to your logic the students were kidnapped by ambazombie terrorists because Biya declared war on the children! That is absolute stupidity!

    The Bishop complains that students and teachers were kidnapped from his school by Ambazombie terrorists and your conclude that he is being an apologist for “the love of money”. That is more than absolute stupidity.

    Wonderful international Idiots!
    So you ambazombie terrorists have made it a crime to provide education to children because Biya declared war on children? How can you be so stupid?

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