Separatists in northwest Cameroon have abducted ten teachers at a school for children with disabilities. Moki Edwin Kindzeka reports from Yaounde.
In a video circulated on social media including WhatsApp in Cameroon, a group of ten teachers pleaded for their lives to armed anglophone separatists.
The nine women and one man said they teach at a school for disabled children in Ngomham, a neighborhood in Bamenda, the capital of Cameroon’s North West region.
Cameroon’s military Friday confirmed the separatists this week abducted the teachers and a rebel spokesman claimed responsibility.
Capo Daniel, deputy defense chief of the rebel group Ambazonia Defense Forces, said they are punishing the teachers for not closing the government school.
"We have asked for help to create alternative educational institutions to give our children the right of education, including the handicap Ambazonia children,” he said. “But what we cannot allow is Cameroon setting up schools within Ambazonia territory and anybody that collaborates with the Cameroonian government will be considered a traitor."
The rebels have been fighting in the western regions since 2017 to carve out an independent state they call “Ambazonia” from Cameroon’s French-speaking majority.
They’ve targeted government schools and offices; demanding authorities withdraw troops from the western regions.
Cameroon’s government condemned the abductions, calling it the latest separatist attack on education.
The Inclusive Government Bilingual Primary School Ngomham teaches scores of deaf, mute, and amputee children alongside several hundred others.
Teachers Association of Cameroon President Valentine Tameh said the children are too scared to go to class since their teachers were abducted.
"When a group of persons take upon themselves to continue harassing and molesting children and teachers with the effects that such unnecessary harassment causes, one can only say it is a sad thing, it is sorrowful," she said. “We continue to emphasize that schools remain no-go areas and belligerents should stay clear of schools."
Tameh said that since the separatist conflict began, rebels have killed or abducted at least 300 teachers in the English-speaking regions.
The conflict erupted after 2016, when anglophone teachers and lawyers protested alleged discrimination at the hands of the French-speaking majority.
Cameroon’s military responded with a crackdown and separatists took up arms claiming to protect civilians.
Rights groups say both sides’ fighters have abused civilians during six-years of clashes.
The United Nations says the fighting has left 3,500 people dead, 700,000 displaced, and 750,000 children deprived of education.