All Cameroonian Christian School Kidnapping Captives Freed
All students and staff abducted on Nov. 4 from a Christian boarding school in Cameroon’s North-West region have been freed, a church official said Tuesday.
Two students, the principal and a staff member from Presbyterian Secondary School were released in intervals, said Fonki Samuel Forba, moderator of the country’s Presbyterian Church.
“They are still very tired and stressed, so we cannot discuss with them now to hear how and who brought them to Bafut,” said Forba, as reported by the AP. “I can authoritatively tell you that we did not pay any ransom to secure their freedom.” Forba gave no further details.
Previously on Nov. 7, the kidnappers released 78 students from the school and their bus driver, but kept captive those four whom have just been released. Unidentified gunmen dropped them off at the nearby Presbyterian Church of Cameroon.
One student managed to avoid capture by hiding under a bed. He told the BBC how the capture unfolded from his vantage point.
One of my friends, they beat him mercilessly. All I could think about was to just stay quiet. They threatened to shoot some people… all the big boys they rounded up, and the small ones they left them behind.
No one has accepted blame for the kidnapping. The government accuses English-speaking separatists. The separatist forces, who want to secede from the French-speaking majority, deny the accusations. They have said the government arranged the kidnapping to give the rebels a bad name.
An Earlier Kidnapping
On Oct. 31 the school faced an earlier kidnapping incident of 11 boys. The church paid a ransom equivalent to $4,000 to release the students. This time was different.
“They don’t want any ransom. All they want is for us to close the schools. We have promised to close down the schools,” Forba told the BBC.
The school closed. Parents have since withdrawn all 700 students from the school, citing security concerns.
“It is unfortunate we have to close the school and send home 700 children,” Forba told the Associated Press. “Their security is not assured by the state and armed groups constantly attack and kidnap them.”
Part of More Violence in the Region
This event is not isolated, though it does stand out. The AP reports that it is the largest number abducted at one time in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. Hundreds of people have been killed in the past year from the violence in the region. Separatists have attacked civilians opposing their cause and killed teachers for refusing to close down schools. Separatist forces have burned at least 100 schools and driven out teachers and students to take over the buildings as training grounds.
Two weeks ago a Christian missionary in the same region was shot dead inside a car as he, his wife, his son, another missionary and a driver were headed to market. A government statement said they were caught in a crossfire between security forces and the separatists. Charles Wesco, from Indiana, had been in Cameroon only two weeks when he was murdered. Wesco’s wife, Stephanie, and eight children have returned to the U.S. Hundreds attended Wesco’s memorial in Indiana on Monday.