Children kidnapped by gunmen in western Cameroon said their captors warned them not to go back to school, recounting the ordeal as parents packed up belongings from a boarding school now being shuttered.
Kidnappers freed about 80 school children and a driver in west Cameroon on Wednesday, but kept a principal and teacher, two days after snatching them in a school raid.
The armed men seized the children on Monday in Bamenda – the hub of the country’s troubled English-speaking region.
The military and a priest involved in negotiations blamed the abduction on Anglophone separatists with a spokesman for the separatists denying it.
“It was around 3 am. We were sleeping, then we heard people shouting, some other people, some men, came and broke our door. They told us: ‘come out’. They were dressed in black,” a 13-year-old boy told Reuters TV. He declined to be identified.
Stopping children going to school is a favoured tactic of Anglophone separatists, who say schools are used to spread government propaganda.
“When they set us free, they said we should tell the other schools they should stop, so no one goes to school,” he said.
The secessionists imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against Biya’s French-speaking government and its perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking minority. Government denies discriminating against them.
“I am worried,” a mother of one of the children said. “I know his education is not guaranteed because of the security situation and I am not sure for his safety.”
Cameroon’s linguistic divide is a legacy of World War One, when the former German colony in central Africa was carved up between allies France and Britain.