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Killing of Students, Teacher “unacceptable”: Bishops of Cameroon’s Bamenda Province

Bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province (BAPEC). Credit: Courtesy Photo

The killing of three students and a teacher allegedly by armed men in Cameroon’s restive South West region is “senseless and unacceptable,” Catholic Bishops in Central African nation’s Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province have said in a message.

In the Friday, November 26 collective statement, members of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference (BAPEC) recount the events of November 24 at a Cameroonian school and say their “hearts have been pierced again!”

“On Wednesday, 24 November 2021, some persons armed with guns and explosives, invaded the premises of Government Bilingual High School Ekondo Titi and shot and killed three students: Emmanuel Orome (12 years), Joyceline Ikem (16 years), and Emmanuel Kum (17 years), and a teacher, Celestine Song,” the Catholic Bishops say in their collective message shared with ACI Africa.

They add, “These innocent victims are not the cause of the socio-political crisis and their death cannot be the solution. Their murder is totally senseless and unacceptable.”

“Our hearts have been pierced again! In recent times, we have painfully witnessed an agonizing drama involving, among other evils, the targeting and killing of pupils, students and teachers,” the Catholic Church leaders lament.

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They condemn “these barbaric acts, which violate all International Laws and Conventions safeguarding the inviolability of schools and the protection of learners (pupils and students), and teachers, offend against the fundamental right to education, and breaks the Fifth Commandment of God which absolutely Forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful.”

The deliberate killing of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being and the holiness of the Creator, BAPEC members emphasize in their November 26 statement.

They make reference to the book of the Prophet Jeremiah saying, “A voice continues to be heard in the Ramah of our towns and villages, ‘weeping and mourning parents’ weeping for their children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

In recent times, cases of violence, kidnappings and killings have been on the rise in Cameroon's troubled English-Speaking regions.

On August 20, a seven-year-old pupil at St. Theresa’s Catholic Primary School in Cameroon’s Kumbo Diocese was killed by a stray bullet during a crossfire between Cameroonian military and militants near the learning institution.

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The Cameroon Armed Forces was deployed in the North Western part of the country to battle members of the Ambazonia separatist movement (Amba Boys) who have been operational since 2016 when the nation’s Anglophone regions, North West and the South West, plunged into conflict.

In October,  a six-year-old pupil was killed after a policeman reportedly opened fire on a car the girl was traveling in, in Cameroon’s city of Buea.

In a November 24 report shared with ACI Africa, Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI) reported that civilians were killed and many others were injured by Cameroonian military at a village in the South West region raising questions about the professionalism of the men in uniform.

The report of the charity foundation of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) indicated that three people in Malende, a village in Cameroon’s Mbonge subdivision, paid the price when separatist fighters in the embattled Anglophone region killed a government soldier in Mbalangi, a village that neighbors Malende.

In their November 26 collective statement signed by BAPEC President, Archbishop Andrew Nkea, the Catholic Bishops recall similar incidents of violence and bloodshed in the Anglophone regions.

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“We have hardly recovered from the cruel Killing of Enondiale Tchuengia Carolaisse (a class one pupil) killed in Molyko-Buea on Thursday, 14 October 2021, and the brutal killing of another pupil, Brandy Tataw, on Friday, 11 November 2021, in Nkwen-Bamenda, than we are confronted again with the killing of four more innocent Cameroonians within the protected area of a school,” Catholic Bishops in Cameroon’s Bamenda Province recount.

In our previous teachings, they recall, “we have been persistent in our call for the respect and defense of human rights, especially the right to life, openness to dialogue, an option for the truth and recourse to peaceful means as the best way to a durable solution.”

BAPEC members urge the Government to ensure the security of schools, and “make a special appeal, once more, to all perpetrators of violence to allow the genuinely human feelings of love, pardon and benevolence to flow into their hearts, so that the safety and security of all may be guaranteed, alongside the right of all young people to life and to an education and a future.”

“May God grant eternal rest to these children of his, console the bereaved families and grant that their blood may become the seed of justice and peace in our country,” the Catholic Bishops in Cameroon’s Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province implore in their November 26 statement.