Armed separatists released 79 pupils today in the city of Bamenda in the northwest of Cameroon. This was reported by Cameroon’s Minister of Communications, Issa Bakary Tchiroma. The kidnappers kept the youngsters between 11 and 17 years old since Sunday.
“All 79 students were released,” says Tchiroma. An armed gang kidnapped the students of the Presbyterian Secondary School together with three staff members on Sunday. The priest, who negotiated with the kidnappers, said that the director, driver and teacher of the school are still stuck.
The release of the students was announced one day after the swearing in of 85-year-old President Paul Biya. He has been in power for 36 years and was elected on 7 October for a seventh mandate.
This is the first time that such a large-scale abduction has taken place in Cameroon. In the two English-speaking areas in the northwest and south-west of the country, since the end of 2016 there has been a crisis that turned into an armed conflict at the end of 2017.
For months now, fights have been going on almost daily between the army and the separatists. The separatists have proclaimed a boycott of schools because they believe that the French-speaking school system marginalizes the English-speaking minority in the country. Right from the start of the conflict, the separatists attack schools with the regularity of the clock.