An empty classroom following the shooting at Mother Francisca Bilingual Academy in Kumba

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City

Oct 29 2020

The Jesuits say they are shocked and outraged at the killing of innocent school children, by gunmen, in the troubled city of Kumba, southwest Cameroon.

“We are shocked and outraged by the killing of innocent school children. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the children and offer our prayers and moral support to the wounded and their families and to the entire community of Kumba. We stand with them in this time of sorrow and grief, and we are grateful to all those providing medical care to the wounded and all other forms of immediate support to the families of the children, said President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, in a statement made available to Vatican News.

End the violence

Fr. Orobator condemned “in the strongest possible terms last Saturday’s killing and wounding of innocent children at Mother Francisca Nursery and Primary School in Kumba, Southwest Region, by armed individuals who opened fire on innocent children.” Fr. Orobator has since appealed for a stop to the widespread violence in the region.    

At least six children were killed and dozens of others wounded when attackers, who arrived on motorbikes, at the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy started firing indiscriminately at the children. There were reports of children injured when they jumped from the second storey school building as they escaped from the attackers.

Pope Francis: Sorrow and bewilderment

Pope Francis, during the Wednesday General Audience, expressed sorrow and great bewilderment over “such a cruel and senseless act, which tore the young innocents from life while they were attending lessons at school.”

The African Union Commission Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat also expressed grief and horror at the brutal attack on schoolchildren.

No school for four years

Cameroon’s four-year separatist conflict has created widespread displacement of half a million people. More than 3 000 persons have been killed. Children in the conflict zones have not been able to attend school for close to four years. Earlier this month, some parents and teachers in the conflict zones braved threats from armed groups and reopened some schools.

Cameroon’s unwinnable war

At the heart of the crisis, which started in 2016, was a strike by teachers and lawyers, in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. The professionals, supported by citizens of their areas, protested the unfair use of the French language and unjustified appointments of French speakers in their territories. 

Cameroon is a bilingual country. By 2017, the situation had spiralled out of control and developed into a fully-fledged separatist war. Both government forces and separatists are now bogged down in a conflict, that observers say, can only be resolved through dialogue. – Vatican News