Suspected separatist fighters at the Buea Central Market, from where students were later rounded up and punished for going to school
By Andrew Nsoseka, JADE
The inability of administrators and security officials in and around Buea, like in other towns in Anglophone regions, to provide adequate security in and around schools, has made it seemingly easy for anti-school agents to attack learners in schools.
In most schools attacked in Anglophone regions in line with the ongoing war against separatist fighters and other armed groups, several questions have gone unanswered regarding why security officers did not repel an attack, or why they were seemingly nowhere to be found when an attack happened.
In most attacks of students by suspected separatists or bands of kidnappers, there has been hardly any case where the attackers encountered resistance from security officers. In most cases, it appears the schools are hardly secured against such attacks.
On Wednesday January 12, 2022, there was a separatists operation meant to scare people and disrupt the ongoing AFCON games in Pool F played in Limbe. Some of the players of two countries participating were lodged in Buea. In order to scare them and probably would-be spectators from going to watch the match, separatists launched attacks on several fronts in Buea, firing warning shots to scare people. They were also out to confront the military, whom they challenge to a duel.
In the course of this operation, the fighters who were at the Buea Central Market vicinity after carrying out their operation, rounded up some students probably on their way to school. There, they fired guns randomly and on the ground beside the students. Some gunshots were fired just where the students were confined to stand, and ordered not to run. They rebuked the students for going to school. The gunmen asked the students to strip naked, right to their underwears.
The harassment and mental torture of the students for going to school is not a new trend in the Anglophone Crisis that started with a school boycott strategy that later became unpopular. In Buea, like in several other towns in the two crisis regions, many students have been harassed, and even killed for going to school, or while going to school.
Late in 2021, there was the case of GBHS Tiko where a teacher and students were killed by suspected separatists, though the separatist commander operating in the areas denied the allegations. In Limbe on November 4, about 20 gunmen attacked Kulu memorial comprehensive and ordered students and teachers to strip themselves naked. They later burned the uniforms and the school items taken from the students.
On October 24, 2020, seven children were killed at the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy, in Fiango Kumba. Similarly, On November 3, 2021, pupils from Presbyterian School Kumbo were dispersed from their school by gunmen and 11 teachers abducted.
In the course of the Anglophone Crisis, many of such similar attacks and acts have been committed, discouraging multitudes from going to school, either to learn or teach. The recurrent worry of many has been the whereabouts of the promised security to the learners and teachers.
Though campaigns to stop attacks on education have targeted mostly the non-state actors, the government has failed to take its fair share of the blame, which has been its inability or unwillingness to prioritise security in and around schools. This makes students and teachers easy preys to the attackers looking for soft targets.
Going by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ Article 22, everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realisation, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organisation and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality. By dint of this, the government has a duty to ensure that everyone enjoys this right in a safe environment, through the providence of security and other basic rights that come with it. In areas prone to attacks like schools, the government has a duty to keep it secured.
Meanwhile, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in its Article 5 states that every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man, particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited. This right is ripped from students and teachers, whose attackers often kill, or subject to cruel torture and sometimes detention in demand for ransoms.
In its Article 17, 1, the Charter also mandates that, “Every individual shall have the right to education”. This right is denied the leaners by their attackers whose sole aim is seemingly to discourage them from learning.
Accosted about the continuous harassment of students going to school, Separatist activist, Mark Bareta, had told The Post that they have abandoned the anti-school campaign, but that there are still some elements in the separatists’ ranks still pursuing the unpopular campaign. “School boycott is no longer a weapon of our struggle for independence. Thus, where possible Ambazonia forces should allow education and even encourage schools to go on,” he said.
Attempts to get the DO of Buea comment on efforts made to ensure security and safety around schools proved futile. Human rights organisations have also taken on the campaign to fight against anti-school campaigns, but the situation has proven to be volatile, especially in areas where security is a challenge.