GENEVA – The U.N. human rights office has joined a chorus of voices in strongly condemning what it calls the vile, merciless attack on a private school Saturday in southwestern Cameroon. The attack killed at least six children and injured another 13.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack on Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Kumba, in the southwestern region of Cameroon.
U.N. human rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani tells VOA her office has not been able to verify the identity of the perpetrators.
“But we have been able to get information corroborated by various sources that it was perpetrated by a group of men armed with guns and machetes, who broke into the school and they shot indiscriminately while the students were studying,” Shamdasani said.
Cameroonian authorities blame the attack on Ambazonian separatists. The English-speaking militants, who want independence from Cameroon and its French-speaking majority, accuse the government of being behind the assault.
Shamdasani says the killing and maiming of children as well as attacks on educational facilities constitute serious violations of international law and says the perpetrators must be held accountable.
She says governments have a duty to protect children’s access to education.
“In fact, the school was not benefiting from security protection measures, which is why we are calling on the government,” Shamdasani said. “We are reminding the government that it is their obligation in the middle of this crisis to protect access to education and, of course, to protect the physical safety of the students.”
Shamdasani says the human rights office has received many other reports of serious human rights violations by both separatist groups and security forces in Cameroon. These include reports of extrajudicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence and abductions.
She says the root causes of the French-English divide go back decades. She says it is urgent for the government and affected communities to engage in an inclusive dialogue to work toward sustainable peace in this fractured country.
Source: Voice of America