Mission 21 worried: 78 students of partner church in Cameroon kidnapped

On Sunday evening, November 4, unknown armed men attacked the Presbyterian Secondary School in the city of Bamenda. They kidnapped 78 students as well as the principal and two employees.

The boarding school belongs to the Presbyterian Church (PCC). The chairman of the church, Samuel Fonki, explained that the kidnappers demanded the closure of the school. Already on October 31, eleven students had been kidnapped and were released for money.

The church reopened the school, which is attended by over 600 children, only two weeks ago. In doing so it opposed the demand of separatists to keep their schools closed as an expression of resistance against the central government in Yaoundé. The church thus insisted on the human right to education.

The church leadership published a statement the night of Monday. The statement condemns the act and demands that the perpetrators release the abductees immediately and unconditionally. The church appeals to the parties of the conflict in Cameroon to respect the integrity of students. It demands from the government to urgently resolve the crisis in the country. The church asks the international community to seek ways to help resolve the crisis.

The chairman of the church, Samuel Fonki Forba, told Mission 21 that the kidnappers' demand to close the school had already been accepted. They claim to be separatists, but their identity is still unclear. The kidnappers sent a five-minute video to the church leadership, which is also available to Mission 21. The video shows some of the intimidated students. Fonki explains that it has the purpose of increasing the pressure on the church.

The kidnapping is related to the conflict in Cameroon between the French-speaking central government and the two English-speaking regions in western Cameroon. The conflict worsened when the separatists declared the independence of the regions on October 1, 2017. According to aid organisations, over 400,000 people are on the run because of the conflict.

In the summer of 2018, Mission 21 responded to the misery of the displaced civilian population by launching an emergency aid and reconstruction project in Cameroon together with the PCC and the Baptist Church of Cameroon. The church is widely anchored and accepted in the population. The emergency aid project also includes measures to provide informal education to refugee children and young people. This gives them a chance for a future beyond poverty and violence.

► Media release as PDF (German)

► Statement from the Presbyterian Church (PDF)

► Aid and reconstruction project Cameroon