“They Are Destroying Our Future”

Armed Separatist Attacks on Students, Teachers, and Schools in Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions

Schoolchildren, their parents and teachers hold a protest after suspected armed separatists opened fire at a school, killing at least seven children, in Kumba, South-West region, Cameroon October 25, 2020. © 2020 REUTERS/Josiane Kouagheu

Summary

Sara was a 17-year-old high school student when separatist fighters occupied her school, causing her to flee her hometown in Cameroon’s North-West region out of fear. She decided to move to the capital, Yaoundé, to finish her education. On the way, she was stopped by armed separatists, who searched for items she had relating to education, tore up her schoolbooks and notebooks, and warned her that worse would befall her if she was found with such materials again. In Yaoundé, she could not afford the school fees, and had to seek work, which she found at a pineapple company. After working for two years, she abandoned her dream of finishing school.

In the South-West region, Clara the head teacher at a government school, refused to abide by the separatist-ordered education boycott. When separatist fighters broke into her home in March 2019 to extort and punish her, she paid 30,000 CFA (US$56) and more in blood: they inflicted wounds all over her body, cutting her right hand so severely it had to be medically amputated, and losing the use of her left hand.

The stories of Sara and Clara are unfortunately all too common experiences for students and teachers in Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions who, since 2017, have become victims of attacks by armed separatists on education.

These attacks have become a hallmark of the crisis in the country’s Anglophone regions, which has resulted from the post-independence political, economic, cultural, and social marginalization felt by the Anglophone minority, who live in Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions. Although Cameroon is a bilingual and bijural country, many Anglophones believe the government is trying to sideline and assimilate their education and legal systems into the dominant Francophone system.

Tensions escalated in October and November 2016 and again in September and October 2017 when Cameroonian security forces used excessive force against peaceful protests led by teachers and lawyers. Different Anglophone armed separatist groups have since emerged and grown, and education soon became a primary battleground.

Separatist fighters began to order and enforce school boycotts, including by attacking scores of schools across the Anglophone regions. They have also used school buildings, such as Sara’s school, as bases for storing weapons and ammunition as well as holding and torturing hostages. Separatist fighters have also attacked, intimidated, or threatened thousands of students, education professionals, and parents in their attempts to keep children out of school. These attacks, the resulting fear, and the deteriorating security situation have caused school closures across the Anglophone regions, denying students access to education.

While armed separatists bear full responsibility for their targeted attacks on education, the response by the Cameroonian government and security forces has been insufficient and is hampered by the fact that they have conducted many abusive counterinsurgency operations in the English-speaking regions which sewed deep distrust among the civilian population victimized in those operations. Sometimes the abusive operations have also had a direct impact on education. For example, the report documents security forces burning at least one school which was being used by armed separatists as a base. Therefore, while enhanced security should offer protection to students and teachers, in practice many students and teachers also fear abuses from the security forces.

Based on telephone interviews conducted between November 2020 and November 2021 with 155 people, including 29 current and former students as well as 47 teachers and education professionals, this report documents attacks on students, teachers, and schools, as well as the use of schools by armed separatist groups, in the North-West and South-West regions between March 2017 and November 2021. It also examines the impact of those attacks, which have denied approximately 700,000 students an education. After describing the Cameroonian government’s responses, it highlights gaps and, more importantly, potential solutions that the Cameroonian authorities, in collaboration with their international partners, should implement to stop and address attacks on education.

Attacks on Students, Teachers, and Schools

Separatist fighters have killed, kidnapped, assaulted, threatened, or extorted hundreds of students and teachers while at school, on the way to or from school, or at home. Human Rights Watch does not claim to have documented all or even the majority of such attacks, but believes what it has documented indicates the scope of the problem, and disproves any claims that these are isolated problems. Human Rights Watch documented the killings of eleven students and five teachers: seven students were killed during an attack on their school in Kumba, South-West region, three students and one teacher were killed during an attack on their school in Ekondo-Titi, South-West region, while the eleventh student and the other teachers were killed while they were at home or on their way to or from school. Human Rights Watch also documented the death of two schoolgirls caused respectively by a gendarme and a police officer shooting at vehicles which failed to stop at checkpoints. Human Rights Watch documented the kidnapping of at least 268 students and education professionals by armed separatists between January 2017 and August 2021. In two incidents alone, one in 2018 and another in 2019, fighters kidnapped 78 and 170 students, respectively, from their schools in the North-West region. Most of the victims (255) were students, while nine were teachers and four were principals. Victims said that the separatist fighters targeted them because they were going to school.

At least 70 schools have been attacked in the Anglophone regions since 2017, according to reports from United Nations agencies, the World Bank, Cameroonian and international civil society organizations, and media outlets. Human Rights Watch documented in detail 15 attacks on schools by separatist fighters between January 2017 and November 2021. Armed separatists visited schools, ordering their closure, threatening and terrorizing students and teachers, and destroyed school infrastructure and property, including with fire.

Human Rights Watch documented the occupation, between early 2017 and March 2019, of at least five schools by separatist fighters in the North-West region. They used schools as bases, and also held hostages and stored weapons and ammunitions in them. Some moved from school to school, like the ones who took over Sara’s school. In one case, evidence suggests Cameroonian security forces burned a school building that had been used by separatist groups.

Government Response

The Cameroonian authorities have taken steps to respond to attacks on education, including by endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration – an intergovernmental political agreement to protect students, teachers, and schools during armed conflicts – in September 2018. In line with its commitments to ensure that students are able to continue their education, the government has conducted more robust back-to-school campaigns in the Anglophone regions. It has also stationed security forces in or outside schools, mainly in major urban centers, to increase safety. However, there is almost no such security presence in rural areas or on roads leading to and from schools. More importantly, students and teachers have had mixed reactions to the deployment of security forces in or outside schools, as some believe their presence increases the risk of being targeted by armed separatists. There is also an urgent need for the government to address the lack of resources and overcrowding in schools whose populations have doubled, or even tripled, due to the need to accommodate internally displaced students.

By signing up to the Safe Schools Declaration, the Cameroonian government agreed to protect education, including by investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of attacks on students, teachers, and schools. Clara, unlike the vast majority of victims of attacks on education, has experienced a degree of justice, as at least one of her alleged assailants was arrested and is currently facing trial. This is not the norm: in addition to the arrest made in her case, Human Rights Watch is aware of only two sets of arrests for attacks on schools since 2017 – one set involves the arrest of 10 persons after a 2019 attack on a university, the other involves the arrest of 12 persons following the October 24, 2020 attack on the school in Kumba. The fate of the 10 suspects arrested in 2019 is unknown, and the trial of those arrested in connection with the Kumba school massacre, held before a military tribunal, failed to meet basic fair trial standards. This suggests that the separatists have enjoyed almost absolute impunity for their attacks on education.

Consequences of Attacks on Education

School closures because of the boycott orders or attacks on schools by separatist fighters, fear of being targeted for studying, and economic challenges have all caused students to drop out of school, robbing young people in the Anglophone regions of their right to education. This has only been exacerbated by further school closures related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The trauma of experiencing or witnessing an attack, which is exacerbated by the lack of psychosocial support services, has affected students’ ability to learn and caused many teachers to change professions. This will have longer term effects on their economic and social mobility as individuals and on the development of the regions and Cameroon as a whole. This report describes not only the emotional harms, such as those experienced by Sara and Clara, but also the resilience of the students and teachers who struggled to continue their studies and work, respectively, which sometimes required choosing to relocate.

Nearly 600,000 people have been displaced by the crisis unfolding in the two English-speaking regions—a figure which likely includes thousands of teachers and students—and were forced to flee and begin a new life elsewhere. This report also documents the experiences of displaced students and teachers, highlighting the specific hardships faced by older teachers.

Ensuring the Right to Education in Cameroon

International human rights law obligates the Cameroonian government to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to education, and in signing up to the Safe Schools Declaration the government committed to take steps to prevent attacks on schools and mitigate their impacts. Unfortunately, the attacks by armed separatists have continued, largely unabated, causing students, parents, and teachers to suffer enormously. Absent urgent action to address the lack of access to education caused by separatist attacks, many students will lose out on an education, and may face a bleak future with reduced socioeconomic opportunities.

The government of Cameroon which bears the primary responsibility for guaranteeing the right to education should promptly provide access to alternative forms of education, including community education, distance learning, radio learning, and temporary learning spaces to students who are out of school because of the crisis, including rural and displaced students. Those responsible for attacks should be arrested and prosecuted, and an accessible reparations program, including physical rehabilitation and psychosocial support services, should be made available to victims and their families. The Cameroonian government should consider establishing two special task forces, one to assess and make recommendations regarding investigations and prosecutions of attacks on schools and the other to support the re-establishment and continuation of access to safe education for all.

Cameroon’s international partners, such as Canada, France, Italy, Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Commission, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the African Union, should provide financial and technical support to ensure that the special task forces and reparations program are adequately resourced and sustainable.

During times of crisis, ensuring access to education is crucial because safe and protective environments like schools can provide a sense of normalcy essential to children’s development and psychological well-being. All stakeholders in the Anglophone crisis should take immediate action to prevent yet another generation in Cameroon from losing out on an education. Leaders of separatist groups should immediately announce an end to the school boycott and instruct fighters to cease all attacks on students, teachers, and schools.

 

Key Recommendations

To Leaders of Separatist Groups

  • End the school boycott as well as attacks and threats against students, teachers, education officials, and schools, publicly announcing that this policy and tactics have been ended.
  • Issue statements and disseminate pamphlets, leaflets, and instructions among members and fighters explaining and endorsing the need to comply with international human rights law.

To Armed Separatist Groups’ Fighters

  • Cease all human rights abuses, including killing, torturing, kidnapping, extorting, and threatening civilians, including students and teachers.
  • Immediately cease all recruitment of children under 18 years old.
  • Immediately release all kidnapped civilians, including students and teachers.
  • Immediately cease using schools for any purpose, including for bases, storage, and detaining individuals.

To the Cameroonian Government

  • Ensure students deprived of educational facilities because of the crisis are promptly given access to alternative accessible forms of education, such as community education, distance learning, and temporary learning schools or spaces, with suitable equipment and adequately trained teachers. Education should be accessible to children with disabilities.
  • Establish a credible and inclusive reparations program, through a transparent and participatory process, to support victims of attacks on education and their families. Such a program should be sensitive to the needs of women and men, boys and girls, and address the needs of students and families living with disabilities and those in hard-to-reach areas.
  • Consider establishing two special task forces, one to assess and make recommendations regarding investigations into attacks on education and prosecutions of perpetrators; the second to further the re-establishment and protection of access to education for all on an equal basis (see Section XI: “The Way Forward.”)

To the Cameroonian Police and Gendarmerie

  • Effectively investigate, for the purpose of prosecuting, government agents, members of the security forces, separatist leaders, and fighters responsible for human rights crimes committed in the Anglophone regions, including attacks on students, teachers, and schools.

To the Cameroonian Judicial Authorities

  • Ensure victims of human rights crimes by all sides have access to effective and accessible remedies, including complaint mechanisms, witness protection, and the opportunity to participate in a transparent judicial process.

To the Cameroonian Ministers of Basic, Secondary, and Higher Education

  • Effectively implement the Safe Schools Declaration, and work with relevant authorities, community leaders, and parents to ensure better security for schools in the Anglophone regions.
  • Ensure teachers and administrators are not pressured to reopen schools in insecure zones without appropriate, effective security measures.
  • Expand and improve efforts to collect data on attacks on students, teachers, and schools and the use of schools by armed separatist groups, including the dates and locations of attacks, types of school attacked, disaggregated information about victims and suspected perpetrators, and the number of students and teachers affected.

To the Cameroonian Security Forces

  • Ensure security operations in the Anglophone regions respect and protect human rights, including by abiding by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) resolution on the Prohibition of Excessive Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officers in African States and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Firearms, respecting principles of necessity and proportionality, and deploying military judicial police officers on operations to monitor the conduct of security forces, report abusive members to commanding officers, and advise commanding officers on human rights issues.
  • Ensure that, if armed forces personnel are engaged in security tasks related to schools, their presence within school grounds or buildings be avoided if at all possible, including for accommodation. Where necessary, establish wider security perimeters in neighborhoods around schools, rather than directly outside schools, to minimize disruption to children’s education and avoid compromising the school’s civilian status.

To the African Union (AU)

  • Advocate for more comprehensive and sustained measures to protect education from attack in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions by calling on the Cameroonian government to prioritize security of schools, students, and teachers, including the assessment of any security risks for schools which are currently open.
  • Engage proactively with the Cameroonian government and support its efforts to expand and strengthen monitoring and reporting on attacks on education and military use of schools, including by collecting and reporting disaggregated data. 
  • Encourage and support the Cameroonian government to implement fully the commitments contained in the Safe Schools Declaration at all levels of education.

To the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) and to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)

  • Call on the Cameroonian government to conduct impartial, transparent, and independent investigations into attacks against students and teachers, including physical assaults, killings, abductions, threats, and attacks against school buildings. Urge Cameroonian authorities to publicize the findings of these investigations, prosecute those responsible in fair trials, and incorporate lessons learned into future protection measures and strategies to prevent attacks against education.

To the AU Peace and Security Council

  • Include the situation in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions as a priority item on the AU peace and security agenda, request a briefing by the ACHPR and the ACERWC on the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Anglophone regions, and demand an end to human rights abuses.
  • Unequivocally condemn attacks against education in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions and play a more assertive role, including by applying coercive political and diplomatic tools at its disposal, such as imposing targeted sanctions on separatist leaders and fighters responsible for attacks against students, teachers, and schools.

To the United Nations (UN)

To the UN Secretary-General

  • Continue to include Cameroon as a situation of concern in the annual report on children and armed conflict to the UN Security Council. Include in the annex of the report any parties engaging in violations against children. Ensure voices and experiences of children with disabilities are included.

To the UN Security Council

  • Formally include Cameroon as a priority item on its agenda, request a briefing by the UN Secretary-General on the situation in Cameroon, and demand an end to human rights abuses.
  • Establish a sanctions regime in Cameroon, including targeted sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes, against individuals credibly implicated in serious abuses, including attacks on education.

To the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

  • Ensure accurate, public monitoring and reporting on threats and attacks on students, teachers, and schools as well as the military use of schools and use of schools by armed separatist groups.

To the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

  • Improve its mechanism in cooperation with NGOs and other UN agencies to monitor and report threats and attacks on students, teachers, and schools, and the use of schools by armed groups and other grave violations against children committed in the context of the Anglophone crisis.

To the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

  • Make publicly available the findings of its 2019 investigations and any future investigations into the Anglophone crisis.
  • Actively monitor the situation in the Anglophone regions.

To the UN Country Team in Cameroon

  • Under the formal Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on children and armed conflict, actively document and verify incidents of grave violations against children, including threats and attacks on students, teachers, and schools, and the use of schools by armed groups, and provide this information to the UN Special Representative to the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict.

To Cameroon’s International Bilateral Partners, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union

  • Privately and publicly urge the Cameroonian government and security forces to adopt and support the implementation of the above recommendations.
  • Urge the national authorities to empower the investigative police, including its forensic criminal evidence gathering, judicial investigation, prosecutorial, and trial capacity and provide targeted and specifically monitored support.
  • If established, provide technical and financial support to the special task forces on attacks on education and to reparations program to support victims of attacks on education and their families.
  • Ensure any support to the Cameroonian security forces does not contribute to or facilitate human rights abuses.
  • Implement targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes, against individuals credibly implicated in serious abuses, including attacks against education.

To The World Bank

  • Ensure that a significant amount of the US $97 million provided to Cameroon’s government in support of education sector reform is used to improve access to safe schools in the Anglophone regions, including by assisting displaced students and teachers, rebuilding and repairing damaged or destroyed school buildings, supporting, if established, the special task forces on attacks on education and the reparations program to support victims of attacks on education and their families.
 

Glossary

Amba boys: terms used by some Cameroonians to refer to armed separatist fighters in the North-West and South-West regions.

Ambazonia (or Republic of Ambazonia): term used by some people from the North-West and South-West regions to refer to a self-declared state announced by pro-separatist groups and constituting the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon.

Anglophone regions: the North-West and South-West regions, Cameroon’s two minority English-speaking regions among the country’s 10 administrative regions.

Attacks against education: Human Rights Watch uses the following definition of “attacks against education” provided by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack: “Attacks on education are any intentional threat or use of force—carried out for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic, religious, or criminal reasons—against students, educators, and education institutions.”

CFA: refers to the Central African CFA franc, Cameroon’s currency (CFA stands for Communauté Financière Africaine, African Financial Community).

Child: In accordance with international law, Human Rights Watch defines “child” as a person below the age of 18 years.

Education professional: Teachers, principals, school administrators, members of teachers’ unions, or local education officials.

Francophone regions: Cameroon’s eight French-speaking administrative regions: the Centre, Littoral, West, North, Far North, Adamawa, East, and South regions.

Student: A “student” may refer to a child (under age 18) or an adult (18 or older).

 

Methodology

This report is based on 155 telephone interviews between November 2020 and November 2021, including with 29 current and former students, 47 teachers and other education professionals, and 15 relatives of students. The current and former students included 4 children (2 girls and 2 boys) and 25 young adults (9 women and 16 men). We also interviewed 64 others, including witnesses to human rights abuses, former separatist fighters, healthcare, social and humanitarian workers, lawyers, journalists, civil society representatives, United Nations officials, and diplomats. Interviewees included residents of Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions.

Human Rights Watch conducted the interviews with the support of an extensive network of contacts in Cameroon. Interviews were conducted in French, English, Pidgin English, and local dialects, with the support of trusted interpreters who were physically with the interviewees for those interviews conducted in Pidgin English and local dialects.

Human Rights Watch informed all interviewees of the purpose of the interview, its voluntary nature, and how the information would be used, and we obtained oral or written consent for all interviews. We told all interviewees that they could decline to answer questions and end the interview at any time. Interviewees did not receive financial incentives or other benefits for speaking with Human Rights Watch beyond the reimbursement of their travel expenses, where applicable.

Nearly all victims of attacks and witnesses expressed serious concerns and fears of reprisals for speaking with us. Human Rights Watch has thus used pseudonyms and withheld identifying information of most of the victims and witnesses. We have withheld or replaced all children’s names with pseudonyms. Unless otherwise specified, we have noted interviewees’ ages at the time of the interview.

Human Rights Watch sought to address the limitations of telephone interviews by using secondary sources to corroborate findings. We examined reports by Cameroonian and international human rights and humanitarian organizations, national and international media, and government bodies in addition to photographs, video footage, medical records, and court documents.

Due to ongoing violence, challenges accessing the country and collecting information from remote areas, Human Rights Watch sometimes faced difficulties confirming the exact numbers of victims, circumstances, and alleged perpetrators of specific attacks.

In a July 27, 2021, telephone call with Felix Mbayu, Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Relations in charge of relations with the Commonwealth, Human Rights Watch shared its preliminary findings for this report. Human Rights Watch also sent a letter, with its findings and a list of questions, to Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute and Mbayu on September 21, 2021. The Prime Minister had yet to reply at time of writing. The letter is available in Appendix II.

Human Rights Watch also shared its preliminary findings on September 22 with the leaders of four major separatist groups: the president of the Ambazonia Interim Government (Sisiku), Sisiku Ayuk Tabe; the spokesperson of the Ambazonia Interim Government (Sako), Christopher Anu; the president of the Ambazonia Governing Council, Cho Lucas Ayaba; and the chairman of the African People’s Liberation Movement, Ebenezer Derek Mbongo Akwanga. The letters sent to the leaders of the four major separatist groups are available in Appendix IV.

On September 27, 2021, Anu responded to Human Rights Watch during a Zoom call.

On September 29, 2021, Dr. Jonathan Levy, the legal representative of Akwanga, responded via email to Human Rights Watch and his full response is available in Appendix III.

On September 30, 2021, Akoson Raymond, secretary of the Department of Human Rights & Humanitarian Services of the Ambazonia Governing Council, responded via email to Human Rights Watch. His full response is available in Appendix VII. On October 10, 2021, Akoson also shared with Human Rights Watch via email a code of conduct of the Ambazonia Defense Forces, the armed wing of the Ambazonia Governing Council. The code of conduct is available in Appendix VI.

On December 6, 2021, Human Rights Watch received a letter dated November 29, 2021 signed by the “Leadership of the Ambazonia in prison”, headed by Sisiku, with a “Freedom Protocol” attached as an annex in response to Human Rights Watch’s request for information. Both the letter and the protocol are available in Appendix IX.

I. Background

Roots of the Anglophone Crisis and Separatism

Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis and separatist struggle are rooted in the country’s colonial history, tensions surrounding its independence, and Anglophones’ feelings of marginalization and concerns about assimilation into the Francophone system and culture.

The geographical area of modern Cameroon was originally a German colony, Kamerun, divided into French and British mandates after World War I. After gaining independence in 1961, Cameroon was a federation from February 1961 to May 1972, when Cameroonians voted to adopt a unitary government. Following decades of what they saw as marginalization by the Francophone-dominated government, in 1993, an “All-Anglophone Conference” convened in Buea, the former capital of the British territory, calling for a return to federalism. In response, the government pledged to adopt some reforms to decentralize power. The following year, a second “All-Anglophone Conference” issued the Bamenda declaration, recommending a two-state federal system or secession. However, the government maintained its support for the unitary system, causing Anglophone groups to begin calling for secession, including through diplomatic campaigns.[1]

The current crisis began after the government violently repressed peaceful strikes by Anglophone lawyers and teachers in October and November 2016. They were protesting what they perceived as the central government’s attempts to marginalize and assimilate Anglophone courts and schools into the Francophone system. Similar heavy-handed responses by security forces against peaceful protests to celebrate the symbolic independence of “Ambazonia,” the name given by secessionists to their self-proclaimed independent state comprising the North-West and South-West regions, occurred again between September 22 and October 2, 2017.[2]

Moderate voices began to fade, as armed separatists, many of whom are known locally as “amba boys” or “amba,” grew in number, profile, and support, both nationally and internationally. They began to attack security forces and government officials as well as order and enforce school boycotts and lockdown strikes (or “ghost towns”), requiring people to stay at home and not go to work in the North-West and South-West regions to pressure the government into granting greater political recognition to that area.[3]

Escalation of the Crisis in 2018 and 2019

In 2018, thousands of security forces were deployed to the Anglophone regions, where they conducted often abusive large-scale operations to locate and drive out armed separatists.[4] Armed separatists took control of some rural and urban periphery areas,[5] erecting roadblocks and checkpoints.[6] Separatists also continued to enforce school boycotts as well as weekly lockdown strikes.[7] Several upticks in the violence occurred from January 2018 to December 2019, including around presidential elections;[8] the arrest, detention, and trials of separatist leaders;[9] and lockdowns imposed by armed separatists.[10]

Ongoing Violence Since 2020

Around the February 2020 legislative and municipal elections, armed separatist groups kidnapped over 100 people, burned public and private property, and threatened voters in the period before the elections. Security forces did not adequately protect civilians; instead, they committed retaliatory abuses during the same period.[11]

In March 2020, the Southern Cameroons Defence Forces (SOCADEF), an armed separatist group, unilaterally called for a ceasefire because of Covid-19.[12] Notably, neither the government nor the other armed separatist groups have called for a ceasefire despite the rising toll of the pandemic.[13] Instead, after separatist fighters killed a police officer in September 2020, the government launched “Operation Bamenda Clean” to weed out separatists,[14] during which the security forces also abused civilians.[15]

In December 2020, separatist fighters marred Cameroon’s first regional elections[16] through boycotts, threats, and violent attacks.[17] Attacks by both separatists—on civilians,[18] government forces and authorities,[19] and the UN[20]—and by the army against civilians continued into 2021.[21] September 2021 marked a new escalation of violence with separatist fighters killing at least 15 soldiers and several civilians in two separate attacks in the North-West region using improvised explosive devises and an anti-tank rocket launcher.[22]

On October 5, Cameroonian Prime Minister Dion Ngute visited Bamenda, the capital of the North-West region, to follow up on the implementation of recommendations formulated during a national dialogue.[23] The same day, his public speech was interrupted by sustained gunfire, allegedly coming from separatist fighters. Ahead of Ngute’s visit to Bamenda, the Ambazonian Defence Forces (ADF), one of the main armed separatist groups, had ordered residents to stay at home, saying that anyone participating in meetings with Ngute could be at risk.[24]

Humanitarian Crisis

As a result of the Anglophone crisis, there are 573,900 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Anglophone regions as well as in the Francophone Littoral, West, and Centre regions.[25] In the Anglophone regions, 2.2 million people need humanitarian assistance.[26] The provision of basic services, including education and health care, has been disrupted.[27] Humanitarian access remains a challenge due to the volatile security situation and the targeting, by armed separatist groups, of humanitarian personnel,[28] with the UN recording at least 19 incidents of abductions involving humanitarians staff between April 2020 and August 2021.[29] Due to insecurity and separatist roadblocks across the Anglophone regions in August 2021 alone, 40,000 people could not receive humanitarian aid, according to UNOCHA.[30]

By 2021, more than 1.2 million school-aged children were in need of humanitarian assistance in the two Anglophone regions, and approximately 700,000 of them needed urgent access to education services.[31]

Since late 2016, up to 66,000 people from Cameroon have also fled to Nigeria.[32] Thousands more have left the continent for Europe or the United States.[33]

At least 4,000 civilians have been killed by armed separatist fighters or government forces in the Anglophone regions since late 2016.[34]

Economic Impact

The crisis has resulted in a significant contraction of the economies of the North-West and South-West regions, also seriously affecting the whole country’s economy.[35] According to the World Bank, “given the extent of destruction of productive assets, as well as the adverse effects of the crisis on the local credit market, the impacts may be lasting.”[36]

In the Anglophone regions, heads of households have been killed,[37] business have closed, and people have lost their jobs.[38] Displaced families have lost their livelihoods, so struggle to pay for food, housing, and their children’s school fees.[39] The violence has impacted thousands of farmers by displacing them,[40] thus increasing their risk of hunger and poverty as well as challenges providing for their children. Some parents in the Anglophone regions told Human Rights Watch they had to pull their children out of school because they could not afford the school fees and the associated costs of education, including books, uniforms, supplies, and transportation.[41]

The World Bank has estimated that “the combined effects of lower income due to reduced employment and increases in consumption prices due to supply chain disruptions inflicted a heavy toll on household welfare,” and that in 2019 “household welfare in the South-West and in the North-West regions was lower by 13.2 % and 21.2 %, respectively” compared to prior to the crisis.[42]

Responses to the Anglophone Crisis

The Cameroonian government and members of the international community began to respond strongly to the crisis in 2019, approximately three years after it started.

Cameroon’s Response

Amid increasing violence and sustained international pressure, President Paul Biya held a national dialogue, from September 30 to October 4, 2019, to address the Anglophone crisis. The dialogue, led by Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute, was attended by more than 1,000 delegates including government officials, clergy, teachers, and representatives of civil society.[43] However, main separatist groups, as well as major political opposition parties,[44] did not attend, and some opposition political leaders walked out in protest.[45]

The dialogue did not include victims of human rights abuses in the Anglophone regions.[46]

The dialogue resulted in a special status for the two Anglophone regions to re-enforce the autonomy of administrative areas.[47] The dialogue’s final report did not address human rights and accountability issues.[48]

 

The government held peace talks with detained leaders of the Ambazonia Interim Government (Sisiku) separatist group in April and July 2020.[49]

In a September 20, 2021, press release, Col. Cyrille Atonfack Nguemo, the army spokesperson, said that attacks carried out by separatist groups in September 2021 with the use of weapons that included improvised explosive devises and rocket launchers are “largely the result of” separatists “joining forces with other terrorist entities operating outside the country’s borders” and announced a “paradigm change” in ongoing military operations.[50] Contacted by the BBC, Atonfack refused to provide more information about any groups allegedly collaborating with and supporting the Anglophone separatist fighters.[51]

Addressing the general debate of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2021, Lejeune Mbella Mbella, Minister for Foreign Affairs, speaking on behalf of President Paul Biya, said Cameroon is “maintaining efforts in the North-West and South-West regions to end the socio-political tensions fueled by armed groups.” He added that measures taken by the government following the national dialogue, including the creation of a commission for the promotion of bilingualism and multiculturalism, the granting of a special status to the Anglophone regions, a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program, a humanitarian assistance plan and a reconstruction plan, are already making “tangible results with a gradual return to peace, that “despite some isolated acts of banditry perpetrated by armed gangs, the situation is improving,” and that “our defense and security forces have been deployed on the ground to protect the population and their property with professionalism and respect for human rights.”[52]

Response of Regional and International Actors

The key actions of UN, European, and US actors are highlighted below.

March 2019: Thirty-eight members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) expressed deep concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Anglophone regions and called on Cameroon to engage fully with the OHCHR.[53]

April 2019: The European Parliament passed a resolution condemning violence in the Anglophone regions, expressing concern at the government’s failure to hold security forces accountable.[54]

May 2019: The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) visited Cameroon, met national authorities, and raised concerns over human rights abuses in the Anglophone regions as well as the lack of access for human rights workers.[55] The UN Security Council organized an informal session on the humanitarian situation in Cameroon,[56] putting the situation in Cameroon on Council members’ radars.[57]

July 2019: Switzerland agreed to mediate talks between Cameroonian authorities and separatists.[58]

October 2019: The US cut Cameroon’s trade privileges, citing persistent human rights violations in the country, including in the Anglophone regions.[59]

February 2020: The UN Secretary-General, his special advisers, and the UNHCHR raised concerns over human rights abuses.[60]

January 2021: The Vatican’s secretary of state visited Cameroon and expressed the Roman Catholic Church’s willingness to facilitate dialogue between the government and separatists.[61]

May 2021: For the first time, the UN Secretary-General included the situation in Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions as a “situation of concern” in his annual report to the UN Security Council on children and armed conflict.

June 2021: The UN Secretary-General condemned the violence against civilians, schools, and UN and humanitarian personnel and property in the Anglophone regions. He encouraged Cameroonian authorities “to prioritize and promote inclusive dialogue and reconciliation.”[62]

June 2021: The US secretary of state announced visa restrictions “on individuals who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.” He also condemned human rights violations and threats against advocates and humanitarian workers.[63]

On November 25, 2021, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning rights abuses in Cameroon and urging the EU to work with regional actors including the AU and ECOWAS to facilitate dialogue. The Parliament urged, among others, the Cameroonian government and the leaders of separatist groups “to agree on a humanitarian ceasefire” and encouraged both parties “to agree on confidence-building measures, such as freeing non-violent political prisoners and lifting school boycotts.”[64]

 

II. School Boycotts

They [the amba boys] say: “Don’t send your children to school. It’s not safe.” They tell us there’s too much insecurity and soldiers cannot be trusted. “If they get shot, it will be your fault. When Ambazonia will be freed, we’ll run the schools and you will send your children there.” That’s what they have told parents.


— Parent of two primary school children in the South-West region, May 2021[65]

At the beginning of the crisis in late 2016, as part of a civil disobedience campaign to create a new Anglophone nation called “Ambazonia,” Anglophone activist groups viewed a school boycott as a means to protest the perceived breakdown of the Anglophone regions’ separate education system and its assimilation into the French-speaking system.[66] However, by the end of 2017, separatist leaders started using school boycotts to disrupt normal life in the Anglophone regions, as leverage in negotiations with the Cameroonian government, and to mobilize international attention to the crisis unfolding in the North-West and South-West regions.[67]

Since 2017, armed separatists have consistently targeted school buildings and killed, kidnapped, assaulted, harassed, and threatened education officials and students for failing to comply with separatists’ demands to boycott education.[68]

According to Peter, a 24-year-old former separatist fighter affiliated with a group known as Asawana: “[Our generals] made us think it was nice and important to shut down schools… They said that if schools are going on, the world will think that there is no crisis in the Anglophone regions.”[69]

Anglophone Separatist Groups at a Glance

Most Anglophone separatists are organized around three main political bodies that have armed wings operating in both the North-West and South-West regions:

·       Ambazonia Interim Government (Sisiku), led by Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe, who is serving a life sentence for terrorism and secession charges at a high-security prison in Yaoundé;[70]

·       Ambazonia Interim Government (Sako), a splinter faction led by Samuel Ikome Sako, a pastor based in the US;[71] and

·       Ambazonia Governing Council, led by Norway-based Ayaba Cho Lucas.[72]

The armed factions linked to the two “Interim Governments” are known as the Ambazonia Restoration Forces, which do not have a clear command structure and consist of various groups, such as the Terminators of Ambazonia, the Bui Warriors, the Red Dragons, and the Buffaloes of Bali, etc.[73] The armed wing of the Ambazonia Governing Council is the Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF), headed by Benedict Kuah.

There are also several other smaller separatist groups that do not fall under the three main groups, including:

·       African People’s Liberation Movement, which is led by US-based Ebenezer Derek Mbongo Akwanga and whose armed wing is the Southern Cameroons Defence Forces (SOCADEF);[74]

·       British Southern Cameroons Resistance Forces, headed by “General RK”; and

·       Tigers of Ambazonia, headed by Chia Martin aka “Tiger 1.”[75]

As of 2019, there were approximately 2,000 to 4,000 separatist fighters in the Anglophone regions.[76]

Separatist Groups’ Positions on School Resumption

In public statements and communications with Human Rights Watch, most separatist groups provided two main reasons for the school boycott: it is not safe for students to go to school due to violence, and the education provided in government schools is substandard and biased.

The Ambazonia Governing Council and its senior leadership have repeatedly stated that it will not allow schools managed by the Cameroonian government to function in the English-speaking regions.[77] In a May 26, 2021 official letter in response to Human Rights Watch’s questions about the Ambazonia Governing Council’s position on school resumption, its leader, Ayaba Cho Lucas, wrote:

             

Schools will remain closed in Ambazonia because of insecurity created by the failure of Cameroon to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law to respect schools and teachers as civilian objects and, most importantly, because of our opposition to the introduction or continuous usage of any colonial curriculum of education as the basis of knowledge in Ambazonia. The Ambazonia Governing Council has however facilitated, permitted, and opened community schools within areas of control of the Ambazonia Defence Forces and other sister forces.[78]

In a September 30, 2021 official letter in response to a request for information by Human Rights Watch, Akoson Raymond, secretary of the Department of Human Rights & Humanitarian Services of the Ambazonia Governing Council, said:

The People of Ambazonia have collectively rejected Cameroun’s colonial educational system. The Ambazonia Governing Council [AGovC] champions for the resumption of classes under an Ambazonian educational system. That is why, following the call of school boycott, the AGovC presented an alternative learning system under community schools run and managed by Ambazonians. Currently, Ambazonia boasts of fifty-four community schools throughout its territory. [79]

On May 19, 2021, Ebenezer Derek Mbongo Akwanga, chairman of the African People’s Liberation Movement and head of its armed wing (the Southern Cameroons Defence Forces), disapproved the resumption of government schools: “We support the education of our people, but we do not support a brain-wash educational system that has been imposed on our people for more than 60 years.”[80]

In a September 29, 2021, official letter in response to a request for information by Human Rights Watch, Dr. Jonathan Levy, Akwanga’s legal representative, said:

The respondents want to stress they support education […]. The situation in Ambazonia is a tragedy, children are not only insecure in their schools but even more so in their homes, towns, and villages. This appalling situation which is going on for more than four years now is the responsibility of the Republic of Cameroon.[81]

On May 18, 2021, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, the jailed president of the Ambazonia Interim Government,[82] told Human Rights Watch: “We wish to see peace return to Southern Ambazonia so that our children can attend school in a nation that can guarantee their safety, security, and prospects for unadulterated and good quality education within a meritocratic and prosperous nation.”[83]

In a letter dated November 29, 2021, Sisiku vociferously objected to Human Rights Watch’s attribution of responsibility for many of the attacks on education to armed separatist groups, and among other things, stated:

I share your horror at the brutal attacks on minors, schools and educational professionals. These attacks are inconsistent with the principled political campaign for rights and self-determination of Ambazonians of which I am a part. One of the reasons we must work vigilantly to end this war by addressing the root causes is because of how war distorts the human spirit and draws out horrific behavior. […] We are unequivocally and vigorously against all actions that harm students and educational professionals, and we stand firm in asserting that the primary perpetrator of such harm is the Cameroon military and paramilitary forces, and that they must be called to account for this.[84]

On September 30, 2020, the president of the splinter faction of the Interim Government, Samuel Ikome Sako, tweeted that school resumption can only take place after the establishment of a “negotiated ceasefire or safe school zones supervised by the United Nations.”[85]

In a September 27, 2021 Zoom call with Human Rights Watch, Christopher Anu, the spokesperson of the Ambazonia Interim Government (Sako), said:

It was our policy from the beginning of this struggle […] that schools be shut down, that courts be shut down… That was the policy we had […] We revised the policy, taking cognizance of the insecurity and the safety situation on the ground. We said to the parents and the schools: “the decision to send your kids to school will be yours, not that of the interim government.” [The] decision to open will be that of the proprietors of the school, not that of the interim government.[86]

On November 12, 2021, Anu announced a renewed ban on all schools across the Anglophone regions, threatening violence against teachers, students, and school owners who violate the order.[87]

At the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year, activists in different separatist groups, including Eric Tataw and Mark Bareta, changed their positions from opposing to supporting school resumption.[88] On September 28, 2020, Tataw urged the reopening of schools on Twitter: “I’m unapologetically asking all Ambazonian fighters & activists [to] join me in the crusade to allow school resumption.”[89] On September 29, 2020, Bareta tweeted: “School boycott is no longer a weapon of our struggle for independence. Thus, where possible, Ambazonia Forces should allow education and even encourage [going to] schools.”[90]

III. Attacks on Students by Armed Separatists

Many of my students do not wear school uniforms on their way to and back from school. If they wear them, they can be at risk of being spotted by the separatist fighters on the road and attacked. Also, they don’t use school bags. They put their books and notebooks in shopping bags like those we use to go to the market to buy food. Some also prefer to leave their books in my office. These are some of the coping strategies students have developed to keep safe.


— A 36-year-old chemistry teacher in Buea, June 2021[91]

Over 500 students have been attacked in the Anglophone regions by separatist fighters since 2017, according to reports from the UN and other credible organizations, as well as Human Rights Watch research. Human Rights Watch documented in detail 20 of those attacks which involved threats, intimidation, harassment, physical assaults, kidnapping, and even killings of students to force them to stop attending school. Human Rights Watch documented the kidnapping by separatist fighters of 255 students, including 78 who were taken from their school in Nkwen, North-West region, in November 2018, and 170 from their boarding school in Kumbo, North-West region, in February 2019.[92] In some cases, both in and outside of schools, attackers destroyed or seized students’ books, documents, or notebooks. Many students told Human Rights Watch that they go to school without wearing their uniforms for fear of being spotted and attacked by separatist fighters.

Screenshot of an October 9, 2019 Facebook video posted by Anglophone activist, Erick Tataw, showing two students and their father kidnapped by armed separatist fighters. Cameroon-Info.Net, Cameroon – Anglophone Crisis: Separatists Kidnap Students, Parent In Fresh Efforts Against Education, October 10, 2019, http://www.cameroon-info.net/article/cameroon-anglophone-crisis-separatists-kidnap-students-parent-in-fresh-efforts-against-education-353859.html

Students Human Rights Watch interviewed believed their attackers were separatist fighters because of their clothing (plainclothes or just military pants or camouflage t-shirts as opposed to full uniforms), accessories (including amulets), types of weapons (such as hunting guns and machetes), language (Pidgin English, English, and local dialects), statements that students should not go to school and schools should be closed, and extortion tactics commonly used by separatist fighters. When kidnappings occurred, the perpetrators took their victims to camps in often remote areas—as opposed to police, gendarmerie, or military stations or barracks—one of the common tactics used by armed separatists.

Attacks in the South-West Region

Five Public High School Students Kidnapped and Beaten, Bafia (September 22, 2018)

A 25-year-old high school student, Steve, said that five separatist fighters, armed with guns and machetes, kidnapped him and four other students, between 21 and 22 years old, including one woman, early in the morning on their way to school:

They beat me up, they hit me and my friends with sticks and machetes on the soles of our feet, in the arms, and in the back…. They cut my right hand. I had a serious wound, and I was bleeding…. They demanded a ransom of 500,000 CFA [$933]. My mom didn’t have that amount. She pleaded with them in tears and eventually gave them a sum of 200,000 CFA [US$373] for my release.[93]

Steve was released after two weeks. He said he was too afraid to return to school and hid in the bush for four months before relocating to Limbe, South-West region, where he now works as a driver and lives with a relative.[94]

Public University Football Team Kidnapped, Buea (March 20, 2019)

Suspected separatist fighters carried out an assault at the University of Buea’s football field and kidnapped at least 15 male football players from the university’s team.[95] Prior to the incident, on social media, suspected separatists had warned Anglophone teams to stay out of competitions organized by the Cameroonian government.[96] The students, some of whom were beaten, were released the following day, and the military arrested at least 10 suspects about a week later.[97] It is unclear whether a ransom was paid to secure the students’ freedom.[98] The fate of the 10 suspects is also unknown, although Human Rights Watch has sought information on their fate from the government.

Female Public University Student Kidnapped and Sexually Assaulted, Buea (June 13, 2019)

Six separatist fighters kidnapped Veronica, a 23-year-old University of Buea student, at about 3:30 p.m. They took her to an abandoned school in Bomaka neighborhood and sexually assaulted her before taking her to their camp in the bush, where they threatened her with death. They released her the next day following a ransom payment of 500,000 CFA (US$933). Veronica said:

On the road, I saw six amba boys following me. They were armed: two had guns. They stopped me and ordered me to follow them. They asked me to give them my school bag, which I happened to have with me, with my laptop and a book inside. I got scared and walked with them till the roundabout, when I pretended to collapse, just to call for attention. But no one came to rescue me, and [the separatist fighters] carried me. They took me first to an abandoned school, the Government Secondary School Bomaka, where they kept me for a few hours before taking me to their camp in the bush. In the school, one of them sexually assaulted me. They told me I was being kidnapped because I was a student, because I was going to school.[99]

Following the incident, she relocated to Limbe, South-West region for safety. She later returned to Buea to resume her studies in January 2020.[100]

Secondary School Student Kidnapped, Buea (January 30, 2020)

On January 30, 2020, armed separatists kidnapped Marie, a 19-year-old secondary school student, in Buea, in Cameroon’s Anglophone South-West region, on her way back from school. Three days later, they chopped her finger off with a machete.[101]

They were armed with machetes and knives. They found schoolbooks in my bag and seized it. They blindfolded me so I could not see where they were taking me. We had to walk for few hours. I was not given food. I slept on the ground outside for three days. The amba called my father and asked him to pay money for my release. On the third day, when I was about to be released, at 10 am, they cut my finger with a machete. One of the boys did it. They punished me because they found schoolbooks in my bag. They wanted to cut a finger of my right hand to prevent me from writing again. I begged them [not to], and then they chopped the forefinger of my left hand.[102]

Marie said the separatists also maimed a 19-year-old man who was held with her and also accused of attending school. Both students were released on February 3, after a ransom payment. 

Marie shows her finger wrapped in a bandage after she received medical treatment at a health facility in Buea, South-West region. © Private, January 2020, Buea, South-West region, Cameroon

Human Rights Watch also reviewed photographs showing Marie’s finger wrapped in a bandage after medical treatment.

11 University Students Wounded in Explosive Attack, Buea (November 10, 2021)

According to media reports, an explosive device thrown on to the roof of a lecture hall at the University of Buea wounded at least 11 students.[103]

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but media quoted “two security sources” as saying that the authorities suspected it was carried out by separatist groups,[104] while Horace Manga Ngomo, the University vice-chancellor, said that "an investigation will tell us who the perpetrators are."[105]

Attacks in the North-West Region

Public High School Student Threatened and Assaulted, Kumbo (late 2017)

Separatist fighters assaulted Tim, a 21-year-old student, on his way to school in Kumbo.[106] He recounted his experience: “They beat me up near my head. They punched me. They told me, ‘Why are you going to school? Schools should be shut. Why are you stubborn?’ I still have a scar on the back of my head as a result of the beatings.”[107] His mother knew about her son’s beating and independently informed Human Rights Watch about this incident.[108]

Public High School Student Harassed and Threatened, Mangu (January 2018)

Sara, 21, dropped out of school and fled Ndu town in 2017 because separatist fighters had occupied her school and increased their threats against teachers and students. While moving to Yaoundé to continue her education in January 2018, separatist fighters targeted her:

I rented a motorbike with a driver to go to Yaoundé and on my way to Yaoundé, in Mangu, four amba boys armed with guns stopped the motorbike, searched my bag, and found my school documents, including my school card, my [General Certificate of Education Examination Ordinary Level], and my books. They snatched and ripped them up in front of me. They said that they did not want to see any such documents around…. They said all schools should be closed and if they saw me again with my school materials, they would harm me.[109]

Public University Student Kidnapped and Threatened, Njinikejem (December 2018)

Carl, a 24-year-old former University of Bamenda student, said armed separatists who identified themselves as fighters from the group SOCADEF kidnapped, threatened, and tried to recruit him in Njinikejem. They held him in their camp for three days. He believed separatist fighters targeted him not only because of his studies, but also because his uncle is a government official.[110]

Less than a month later, on January 2, 2019, four SOCADEF fighters went to his house, did not find him, and threatened his mother. Carl said, “She told me that they left a very clear message that if I didn’t join their group, there would be consequences.” For his safety and because he wanted to study, he and his mother decided he needed to leave Cameroon.[111]

Public High School Student Threatened, Bamenda (February 2019)

Sam, now 15, described how three separatist fighters with guns and knives stopped him on his way back from school, the Government Bilingual High School Bamenda:

I was walking home from school alone when the amba boys stopped me at around 4 p.m. and threatened to cut off parts of my body if they ever saw me going to school. They pushed me with their motorbike.…. Although I was dressed in plain clothes at the time, not wearing my school uniform for safety, I was caught. I was surprised that they knew I was a student. In fact, I did not even have my school bag…. The amba boys said that if I dared again violate their orders not to go to school, they would come for me and my family. They said they were giving me a last warning. They said that schools should be shut, that they were fighting for us. “We are in the bush fighting for you and you go to school, how do you dare?” they said.[112]

Public High School Student Kidnapped and Tortured, Bamenda (March 2019)

Six separatist fighters who had guns and said they belonged to the group known as 7Kata, kidnapped an 18-year-old student on his way to the Government Bilingual High School Bamenda. He said they took him to their camp, tied him up, tortured him, and held him captive for four days:

I was on my way to school dressed in plainclothes…. I realized a group of amba boys were behind me, so I started running. They caught me. They warned me at gunpoint that if I moved a single step, I will be shot. They asked me, “Where are you going? Where’s your bag?” If I told them I was going to school, they would shoot me. So, I said I was just walking. But they told me they knew I was going to school. They said I am not supposed to go to school while they fight. “All schools should to be shut down,” they said. I finally showed them my bag. They found my books and my school uniform in it…. They took me to their camp on a motorbike at a very high speed. They blindfolded me before entering the camp. There, they beat me with machetes and wooden planks on my buttocks and the soles of my feet. They tied me up, my hands and legs from behind, and kept me in that uncomfortable position for three hours.[113]

They released him following a ransom payment of 70,000 CFA ($130), but they first cut off the part of his national identity card bearing Cameroon’s national flag. One of his classmates witnessed the kidnapping but managed to run away.[114]

Three Female Public High School Students Kidnapped and Beaten, Bamenda (November 4, 2019)

Armed separatists kidnapped three female students in Bamenda’s Ntarikon neighborhood on their way home from school. The students, who were 14, 18, and 20 years old at that time, attended Government Bilingual High School Ntamulung, about one kilometer from where they were kidnapped. The armed separatists blindfolded the students, took them to a separatist camp in Ntanka village, and beat them.

Human Rights Watch spoke with one of the students, Maria, her parents,[115] and a witness to the kidnapping.[116] Maria recounted her experience:

At the camp, we were handed over to a group of 10 fighters who asked us why we were going to school, and before we could say a word, they started beating us furiously. They used cutlasses and planks to beat us on our buttocks and under our feet as well as on our thighs and faces. The beating lasted some 30 minutes and left us with bruises on our bodies…. The pain was unbearable. I cried all through the first night in their camp.[117]

The students were released on November 7, 2019, following a ransom payment of 1,130,000 CFA ($2,100).

Nine Public University Students Kidnapped and Beaten, Bamenda (May 20, 2020)

Jim, a 24-year-old University of Bamenda student, said that separatist fighters stormed his university residence in Bambili, Bamenda, and kidnapped him and at least eight other students. Because May 20 commemorates the 1972 presidential decision to abolish the federal system and form one nation state, separatists declared it a ghost town day. Jim said:

It was about 4:30 p.m. when four amba boys, one with a gun, the other three with machetes or knives, came on foot. They stopped all students who were in front of the hostel and threatened us with death. Some bailed their way out with money. Others, like me, who were poor and had no money were kidnapped. So, the amba took about nine of us, including four or five girls. We walked for about three or four hours in the bush.[118]

The armed separatists took the students to two camps, the first of which was an abandoned school, and kicked, slapped, and beat the soles of the students’ feet with machetes. The fighters released the students after five days following ransom payments ranging from 100,000 CFA ($186) to 500,000 CFA ($933).[119]

Private High School Student Threatened and Beaten, Bamenda (October 2020)

Four separatist fighters threatened to kill a 14-year-old student, beating him on his way to Progressive Comprehensive High School. He said:

The amba stopped me and asked to see the contents of my bag. When they found books, they beat me…. They threatened to kill me if I was going to school again. They asked me to roll in the mud and tore all my books. I ran away and sought refuge in a stranger’s house nearby, hiding under the bed for several hours.[120]

A High-school Student Threatened, Bamenda (November 16, 2021)

Three separatist fighters threatened to kidnap a 20-year-old student on his way to the Government Technical High School in Bamenda. He told Human Rights Watch:

Three Amba stopped me along the road. They were armed with guns. They threatened to kidnap me if I did not comply with their demands to stop going to school. I went back home. I am not going to school now.[121]

This incident occurred four days after Christopher Anu, the spokesperson of the Ambazonia Interim Government, a separatist group, announced the renewal of the boycott of all schools across the Anglophone regions, threatening violence against teachers, students, and school owners who violate the boycott.[122] The renewal of the boycott was made following the death of schoolgirl, Brandy Tataw, caused by a police officer in Bamenda on November 12.[123]

Child Recruitment and Use by Armed Separatists

Armed separatists in the Anglophone regions have recruited children into their groups and used them to support their operations.[124] The ongoing violence, separatists’ threats against students and youth, the frustrations caused by military abuses, and the need for survival have all increased schoolchildren’s risk of recruitment by separatist armed groups. While living among separatist fighters, children may experience violence, may be required to participate in stressful initiation and training ceremonies, and may be forced to take dangerous drugs.

However, due to poor documentation and reporting by Cameroonian authorities, as well as verification difficulties faced by both national and international monitors, there are no available figures about how many children are being used by armed separatist groups in the Anglophone regions.

Accounts from people who were kidnapped and taken to separatist camps reveal that children are present inside armed separatist groups. Human Rights Watch also reviewed photographs and video footage showing people who look like children with guns, standing with other older-looking separatist fighters. However, we were unable to determine if these children were students when they were recruited. Due to the difficulties in identifying current, or even former, child soldiers or recruits—who may experience stigma and fear of retaliation—Human Rights Watch did not speak to any for this report.

Some students voluntarily took up arms. One teacher said that after her school in Kombone Bakundu, South-West region shut down in December 2017, several of her former male students, who were under 18 when the school closed, joined armed separatist groups. She fled Kombone Bakundu and has not returned since because, she said:

It’s very risky for me, as well as other teachers, to go back to Kombone, because some of our students joined the amba, so we could be identified and thus kidnapped for ransom, beaten. I cannot tell you exactly how many of my former male high school students joined the amba, but several of them, for sure.[125]

Others Human Rights Watch interviewed observed school-age children in separatist camps. One kidnapped teacher recognized one child who was fighting with the separatist as his former high school student.[126] Boris saw “10 fighters, all very young, with guns, machetes, sticks—some of them were certainly below 18 years old” at a separatist camp.[127] Maria observed not only men and women, but also boys and girls between 10 and 14 years old equipped with guns, knives, cutlasses, slings, and spears.[128] Ida witnessed that, out of approximately 20 fighters, “many were just little boys of 15 years of age or so” participating in training and ritual ceremonies.[129] In another camp, Veronica saw a 15 or 16-year-old boy among the eight fighters there.[130]

Killing of a schoolgirl by a gendarme (Buea, October 14, 2021)

Caro Louise Ndialle, a 4-year-old girl, was killed by a bullet fired by a gendarme, as she was sitting in a vehicle on her way to school in Buea’s Molyko neighborhood, South-West region. An angry mob responded to the killing by lynching the gendarme.[131]

In a press release issued on the same day, Colonel Cyrille Serge Atonfack Guemo, the army spokesperson, said gendarmes at a checkpoint stopped the vehicle Caro Louise was travelling in, but the driver refused to comply.[132] “In an inappropriate reaction […] one of the gendarmes will fire warning shots in order to immobilize the vehicle,” the press release stated, adding that “in the process” Caro Louise “was fatally shot in the head.”[133] Atonfack also said in the press release that an investigation has been opened by the local administrative authorities and the defense and security forces “to shed more light on and establish responsibilities” in this incident.[134]

Killing of a schoolgirl by a police officer (Bamenda, November 12, 2021)

Brandy Tataw, an 8-year-old schoolgirl, was killed by a bullet fired by a police officer as she was walking down a road in Bamenda, North-West region, on her way back from school.

In a November 12 news release, Martin Mbarga Nguele, the national security delegate general and Cameroonian police chief, said that Tataw was hit as she was walking down the street by a ricochet bullet a policeman had fired at a car that failed to stop at a police checkpoint.[135] Nguele also announced that an investigation had been opened into the killing of Tataw and that the policeman believed to have fired the shot had been arrested.

The killing of Tataw sparked protests in Bamenda, where hundreds of people took to the streets calling for justice for the police killing of the child. Cameroonian soldiers used excessive and lethal force, including live bullets, to disperse the protesters, injuring at least seven of them.[136]

IV. Attacks on Teachers by Armed Separatists

When [the separatist fighters] were torturing me because of my profession, I thought that they were attacking the whole sector. I am not just one victim—it’s the education sector which is under attack.


– Andrew, a teacher who was beaten and shot by separatist fighters, April 2021[137]

At least 100 education professionals have been attacked by separatist fighters since 2017, according to reports by the UN and other credible organizations, as well as Human Rights Watch research. Human Rights Watch has documented in detail 12 attacks against teachers, principals, school staff, and other education professionals. These attacks have included killings, physical assaults, kidnappings, extortion, threats, and other forms of intimidation.

Teachers Human Rights Watch interviewed believed their attackers were separatist fighters because of their clothing (plainclothes or just military pants or camouflage t-shirts as opposed to full uniforms), accessories (including amulets), types of weapons (such as hunting guns and machetes), language (Pidgin English, English, and local dialects), and statements accusing educators of teaching (including by saying teaching is a crime) and saying that schools should be closed. Finally, when kidnappings occurred, the perpetrators took their victims to camps in often remote areas—as opposed to police, gendarmerie, or military stations or barracks—one of the common tactics used by armed separatists.

Public school teachers, being government workers, appear to be the main targets of separatist fighters. However, Human Rights Watch also documented separatist fighters’ attacks on teachers at private schools, such as at Kulu Memorial College and the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy.

 

Attacks in the South-West Region

Owner of Private Community School Kidnapped and Beaten, Muea (July 17, 2018)

Separatist fighters kidnapped the owner of the Community Christian College.[138] They identified themselves as separatist fighters, accused him of teaching and not respecting the boycott order, took him to their camp, and slapped his face before releasing him four days later after a ransom payment of 1 million CFA (US$1,866). Separatist fighters had already harassed him and extorted food and 80,000 CFA ($149) from him in a previous encounter. “They said that I had to support their struggle for independence and help them buy weapons,” he said.[139]

Public School Head Teacher Cut with a Machete, Bachuo Ntai (March 16, 2019)

Four separatist fighters came to the house of Clara, the head teacher at a government nursery school in Bachou Akagbei village, at about 8 p.m. They said they were separatist fighters, accused her of teaching, and ordered her to stop. She gave them 30,000 CFA ($56) when they demanded “their own share of the government money [she] was receiving as a salary.” They then cut her with a machete all over: on her back, neck, elbow, and hands, almost completely chopping off her right hand, which she later had amputated.[140] The teacher’s neighbor rushed to the scene right after the assault and took her to a hospital for treatment.[141]

According to Clara and one of her neighbors, security forces arrested at least one perpetrator and identified him as a separatist fighter. He is held at the Buea central prison while his trial is ongoing at time of writing.[142]

Clara has not been able to resume teaching as she is physically incapacitated and feels psychologically down. She also expressed concern for her children, particularly her 19-year-old daughter who witnessed the incident.[143]

Private School Teacher Cut with Machetes, Moko (June 12, 2019)

Seven separatists, some with machetes and others with guns, broke into the home of Aster, a 31-year-old teacher at about 4 a.m., and assaulted her for committing the “crime” of teaching. “I tried to beg them, but they did not show mercy and cut my right leg with machetes before running away,” she said. She later had her leg amputated at a hospital in Douala, more than 50 kilometers away.[144] Three others corroborated the victim’s account, and Human Rights Watch reviewed a photograph taken by one of the victim’s relatives showing her almost completely severed and bleeding leg.[145]

17 Government Teachers Kidnapped and Beaten, Mundemba Camp (August 31, 2019)

Separatist fighters kidnapped 17 teachers, including 11 women, at about 8 p.m. while the teachers were heading to a meeting organized by the school administration.[146] The armed separatists beat the teachers before releasing them at about 3 a.m. on September 1, 2019. One teacher, Boris, recounted his experience:

At least five amba boys armed with guns intercepted us and took us to their camp some three kilometers away. We found more fighters there. They accused us of going to school and keep[ing] schools open, while they have given instructions that all schools should be shut down. They said they had to punish us and that we had to pay a ransom to be released. We were asked to lay on the ground where they beat us with canes, sticks, cables, and machetes. Women were also beaten. Some were bleeding…. They took all the money we had and then let us go.[147]

Public University Teacher Killed, Bamenda (May 17, 2020)

Two separatist fighters killed a 58-year-old University of Bamenda teacher, Paulinus Song,[148] who they had previously threatened and accused of being a traitor for not complying with their school boycott. When the teacher told the separatists that he needed to teach to make a living, they demanded 500,00 CFA (US$933), but he could not afford to pay.[149]


A witness to the killing said:

I saw two amba boys on a motorbike approaching him in front of his home. I was standing nearby. They said to him, “You are stubborn. Your end has come,” and then, they shot him once in the head and twice in the chest. He fell on the ground in a pool of blood. It was in broad daylight. I was terrified. He died on the spot. No one called the police [out of fear].[150]

Public School Teacher Kidnapped and Beaten, Bafia (August 5, 2020)

Separatist fighters, who said they were from a group known as “Mountain Lions,” kidnapped a teacher from his home at 7:30 a.m., for refusing to hoist the “Ambazonia” flag outside his community school. At their camp, he said he found 16 other hostages, including other teachers and parents of students. They beat the soles of his feet with machetes for the three consecutive days and hit his arms and back. About a month later, on September 3, they released him following a ransom payment of 300,000 CFA (US$560), which he needed to borrow.[151]

A farmer witnessed eight separatist fighters kidnap the teacher in broad daylight: “This teacher has been a community teacher for a long time and has invested a lot to improve the lives of the children in the Bafia community. His kidnapping came as a shock to the community.”[152]

When Human Rights Watch spoke with the teacher, he had stopped teaching for fear of being kidnapped again. He had instead begun farming and selling plantains for a living.[153]

Public School Teacher Threatened, Buea (November or December 2020)

Three separatist fighters broke into the home of a teacher at the Government Bilingual Grammar School in Buea’s Molyko neighborhood and threatened to harm her if she did not boycott school on Mondays, their designated ghost town strike day.[154] She recounted what happened:

Since the government is doing whatever it can to counter this ‘ghost town’ thing, I was requested to do catch-up classes on a Monday. I did not feel comfortable, but I went. I felt a bit under pressure to go. Days later, three amba broke into my place and threatened me…. They said: “Never go to school on Monday again; otherwise, there will be consequences. You should not be teaching on Mondays! This is a peaceful warning. The next one won’t be so.” They spoke with authority – their voices were so frightening, I was scared. My kids were at home. The youngest started crying when he saw the three men coming in.[155]

Attacks in the North-West Region

Public School Teacher Shot, Wum (August 8, 2018)

At about 4 p.m., two separatist fighters attacked Florence, a 48-year-old government teacher in Wum, on her way back home from school, along with her husband.

They shot several times at the couple, who were riding a motorbike, injuring Florence in the arms and legs and her husband in the chest, neck, and abdomen, before running away.

Despite the injuries, the couple made it to the Wum district hospital where they received medical assistance.

Human Rights Watch spoke with Florence and her husband and reviewed photographs showing their wounds, as well as medical records issued by the hospital.

Florence’s husband at the Wum district hospital. The bandage covers the gunshot wound to his abdomen. © Private, August 2018, Wum, North-West region, Cameroon

Florence’s husband said that, while he was being treated at the hospital, separatist fighters called him on his phone and said they attacked him and his wife because Florence was a teacher. “They said the reason beyond the attack was my wife’s job. They said she should not be teaching. They said schools should be shut down.” [156]

Florence and her husband left Wum after the attack. Florence is no longer teaching.

After 11 years in Wum, we had to leave. We moved to the Adamawa region. I was too scared to stay in Wum, I feared we could be attacked again. My husband was traumatized and depressed. I submitted a request for redeployment to the ministry of education in July 2021, but I didn’t get any feedback. So, I am not working. I am doing nothing. I miss teaching.[157]

Public School Teacher Kidnapped, Bamenda (February 2019)

Armed separatists kidnapped Ida, a 55-year-old high school teacher at the Government Bilingual High School Bamenda, and her husband at about 6 a.m. from their home in Mankon, a community in Bamenda.[158] They took her and her husband to their camp, threatened them with death, and accused Ida of going to school. They were released after 12 hours following a ransom payment of 500,000 CFA (US$933). Ida described their experience:

We heard knocking at the door and then a voice saying, “Open the door or we are going to break it.” Suddenly, four amba boys came in. I was still in my night dress. They said, “Give us your phones,” which we did. They said they had come to take us. I cried, begged, and said, “What have we done?” They said they came for me because I am a teacher…. They said they took my husband along because he was guilty too by allowing me to go to school every morning.[159]

Private Teacher Kidnapped and Shot, Between Njinikom and Belo (July 2019)

Eight separatist fighters, wearing plainclothes and gris-gris amulets and carrying guns, stopped a bus at a checkpoint between Njinikom and Belo. They checked all 17 passengers’ ID cards and bags and pulled out Andrew, a teacher, and three others (two men and a woman). They took these four to their camp, shot Andrew in the left leg, and released him four days later. He spent six months getting treatment at the hospital. He recounted his ordeal after the fighters found his teaching certificate:

They took [four of] us to their camp. They interrogated and threatened us with death. They accused me of teaching. They forced me to say I will no longer teach. They beat me with machetes and on the second day they shot me in the leg…. They shot me because I am a teacher.[160]

Human Rights Watch reviewed a photograph sent by the teacher showing wounds consistent with his account.

Public School Teacher Kidnapped and Tortured, Takija (August 1, 2019)

Separatist fighters with hunting guns, knives, and pistols believed to be locally fabricated stopped a teacher at a checkpoint in Takija, searched his bag, found school materials revealing he was a teacher, and then kidnapped and tortured him at their camp, including by burning his body “all over” with a lighter. They released him six days later following a ransom payment of 700,000 CFA ($1,191). He recalled what happened:

[The separatist fighters] found out I was a teacher. “According to the laws of Ambaland, this a crime, punishable by the death penalty,” they said to me…. I was taken to their camp and tortured there. They tied up my hands and feet together behind my back with a nylon rope; they hung me in this position and burned me. They left me hanging like this for several hours. I was almost dead when they put me down.[161]

Public School Teacher Shot, Bamenda (January 12, 2021)

Ida’s car in the aftermath of the attack by armed separatists on January 12, 2021. © Private, January 2021, Bamenda, North-West region, Cameroon

Ida, who had been kidnapped in February 2019, was the victim of another attack on January 12, 2021. She said a group of gunmen, whom she believed were armed separatists because of how they were dressed and their weapons, shot her car—and her abdomen—on the busy road between Mankon and the military airport. She recounted:

I was approaching a junction when I saw a group of about six amba boys, all armed with guns, some carrying stones. They were dressed like amba, had amulets and hunting guns. They jumped in the middle of the road. I pulled the brake and stopped, but the engine was still on. I thought they wanted money. But they started shooting…. We later counted 18 holes in the car …. I managed to get out of the car, and I think I was shot in the stomach at this time…. I think I was attacked because of my job. I think they followed me. Other cars pass by that road, but me? I was targeted.[162]

Human Rights Watch reviewed 10 photographs of the teacher’s car showing the holes and destruction, including broken windows caused by the shooting, that are consistent with her account. Human Rights Watch also reviewed medical records issued by a hospital in Bamenda stating the teacher had been treated for a gunshot wound in the abdomen on January 12, 2021.

 

V. Attacks on Schools

Schools are supposed to be places of peace, where we, the students, learn, play, socialize. But this has not been the case in the Anglophone regions. Schools have become a battlefield.


– A 20-year-old former student from the North-West region, April 2021[163]

Since 2017, armed separatists have attacked at least 70 schools according to reports from United Nations agencies, the World Bank, Cameroonian and international civil society organizations, and media outlets[164] to enforce their education boycott in the Anglophone regions. They would open fire on school property, set classrooms and school offices ablaze, destroy school windows, doors, walls, and roofs, burn school records, books, and other materials, pillage, and steal school fees.[165] Armed separatists have also conducted threatening visits, ordering schools to be closed and in some cases kidnapping students and teachers.[166]

Some attacks on schools occurred at functioning schools, with students and teachers either inside classrooms or outside the school building, putting them at risk of injury or death. Teachers described scenes of students screaming, crying, and running away in panic, and students recounted the fear and anxiety they experienced during attacks.

Human Rights Watch documented in detail 15 attacks on schools by armed separatist fighters between January 2017 and November 2021. In many of the attacks, perpetrators did not identify themselves as separatist fighters, and no group claimed responsibility. However, people Human Rights Watch interviewed believed the attacks were committed by separatist fighters because of their clothing (plainclothes or military pants with camouflage t-shirts as opposed to full uniforms), accessories (amulets), types of weapons (hunting guns and machetes), language (Pidgin English, English, or local dialects), and statements that schools should be boycotted and closed. In one other case documented in this report, evidence suggests that Cameroon security forces burned down and destroyed a school building which had been used by armed separatist groups.

Armed Separatists’ Attacks in the South-West Region

Our Lady of Mount Carmel College, Buea (October 2017)

This boarding high school for approximately 200 female students shut down in October 2017 following increasing threats by separatist fighters, including a raid earlier that month. Human Rights Watch spoke with two students who were present during the raid.[167] Nina,19, recalled: “They didn’t shoot but used stones and machetes to break the windows of the school. We did not see the amba, but we heard the screams and felt the panic.[168]

Human Rights Watch also reviewed two videos showing the abandoned school.

Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy, Kumba (October 24, 2020)

Unknown gunmen stormed this private school in Kumba’s Fiango neighborhood at about 11 a.m., killing 7 children and injuring at least 13 others.[169] On the day of the attack, Cameroon’s communications minister announced the opening of an investigation.[170]

As of October 2021, the government has not made any information regarding the investigation public. The school shut down immediately after the attack and remains closed at time of writing.

Women protesting in the streets of Kumba, South-West region, after the killing of seven children at Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy by suspected armed separatists on October 24, 2020. © 2020 Private
A gathering in front of Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in the aftermath of a lethal armed attack on the school by suspected armed separatist fighters on October 24, 2020. © 2020 Private
Blood stains on the benches in a classroom at Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Kumba where at least seven students were killed by suspected armed separatists on October 24, 2020. © Private, October 24, 2020, Kumba, South-West region, Cameroon

On September 7, a military tribunal in Cameroon sentenced four people to death by firing squad for the Kumba school attack, however there are very serious concerns about how the four accused and eight other defendants were identified, the absence of credible evidence against them, and the manner in which the trial was conducted in violation of international fair trial standards.[171] In addition to the use of a military tribunal to try civilians, and the imposition of the death penalty, the trial was marred by serious procedural irregularities, including the impossibility for the defense to cross examine witnesses; the lack of translation of proceedings from English or French into the Pidgin English spoken by most of the defendants; and lack of due process with respect to the detention of the accused.[172]

People protesting in the streets of Kumba South-West region, following the lethal armed attack on students and teachers at the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy on October 24, 2020. © 2020 Private

The court found the four guilty of terrorism, secession, hostility against the fatherland, murder, possession of illegal arms and ammunition, and insurrection. It sentenced four other defendants to five months in jail and a fine of 50,000 CFA (US$89) for allegedly failing to report receipt of a threat from separatist fighters. The court acquitted four others.

Kulu Memorial College, Limbe (November 4, 2020)

At about 8 a.m., at least 10 separatist fighters with guns and machetes attacked this private school.[173] They forced about 20 schoolchildren and 4 teachers who were present to undress and beat some of them before releasing them and burning down the principal’s office and another office.

Screenshot from a video posted on Twitter by a Cameroonian journalist showing one of the offices of the Kulu Memorial College burned by separatist fighters after an attack on November 4, 2020, Regina Sondo, Twitter, November 4, 2020, https://twitter.com/ReginaSondoM/status/1323927039049633793?s=20

Human Rights Watch spoke with two teachers who were present during the attack as well as the principal of the school, who arrived at the scene soon after the attack.[174] One teacher, Julia, said:

I could not believe this was happening to me. It was horrific. The assailants gathered all of us in one class; they forced us to undress. I did not want to remove my clothes, but they threatened me. So, we were all naked on the ground. They threatened to kill us. Then they poured petrol on us. I was so frightened. I struggled to keep calm and focused on consoling the children, my students, who were all scared. Then, the amba said, ‘Now run!’ They let us go and we started running naked towards nearby homes to seek help.[175]

The other teacher added that the separatist fighters collected their petrol-doused clothes and put them into two school offices before setting the offices on fire.[176] Human Rights Watch also reviewed video footage of the attack.[177]

Government Primary School, Muyuka (August 29, 2021)

At about 10 a.m., a group of suspected separatist fighters attacked the school, which had already been closed since 2017 due to the ongoing crisis, and partially burned at least one of the classrooms. Two witnesses[178] said they saw several gunmen, whom they identified as separatist fighters, enter the school, located in Muyuka’s Balong neighborhood, before seeing

smoke coming out from the building. They also said that soldiers intervened, firing at the assailants who ran away.

“When the gunfire stopped, I walked into the school and saw the burned classroom,” one of the witnesses said. “Residents of the area helped extinguish the fire.”[179]

Human Rights watch also reviewed four photographs taken by a resident of Muyuka in the aftermath of the attack and showing the burned classroom.

 
A classroom in Government Primary School, in Muyuka, burned by separatist fighters during an attack on August 29, 2021. © Private, September 2021, Muyuka, South-West region, Cameroon

Government Bilingual High School, Ekondo Titi (November 24, 2021)

Unidentified gunmen stormed the school, killed four children and one female teacher[180] and injured at least five other children. The attack unfolded in broad day light, during classes, at about 7:45 AM.

A woman living near the school told Human Rights Watch: “I heard multiple gunshots and then a loud explosion. I didn’t know what was going on. I lay down on the floor. An hour later, I was informed about the attack at the school. I am still in shock. The Government Bilingual High School is the biggest school in town, with about 1000 students.”[181]

A member of a humanitarian organization and resident of Ekondo Titi said:

I wasn’t far from the Government Bilingual High school when I started hearing many gunshots. Then there was the sound of an explosive. Minutes later I saw kids running, some were screaming. They were panicking. The first child I spoke to said gunmen had killed a female teacher in the school and some students. He said the teacher who was killed was holding a French language class.[182]

Another woman from Ekondo Titi who knew two of the children killed, and rushed to the two hospitals where the casualties were transferred after the attack, said:

At the general hospital, I saw three dead bodies of children. Before I arrived, though, the medical staff had already evacuated two more casualties, two wounded children, to the hospital in Limbe. One of the two wounded later died. At the Baptist hospital, I saw the dead body of a teacher and 5 wounded children.[183]

According to the Ekondo Titi residents interviewed by Human Rights Watch, there was no presence of security personnel around the school at the time of the attack. The residents however said that there is a police station, a gendarmerie base, and an army base in Ekondo Titi.[184]

The attack, which sparked national[185] and international[186] condemnation, led to the temporary suspension of all school activities in Ekondo Titi.[187]

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Aboloa Timothe, the Divisional Officer of Ekondo Titi Subdivision, has blamed separatist fighters for the attack.[188]

Witnesses and Ekondo Titi residents who spoke to BBC News Pidgin said that, prior to the attack, separatist fighters had threatened to burn the school if it did not comply with their demands to shut down.[189]

In a November 12, 2021, statement, Capo Daniel, the deputy defense chief of the Ambazonia Defense Forces, a major separatist group, blamed “The Expandable 100,” another separatist group which he said is under the authority of Samuel Sako, the president of the Ambazonia Interim Government, for the attack.[190]

In a November 25, 2021, press release, Cyrille Serge Atonfack Guemo, the army spokesperson, blamed separatist fighters under the command of “10 Kobo” for the attack.[191]

Human Rights Watch viewed a video purporting to show fighters from “The Expandable 100” group and one of their leaders, known as “10 Kobo,” who, speaking in Pidgin English, threatens to attack any school and any other place guarded by the military. Human Rights Watch was unable to verify the authenticity of the video. In the unauthenticated video, “10 Kobo” states the date when the video was filmed: “today, the 8th of the 9th month of 2021,” which was the first week of the new academic year 2021-2022, suggesting that the context is consistent with the military seeking at the time to guard schools to allow their resumption.

In a November 25 Twitter post, prominent separatist activist Mark Bareta said that “10 Kobo has sent out an audio shaming the Cameroon military for killing the school kids” and added that “the fighter said he has no business with children or civilians, that his focus has always been military.”[192]

Armed Separatists’ Attacks in the North-West Region

Government Bilingual High School, Jakiri (March or April 2017)

Separatist fighters burned this school one night, between 9 and 10 p.m., in March or April 2017.[193] Thomas, a teacher, described the attack: “They burned the staff room, the principal’s room, and the library. We rushed there but struggled to quell the fire. All school records, books, and other documents were burned. Even some computers were burned.[194]

A former student[195] of the school and a relative of another former student provided the same account of the events.[196]

“It was a shock to see the library completely burned,” said a 21-year-old female former student. “For students like me who could not afford textbooks, those books in the library were very important.”[197]

What is left of the office of the bursar of the Government Bilingual High School in Jakiri after separatist fighters burned it down between March and April 2017. © Private, April 2021, Jakiri, North-West region, Cameroon
What’s left of the principal’s office at the Government Bilingual High School in Jakiri after separatist fighters burned it down between March and April 2017. © Private, April 2021, Jakiri, North-West region, Cameroon
A cow grazing in front of the abandoned Government Bilingual High School in Jakiri, which has been shut since 2018 following an attack in it by separatist fighters between March and April 2017. © Private, April 2021, Jakiri, North-West region, Cameroon

All three people Human Rights Watch interviewed about this incident believed that the perpetrators were separatist fighters because armed separatists had threatened to attack this school before and had attacked other schools in the area.

The high school, which had enrolled between 1,000 and 1,400 students before the crisis, finally shut down in 2018 and remained closed through at least late April 2021, as evidenced by two videos filmed at that time showing the abandoned school, the burned administrative block, and goats and cows grazing on the surrounding land, indicating the school’s lack of use.

Government High School, Ashong (October 2017)

About 10 separatist fighters with guns and machetes raided the Government High School in Ashong village and threatened to kill eight teachers if they did not close the school. Human Rights Watch spoke with two teachers who witnessed the attack and a local official.[198] Students had stopped attending school weeks before, so they were not there during the attack. However, due to government pressure, teachers continued to go to school, and this school remained open—without students—even after the attack.[199]

Government Secondary School, Konene (September 2018)

A 32-year-old teacher recounted how at least six armed separatists disrupted a meeting to discuss the resumption of classes:

The amba boys came with motorbikes and twisted the sign board of the school. They were at least six; they had machetes and hunting guns. I was outside, waiting for the meeting to start. I saw the amba coming. They shot in the air and forced all of us [the teachers and the principal] to flee. I was very scared. I escaped towards the bush and so did other teachers. While running, at least two teachers got injured. They attacked us because they thought we were traitors: traitors because we wanted to do our job and teach and offer the students the education they deserve and have the right to.[200]

The teacher told Human Rights Watch that in and around Konene, there are several separatist armed groups, including the Ambazonia Defense Forces and the group headed by General RK, British Southern Cameroons Resistance Forces.[201]

Presbyterian Secondary School Nkwen, Bamenda (November 5, 2018)

Just before dawn, armed separatists stormed the boarding school in Nkwen and abducted 79 school children from their dormitories.[202] According to media reports, the students, aged 11-17, were kidnapped along with their principal, a teacher, and a driver.[203] All 79 students, as well as the principal, the teacher, and the driver, were eventually released on November 7.[204]

In May 2020, the government said that one of the alleged perpetrators, a separatist fighter known as “General Alhaji,” had been killed during a military operation.[205]

Morning Star Nursery and Primary School; Holy Rosary Integrated Comprehensive College, Mendankwe (June and September 2020)

Armed separatists attacked these two Catholic schools, located in the same compound, twice.[206] The first time, in June 2020, they came at about 7:30 p.m. and forced teachers at gunpoint to hand over money and valuables, including telephones and computers. Then, they broke into a female secondary school dormitory and “scared the girls to death because of their guns.”[207] The second time, in September 2020, between 10 and 15 separatists armed with hunting guns and machetes and dressed in plainclothes came at about 6 p.m. They threatened the Catholic sisters managing the school and attempted to kidnap for ransom the abbess (the head nun), who the other sisters had hidden. No children were at school when this happened.[208] Both times, they identified themselves as separatists and warned the staff to stop teaching and close the school.

Presbyterian School, Kumbo (November 3, 2020)

Separatist fighters attacked this school with more than 200 students present and kidnapped 11 teachers. They held and threatened the teachers in their camp in the bush before releasing them on November 6. Human Rights Watch spoke with Reverend Fonki Samuel Forba, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon, and one of the abducted teachers.[209] International media reports corroborated their accounts.[210]

According to Forba: “The children ran away in different directions, all very scared…. The teachers were taken to a separatist camp far in the bush. While the teachers were not mistreated, they were given a warning that they should not teach, that the school should remain shut.”[211] Residents of Kumbo suspect the kidnappers were separatist fighters, who have many camps in the area, and the Cameroonian government has blamed separatist fighters for the kidnappings.[212]

Government Bilingual High School Atiela, Bamenda (January 2021)

Armed separatists shot in the air and at the school gate, causing panic among students and teachers before the gendarmes, stationed inside the school, responded with gunfire. Human Rights Watch spoke with two teachers who were present during the attack.[213] One believed the presence of about seven gendarmes prompted the attack. He described the hostilities that ensued:

When the amba started shooting in the air and at the gate, the gendarmes responded to the gunfire and called for reinforcements. An exchange of fire followed and lasted for about 20 or 30 minutes. It was continuous, sustained gunfire. It was loud and frightening. It’s a miracle none of us got injured or killed. Students ran away in fear. Some students did not come to school for over a month after this incident.[214]

The other teacher had a similar experience: “The amba came early, by the time the kids were entering the school gate. They started shooting in the air. They came to scare the students because they were going to school. I ran away with other teachers and students. Since this incident, I stopped teaching. It’s just too risky.[215]

Security Forces’ Burning of a School Building Used by Separatists

Human Rights Watch learned of one alleged attack on a school by Cameroonian security forces through a video posted on social media in January 2019 that shows a group of Cameroonian soldiers around a burning school building and an interview with a resident of Widikum town, North-West region.[216] The University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center and Bellingcat, an investigative journalism collective, geolocated the video, which appears to have been filmed in Eka village, North-West region.[217] While the video does not show who lit the fire, they found that the soldiers “do not appear to be making a concerted effort to stop it.”[218]

The resident of Widikum, a town near Eka, blamed soldiers for burning the school in retaliation for the separatists’ previous use of it as a camp.[219] A pro-government website also claimed that the “army burnt the school because separatist fighters had used it as a base.”[220]

The attack seriously damaged the school, which remains closed as of July 2021.

A screenshot from a video posted on twitter in January 2019 showing a group of Cameroonian soldiers around a burning school building in Eka village, North-West region, Twitter, @iayongwa, January 11, 2019, https://twitter.com/iayongwa/status/1083760705239638016?s=20; https://twitter.com/iayongwa/status/1083802717733060608?s=20.
 

VI. Use of Schools by Armed Separatist Groups

Schools are supposed to be safe havens when violence erupts. They are meant for children to learn and socialize. But we see too many schools being used by amba boys as camps and bases.


– A human rights activist in the South-West region, November 2020[221]

Separatist fighters have used scores of schools as bases and have held hostages, stored weapons and ammunitions, and deployed fighters in and near them, according to reports from the UN and other credible organizations.[222] A senior Cameroonian education official said in July 2019 that separatist fighters were occupying and using 53 schools as camps in the Anglophone regions.[223] In September 2020, the army announced they had chased separatist fighters from at least 100 schools in the North-West region alone.[224] Human Rights Watch received information about the occupation by separatist fighters of three schools in the South-West region and in previous reports documented the occupation by separatist fighters of four schools in the North-West region.[225]

A former separatist fighter, Peter, said his former group, the Asawana group, had occupied at least three schools in the South-West region. It used the government secondary school in Foe Bakundu for about two years, the government secondary school in Maromba for about three years, and the government secondary school in Bai Panya for about one year, he said. All schools were used for weapons storage and as disciplinary centers to physically punish villagers who violated separatist rules. The schools in Foe Bakundu and Maromba had prisons and offices, where villagers could lodge complaints, and the school

in Bai Panya functioned as a meeting site for Asawana fighters.[226] Human Rights Watch was unable to corroborate the occupation of these three schools.

A screenshot from a video showing armed separatist fighters torturing a man in an abandoned school in mid-May, 2019. Writing on a school desk suggests that the video was filmed at the Government Technical High School in Bali, North-West region. © 2019 Private

Separatist fighters occupied the Government Primary and Nursery School in Tan village, in the North-West region, from at least 2018 to December 2019.[227] On December 8, 2019, at about 5:30 a.m., soldiers stormed it and killed at least six separatist fighters in the school.[228] Witnesses then saw soldiers damaging and looting the school. Textbooks had already been destroyed during the armed separatists’ occupation.[229] A community leader described the scene: “There was a lot of shooting. Villagers escaped for their lives. I also ran away with my family and went to the bush, where I remained for about one week. When I came back with other villagers, we discovered the dead bodies [of separatist fighters] and buried them.”[230]

Since December 2019, the school has been abandoned. Villagers and former teachers have started to repair the damage. “Following the military intervention, we could finally enter the school to see what it had become,” said a former teacher at the school. “There was a lot of damage.” He said two solar panels and kitchen utensils, like pots, were missing and the school’s doors and roof were bullet-ridden.[231] Human Rights Watch reviewed photographs and videos taken in May 2021 showing the abandoned school, a classroom with broken benches and notebooks spread on the floor, and the destroyed doors and roof. Before the crisis erupted in late 2016, this school had up to 300 students, serving the local population as well as the nomadic Mbororo people in the area.[232]

According to a former student from Ndu, also in the North-West region, separatist fighters occupied the Government High School Mbiplah in Ndu for one year before relocating to the Government Primary School Nalah, also in Ndu, which continues to be a separatist camp at time of writing.[233]
A view of the abandoned Government Primary and Nursery School in Tan village, North-West region. The school was used as a camp by armed separatists from at least 2018 to December 2019, when it was attacked by Cameroonian soldiers. © Private, June 2021, Tan, North-West region, Cameroon

VII. Government Response

The Cameroonian authorities have taken steps to respond to attacks on education, including by endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration in September 2018.[234] Countries that endorse the declaration agree to take steps to strengthen prevention and responses related to attacks on education.[235] The Cameroonian government has begun to fulfill its commitments under the Safe Schools Declaration by implementing some measures to maintain children’s access to education, with funding and support from donors and humanitarian organizations.[236]

Back-to-School Campaigns

The continuation of education during conflict is a commitment under the Safe Schools Declaration, and the Cameroonian government has attempted to revive education in the Anglophone regions with more pronounced back-to-school campaigns at the start of each new school year than the ones it executed during the pre-crisis period. Unfortunately, many teachers and independent analysts believe these back-to-school campaigns put the lives of students and teachers at risk by forcing them to go to school despite widespread insecurity.[237]

Tina, a teacher at the Government High School in Ashong village, North-West region, described how teachers must go to school, despite a lack of security, protection, and even students:

We are under pressure to keep the school open, to show up in class, even when we have to teach to empty benches. There have been days where I was alone in my classroom. The pressure comes from our board. And in turn, the board is under pressure from higher authorities. And when we go to school, we receive threats from the amba boys.[238]

Before the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year, the government launched a highly publicized back-to-school campaign.[239] Its next back-to-school campaign, before the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, came after nearly seven months of school closures across the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.[240] Attacks on education in the Anglophone regions escalated almost immediately after students physically returned to school in October 2020. Within weeks, a teacher was murdered, another one kidnapped,[241] and Human Rights Watch documented attacks on at least three schools (in Kumba, Kumbo, and Limbe).[242] Some students stopped going to school for months following these attacks, as parents were reluctant to send their children to school out of fear for their safety.[243]

Chris, a high school teacher in Buea, about 70 kilometers from Kumba, said that after information about the Kumba massacre spread, parents “rushed to the school and literally took their children out of the classrooms.” He described “panic and commotion, even though we were far away from the location where the killings took place.”[244]

Not only parents, but also teachers are afraid. “It takes courage to teach,” said a 36-year-old female teacher in Muea. “Every morning, when I wake up and walk to school, I pray God that I’ll return.”[245]

A post on the Facebook account of the defense minister stated: “Education is a fundamental right. Children must go to school,” above a cartoon showing a soldier holding a child by the hand. Facebook, Cameroon’s Minister of Defence, September 3, 2021, https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1849906221861395&id= 453680038150694&m_entstream_source= feed_mobile&anchor_composer=false (accessed September 2021).

On September 3, 2021, ahead of the resumption of the 2021 to 2022 academic year on September 6,  the government also carried out a robust back-to-school campaign.

A post on the Facebook account of the defense minister stated: “Education is a fundamental right. Children must go to school,” above a cartoon showing a soldier holding a child by the hand.[246]

Cameroonian authorities said at least 400 schools reopened and 70,000 students have resumed their classes in the North-West and South-West for the new school year that began in September 2021.[247] Local media reported that authorities of both Anglophone regions recorded improvements in school attendance compared to the last academic year.[248]

Citing statistics from Cameroonian education authorities, UNOCHA reported that only a week only after the resumption of the new school year 2021-2022, 53 percent of secondary schools, 49 percent of primary schools and 47 percent of nursery schools were not functional in the South-West region, and only 23 percent of secondary schools were functional in the North-West region.[249]

Teachers and parents of students from both regions also told Human Rights Watch that the majority of schools remain shut.

A mother of two school children in Muyuka, South-West region, said:

All government schools are shut here. Only community schools, run by local residents and sometimes members of the Catholic Church, are going on because they are tolerated by the amba fighters. The situation remains unpredictable, and I see no prospect for public schools to reopen in Muyuka anytime soon. We also started the first day of a lockdown imposed by the amba for approximately two weeks and during this period everything will be closed, including community schools.[250]

In addition, separatist groups called for an 18-day lockdown from September 15 to October 2, 2021.[251]

According to the UN, as a result of the separatist-imposed lockdown “all schools and community learning spaces were closed, except for some schools in a few urban areas which are operating at less than 60% of their capacity, compared to the first week of the 2021-2022 academic year.”[252]

“Schools were meant to open in September, but my kids are staying home. We are all staying home. The city is dead. We are afraid of breaking the lockdown. We don’t want to run into troubles,” a father of two in Kumba, South-West region, told Human Rights Watch.[253]

Presence of Security Forces at City Schools

The Cameroonian government has frequently deployed security forces in or outside school premises in an attempt to increase security at schools in major urban centers, where schools are functioning. Following the November 10, 2021 attack on the Buea University for example, Bernard Okalia Bilai, governor of the South-West region, told the media that everyone should return to the school because the military has been deployed to protect students and staff members.[254] The responses have been mixed: some students and teachers told Human Rights Watch that they appreciated this form of protection, while others did not.

The Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, which Cameroon endorsed through the Safe Schools Declaration, propose a sliding scale of interaction between security forces and school premises in response to security threats to schools:

[Security forces] should not be employed to provide security for schools and universities, except when alternative means of providing essential security are not available. If possible, appropriately trained civilian personnel should be used to provide security for schools and universities. If necessary, consideration should also be given to evacuating children, students and staff to a safer location… If fighting forces are engaged in security tasks related to schools and universities, their presence within the grounds or buildings should be avoided if at all possible in order to avoid compromising the establishment’s civilian status and disrupting the learning environment.[255]

While the Guidelines have been produced specifically for application during armed conflict, they may also be useful and instructive for comparable situations, including those with the potential to turn into armed conflict.[256]

Positive Reception

Some teachers felt safer when security guards or security forces, such as police, gendarmes, and soldiers, were around their schools. Lily, a female teacher at the Government Bilingual Grammar School in Buea’s Molyko neighborhood, expressed feeling more “comfortable” and “safer” due to the presence of about six security force personnel at the school gate and two or three on patrol. Private security guards replace the security forces at night.[257] At the Government Technical High School, also in Molyko neighborhood, there are at least two or three security force personnel around, including at night. Chris, a teacher there, said, “I think it is good to have them around. I think without them we would be more exposed to attacks. Their presence deters attacks.”[258] A private school teacher in Buea’s Sandpit neighborhood was “reassured and more protected” by the presence of soldiers around the school. “I feel safer, and I work better,” he said. “I hope they’ll continue patrolling until the security situation improves.”[259]

Some students felt safer too. “Gendarmes are present in our school all the time—they sleep there,” said a 20-year-old male student at the Government Technical High School in Bamenda. “Their presence makes us feel safer. It’s a guarantee of extra security during class time. I think they should remain there.”[260]

Concerns about Deployment of Security Forces

Others were concerned about the deployment of security forces in and around their schools, citing fears that their presence would increase the risk of attacks by armed separatists. Some said that they feel uncomfortable in the presence of security forces because of their abusive reputation.

A teacher at the Higher Technical Teacher Training College in Kumba expressed fear of security forces patrolling the classrooms:

Their presence makes me scared. First, they are known to harass young men because they suspect them of having ties with the separatist fighters, so students and young male teachers are their targets. Sometimes, soldiers can arrest and detain you arbitrarily. Secondly, when the amba see the security forces, they tend to attack them. So, if you are with the security forces or near them, you automatically become a target.[261]

When separatist fighters targeted the Government Bilingual High School Atiela in Bamenda, one teacher believed separatist fighters attacked his school because gendarmes were stationed there for security purposes. As of June 2021, the school was functioning with gendarmes inside.[262]

Staff at the Community Christian College in Muea decided not to apply for soldiers to provide extra security because:

If the amba boys know the soldiers are at the school, they might attack us, there could be a clash, lives of kids could be at stake. So, we [the school staff] decided to ensure the security ourselves and instructed children to take precautions and use some coping strategies like not wearing uniforms on their way to and from school, to leave their books at the school, and to use shopping bags instead of school bags.[263]

A 22-year-old student at the Saint Paul Comprehensive College, a private school in Nkwen village, Bamenda, said that private security guards generally provide security at her school. However, during the exam period from June 29 to July 13, 2021, security forces patrolled the school, likely to dissuade separatist fighters from attacking it. She said she preferred private security guards to government security forces:

I am comfortable only having private security guards in the school compound. I would not want the military to station in my school. Military presence in school makes us, the students, a target of the amba boys. During the exams, I was nervous when the soldiers came close to the school because I feared the school could be attacked by the amba boys.[264]

Some found a compromise with the security forces. At the Government Nursery School Bokwoango in Buea, education staff asked the security forces to vacate the premises and instead conduct patrols around the school perimeter. “The students were afraid, and we felt like we could become a target of the amba,” a teacher explained. The security forces agreed to their request.[265]

 

VIII. Persistent Failures to Protect Education

The government has made efforts to address attacks on education in the Anglophone regions, however these efforts have not been sufficient to resolve issues related to security for schools in rural areas and on the way to and from schools and accountability for attacks on education has been almost non-existent. The government has also failed to address the lack of resources and overcrowding in schools hosting internally displaced students.

Provision of Security to Places of Education

In times of armed conflict or comparable situations of persistent violence that threaten the safety of places of education, students, and staff, governments have an obligation to counter the risk and take feasible efforts to ensure the safety of places of learning and those in them. Provision of security to schools and universities should be undertaken in such a way that does not enhance their vulnerability to attack, for example by making them potential targets in an armed conflict, or for armed groups in an insurgency. The views of educational professionals, students, and parents, who should be regularly and formally consulted, should be taken into account in developing security plans for schools and universities.

Government forces deployed to provide security should also strictly observe international human rights law, and where applicable international humanitarian law, with zero tolerance of abuses against civilians so that staff and students alike can trust those providing security. As noted above, the Safe Schools Guidelines call for appropriately trained civilian personnel to be used to provide security if possible, and for armed forces only to be used where alternative means are not available.

Therefore, the Cameroonian government should consider a sliding scale of security measures in response to assessed risks to schools, students, and teachers. If possible, appropriately trained civilian personnel, such as guards and watchmen, should be used to provide security. Any decision to escalate to police, gendarmes, and then armed forces personnel, should be done only as a necessary and proportionate response to assessed risk.

If armed forces personnel are engaged in security tasks related to schools, their presence within school grounds or buildings should be avoided if at all possible, including for accommodation. Where feasible, establishing wider security perimeters in neighborhoods around schools, rather than directly outside schools, may minimize disruption to children’s education and avoid militarization of school or university grounds.

Similarly, where provision of security along routes traveled by teachers and students to and from schools is necessary, the government should consider the feasibility of conducting sweeps along the routes before and after the school day, rather than direct escorts.

Inadequate Security in Some Places

Absence of Security Measures

Some schools that were attacked had no security protection or security forces had failed to respond adequately to early warning signs and threats of an attack. Some victims and witnesses expressed disappointment at the government’s inaction.

For example, there was no government security – police or otherwise – near the private Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Kumba when suspected separatist gunmen stormed the school and killed seven children in broad daylight on October 24, 2020.[266] “It is a shame that no member of the security forces was present nearby the school at the time of the attack,”[267] said a man whose 12-year-old daughter was shot and injured in the attack. “Our children deserve better protection.”[268]

In a statement in response to the incident, the government spokesperson said that the school “only launched its activities at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, without the knowledge of the competent administrative authorities and could not benefit from the same security measures enjoyed by other schools.”[269] However, according to Kumba residents and journalists, the school had been open for several years, but only government schools in Kumba—not private schools—have security forces outside.[270]

When separatist fighters attacked the private Kulu Memorial College in Limbe less than two weeks later, that school was also unprotected.[271] “There was no presence of security forces around the school at the time of the attack: no military, no gendarmes, no police, nothing,” said Julia, a teacher there. “The military only came after the attack when the gunmen had already disappeared.”[272]

No law enforcement intervened during or after separatist fighters raided the Ashong public high school.[273] Tina, a teacher at the school felt the security forces did not care: “There is a gendarmerie station in our community. But the gendarmes did not respond during or after the amba attack. Even in the following days, they did not come to ask us questions, to know what had happened to us.”[274]

Despite repeated threats by separatists to disrupt the National Day on May 20, 2020, there were no security personnel in or around the University of Bamenda that day. Jim, who was kidnapped by separatist fighters, said: “There is a military base just seven kilometers from [Bambili]. But no one intervened when we were kidnapped. No soldier came and no soldier was around the university when the amba came…. From what I have experienced, I think that [separatist] threats were overlooked or not taken seriously.”[275]

Lack of Security on the Road

Students and teachers should have not only safe schools, but also safe locales so they can go to and from school without being attacked. According to Lily, a public high school teacher:

The main problem is what happens off the school campus. Security is guaranteed by the security forces at the school, but not outside. Some students and teachers live at the periphery of the town. These areas are not secured—amba are around and can attack them…. We don’t just need safe schools, we need safe cities, safe neighborhoods.[276]

In fact, all the students, teachers, and parents interviewed by Human Rights Watch who still go to school in the Anglophone regions had major concerns regarding the lack of security on the road to and from school.

“When I see them leaving the house in the morning, I worry, I am nervous,” said a father of two boys living in Bomaka, South-West region. “I think about all the risks along the road and at school. We live in fear.”[277]

Some parents have sought to mitigate these risks by arranging taxis for their schoolchildren, despite the cost.[278] One high school student in Bamenda described a common self-protection strategy used by many students: “When I go to school, I don’t wear my school uniform. I just wear my normal clothes. I am afraid of being spotted by the amba. I walk for about a kilometer, and I never feel safe.”[279]

Lack of Security in Rural Areas

Most of the schools in the violence-affected areas, especially in rural areas where the presence of separatist groups is stronger, have been closed since 2017.[280] Some of the teachers, students, and families of students interviewed by Human Rights Watch thought that an increased military presence in rural communities would promote school resumption. Others believed that more security forces still would not allow classes to safely resume and could even heighten insecurity.

In Akeh village, a rural community in the North-West region where there are active separatist groups, a former senior education staffer at the Government High School, which has been closed since July 2018, believed a greater military presence would help schools safely resume. He thought that “the creation of a military base or post could contribute to discouraging amba from attacking schools.”[281]

Thomas, a public high school teacher, called for a comprehensive, political solution to address the complexities of school resumption:

An increased presence of the military in rural areas won’t be enough for schools to resume. Not everyone feels safe when the soldiers are around. Some think a military man is a threat, and when they see the soldiers, they are scared because the soldiers misbehave. Also, the amba are not giving up their strategy of the school boycott. There should be some more comprehensive solution to the crisis: a political solution. There should be a dialogue between the government and the separatist leaders.[282]
 
A view of the abandoned Government High School in Akeh village, a rural community in the North-West region. The school has been closed since July 2018. © Private, April 2021, Akeh, North-West region, Cameroon

Inadequately Resourced and Overcrowded Host Schools

As the number of IDPs in the Anglophone regions as well as in the Francophone Littoral, West, and Centre regions more than tripled from 160,000 in 2018 to nearly 600,000 in 2021,[283] both public and private schools in host towns suffered from overcrowding. Schools in urban centers are particularly overcrowded,[284] partly because internally displaced teachers, students, and parents felt that these places would be safer due to the heightened presence of security forces.[285] Consequently, many children moved, with or without their families, to those urban areas to more safely access education.[286] Teachers were also redeployed to main urban centers once their schools in the countryside shut down.[287]

In these urban centers, teachers, parents, and students Human Rights Watch interviewed identified overcrowding as a problem that stretched class sizes beyond their limit, resulting in 100 students in some classes— when the pre-crisis sizes ranged from approximately 25 to 50 students per class, according to our research—and schools struggling to accommodate everyone with only limited assistance from the government. A lack of material and human resources exacerbated this situation.

A teacher at the Government Bilingual Grammar school in Buea said that the student body increased by at least 1,000 since 2019 due to the arrival of displaced students. She expressed a need for additional classrooms, teachers, desks, benches, and school materials.[288] Another teacher working in Buea observed a steep increase in student numbers at the Government High School in Great Soppo neighborhood and at the Government Technical High School in Molyko neighborhood because of the arrival of large numbers of internally displaced students. “It is hard to ensure quality education when you have such a large number of students,” he said. “We need more classroom space, more desks, and more teachers. We have not received any support from the government in this direction.”[289]

Tim, who fled his community following an assault by separatist fighters, experienced congestion in his new school, the Government Technical High School, in Buea:

The classroom space is inadequate, there is minimal student-teacher interaction, teaching time is more limited. Our class is overcrowded and thus, the environment is not conducive for the students to learn and for teachers to teach.[290]

According to an education official in Douala—Cameroon’s largest city, located in the Littoral region, which has welcomed thousands of IDPs[291]—the government has taken steps to accommodate displaced students. He said the Minister of Secondary Education empowered Parent Teacher Associations to build more classrooms and claimed that “as a result, the problem of the influx has been resolved.”[292]

Yet some schools remain over capacity in Douala, and teachers told Human Rights Watch that their institutions have not received any additional school materials from the government. For example, although the class size at the Government Bilingual High School in the Bonaberi neighborhood increased from an average of 25 to 50 students per class, the government did not supply additional benches, desks, or books.[293]

Private schools have also become congested. A private school teacher in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, described how private school enrollment doubled, and even tripled, as a result of internally displaced students from the Anglophone regions. Student numbers at the Bilingual College Paul Messi and the Bilingual College Frantz Fanon each rose from 700 to 1,600-plus, while the Bilingual College Amazia increased from 700 to 2,000-plus. “It’s not sustainable,” he said. “Classes are overcrowded, it’s difficult to teach. Sometimes we have up to 100 students per class.”[294]

Impunity for Attacks on Education

There is no doubt that there has been an absence of accountability for attacks on education by armed separatists. As of October 2021, Human Rights Watch is aware of 23 persons who have been arrested following attacks. One armed separatist was arrested and is being prosecuted for his alleged involvement in assaulting and cutting the hand of Clara, a teacher in the South-West region.[295] After the incident in March 2019, Clara said that Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) soldiers came from their camp near Mamfe, chased the assailants, and caught and detained one of them in Buea. His trial started at the beginning of 2021 and at time of writing is ongoing.[296]

About a week after the release of the kidnapped University of Buea students in March 2019, the military said it arrested at least 10 suspects.[297] Human Rights Watch has been unable to independently verify these arrests or to learn more about the identity or fate of the 10 suspects.

Human Rights Watch is aware of the arrests of 12 more persons, 8 of whom were ultimately convicted of different offences in connection with the school attack in Kumba in October 2020.[298] The 12 were prosecuted before a military tribunal, which on September 7, 2021, following a severely unfair trial, sentenced four to death, fined and jailed another four, and acquitted the final four.[299]

It is likely that there are other cases of arrests and prosecutions of people who were involved in attacks against education. However, Human Rights Watch is not aware of them, including because of the failure of government to respond to its request for this information,[300] the general restrictions imposed by government on information flows, access to the Anglophone regions,[301] as well as the near secrecy surrounding trials of separatist suspects in military courts. Other factors contributing to the low number of arrests and prosecutions of suspected school attackers documented in this report include the government’s adoption of a primarily military approach to the crisis.

Restrictions Of Access to the Anglophone Regions and Of Information Flow

Since the security and political crisis broke out in the Anglophone regions in late 2016, authorities have systematically tried to control the information flow and hinder access to the North-West and South-West regions to independent national and international monitors and journalists.

In January 2017, the government shut down the internet for three months in the English-speaking regions.[302] According to Internet Sans Frontières, “it was the longest shut down by a country in Africa and its impact on the country’s economy was devastating.”[303] The internet disruptions hampered the ability of journalists and human rights activists to cover and report on events unfolding in the Anglophone regions and hindered people’s access to crucial life-saving information.[304]

At least one journalist has died in military custody following his arrest for covering the crisis. On August 2, 2019, police arrested Samuel Ajiekah Abwue, known as Wazizi, an English-speaking journalist at the privately owned broadcaster, Chillen Muzik and TV (CMTV), and transferred him to a military-run facility in the same city on August 7, where he was then forcibly disappeared.[305] None of his family, friends, colleagues, or lawyers had contact with him after August 7, 2019, but in early June 2020 media reported that they had learned Wazizi died in custody following torture, on an undetermined date. Cameroonian authorities have yet to effectively investigate his enforced disappearance and death in military custody.[306]

Few international journalists have been able to visit the Anglophone regions since 2017, and those who did were either embedded with the Cameroonian army[307] or travelled undercover.[308]

The media accreditation of other journalists who were granted visas to enter Cameroon excluded the Anglophone regions. An international journalist told Human Rights Watch “when I obtained my visa and media accreditation in 2019 from the Cameroonian embassy in Paris, I was told that I could not travel to the Anglophone regions.”[309] Another journalist said: “I got the visa at the Cameroonian embassy in Paris, but I only got the media accreditation in Yaoundé at the communication ministry, five days after my arrival and that accreditation did not cover the Anglophone regions.”[310]

Adoption of a Primarily Military Approach

At the beginning of the crisis, between late 2016 and early 2017, security forces arrested hundreds of people for taking part in protests,[311] but by the second half of 2017, the government’s approach changed. In November 2017, as the number of armed separatist groups grew in the Anglophone regions, President Paul Biya labelled them terrorists and declared “war” on them.[312] After the so-called ‘Grand National dialogue’ between September 30 and October 4, 2019,[313] a military solution appears to have largely prevailed.

The deployment of thousands of troops to the English-speaking regions to engage in counter-insurgency operations has led to the killings of hundreds of civilians[314] as well as alleged separatist fighters.

As a Cameroonian lawyer put it:

The government’s approach in the two Anglophone regions has not been one of arrest and prosecute, but rather one of pursue and neutralize. Security forces often prefer to kill the suspected separatist fighters rather than capture, interrogate, and prosecute them. When armed actors commit attacks, such as the Kumba and Ekondo Titi school massacres, the government’s response should not only exclusively consist of military operations to dislodge them. There is an important military or civilian justice role to investigate the gravest incidents these groups commit. If some perpetrators are caught alive, they would need to be prosecuted, and terrorism does not tell the whole story of their crimes. That is the reason to conduct some investigations, and early.[315]

Trial of Suspected Separatists in Military Courts

The insecurity prevailing in the two Anglophone regions appears to have hampered Cameroonian authorities’ ability to investigate attacks against education and prosecute those responsible. Some courts are not operational or fully operational in both regions. In the two documented cases of prosecution of suspected attackers of schools, the authorities resorted to the use of military courts.

Following the killing of a government schoolteacher by suspected separatist fighters in Kumba, South-West region in July 2021,[316] a Cameroonian lawyer told Human Rights Watch:

One of the most effective ways to stamp out the narrative among separatist fighters that "teachers are black-legs" [spies] would be for the security forces to actually arrest, investigate, try, and sentence some of those culpable in the attacks against schools, students, and teachers. Unless and until there is another mechanism to do so, Cameroon's judicial system ought to handle these cases. It is true that these attacks occurred in military operations zones, but all cannot be left to the army to neutralize perpetrators of these incidents.[317]

Impunity for Security Force Abuses

Security forces are often abusive toward young men and boys, whom they often treat (with or without cause) as separatists. They continue to instill fear in civilians in the Anglophone regions, especially young men, boys, and their relatives, who worry about being violently targeted by security forces.

A father of two school-age boys from a rural community in the South-West region expressed fear and wariness of the security forces, including in or around schools, because they are known to be abusive:

When soldiers come for their security operations, we fear the worst. We have seen them kill, torture, burn homes, and arrest young people with no reason. They are engaged for a legitimate cause—to fight the separatist fighters—but they don’t do it according to the law. They are brutal and suspect everyone to be an amba, especially young men and boys. They don’t differentiate between an ordinary man and an amba fighter.[318]

Some young men also share this sentiment. Jim, kidnapped by armed separatists from his university residence, was relieved that the authorities did not contact him after his release:

I am scared of the security forces, and when you talk to them you can get in real trouble. If they know that you have been in touch with the amba, they think that you know their things, that you can show them their whereabouts, or that you collaborate with them and give them information.[319]

A 23-year-old student at the College of Technology of the University of Buea was accused of being a separatist fighter and detained after reporting to gendarmes a generator explosion in Molyko neighborhood in January 2021. He was locked up for one night, but then he secured his release by paying a 150,000 CFA ($270) fine. “More should be done to reign in the security forces,” he said. “Their conduct should improve—they need to respect human rights and respect civilians. They can and should fight the separatists, but they should do it in a legal way.”[320]

Impunity as a Trigger for Displacement

Violence and impunity on both sides has motivated displacement, including abroad. A 28-year-old former student at the University of Buea, South-West region, fled to Cyprus in February 2019 because he feared threats by separatist fighters and abuses by the army:

As a young man living in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions, you are automatically a target. The soldiers look at you as a potential suspect—[they] perceive all young men as separatist fighters. On the other hand, the amba boys see you as a potential fighter, so they force you to join. They can threaten you directly or threaten your family to press you to join their group.[321]
 

IX. Consequences of Attacks on Education

The first consequence [of these attacks] is that our kids are not going to be educated. Ignorance will be running riot in our community. It would lead to teenage pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, and a culture where people don't valorize education. The worst thing is that it affects future generation of Anglophone Cameroonians. But the bigger picture is that it makes the international community to look at us if we don't really know what we're doing. Why would a people in a liberation movement be preventing kids from going to school? And these same kids are the leaders of tomorrow. And most of these people who are against school education, they have got an education. If you look at the leaders of most of the [separatist] groupings, they studied in this country and they benefited from the education.


— Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla, President of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa[322]

Attacks on students, teachers, and schools in the Anglophone regions have had a significant impact on access to education, consequently reducing Anglophone Cameroonians’ opportunities for economic and social mobility in the long run. According to a Cameroonian human rights activist:

A single attack on a single school can be simply devastating and keep hundreds of children out of the school for a long period of time, possibly annihilating the community’s only place of learning, especially in the most remote areas of the Anglophone regions… Attacks on schools, students, teachers have an impact on the overall development of our communities, on its economy—on everything. Without access to education, our children will just grow up without the fundamental skills they need to be able to contribute to the development of their regions and of Cameroon.[323]

In addition to directly harming students, teachers, school buildings, and school materials, attacks on education have caused school closures or disruptions, a decline in student attendance and the quality of education, forced displacement of teachers and students, and early pregnancies after students drop out.[324] Education professionals and students who survived attacks have also experienced ongoing psychosocial distress and physical problems.

Decreased Access to Education

School Closures

As of February 2021, less than half of primary schools and secondary schools (49 and 42 percent, respectively) in the South-West region were operational, while less than one-third of primary schools and secondary schools (27 percent for both) in the North-West region were operational.[325]

In Akeh, the Government High School was a place for students from remote, rural areas to learn. But due to separatists’ threats and attacks, the school has been closed since 2018, depriving nearly all 250 students of an education. “The school is abandoned and dirty,” said a senior official at the school. “The bush is taking it over. It’s a deplorable situation.” The same official noted that in October 2020, a Cameroonian NGO decided to refurbish the school but stopped its work following an attack by armed separatists.[326] Photographs and video footage of the abandoned school building taken after the armed separatists’ attack show the construction materials left in the classroom.

A classroom in Government Practicing School in Bomaka neighborhood, Buea, South-West region, which was burned down by unidentified men between June and July 2020.   © Private, June 2021, Buea, South-West region, Cameroon
A view of the abandoned Government High School in Akeh village, a rural community in the North-West region. The school has been closed since July 2018. © Private, April 2021, Akeh, North-West region, Cameroon
An abandoned classroom in Government High School in Akeh village, a rural community in the North-West region. The school has been closed since July 2018. © Private, April 2021, Akeh, North-West region, Cameroon

A teacher at the Government Bilingual High School in Jakiri said that attendance dropped to zero within a year after separatist fighters partially burned his school in mid-2017. The school closed shortly thereafter.[327]

On September 6, 2021, schools reopened in Cameroon the 2021-2022 academic year. However, two out of three schools in the Anglophone regions remained closed, leaving over 700,000 students without education.[328] Citing statistics from education authorities, UNOCHA reported that after the first week of schooling, in September 2021, 53 percent of secondary schools, 49 percent of primary schools, and 47 percent of nursery schools were not functional in the South-West region, and only 23 percent of secondary schools were functional in the North-West region.[329]

In addition to the challenges posed by attacks on education, the spread of Covid-19 affected school attendance. In 2021, teachers were infected in about 30 percent of the operational schools in the North-West region.[330]

Students Forced to Drop Out of School

The UN Secretary-General estimated in June 2021 that 700,000 school-age children were out of school because of the Anglophone crisis.[331] Students have had to drop out due to school closures, fear, and economic reasons related to the crisis. Other students had to stop school for years before eventually resuming their education elsewhere.

Tim stopped his schooling for about three years out of fear. Because his school in Kumbo, North-West region, closed, he enrolled in another school in Buea to pursue his education. “Amba boys started threatening all those who used to go to school, and the teachers too and our parents; they repeatedly indicated that anyone seen going to school shall be dealt with bitterly,” he said. “I was afraid all the time.”[332]

Linda, a 17-year-old girl who dropped out of school in 2017 due to violence in Mbam, North-West region, said she feels like she is forgetting how to read and write after missing more than four years of education. “Because I did not go to school for a long period of time,” she said, “I now struggle to read and write. It is like I forgot how to do it.”[333]

To make a living, support their families, or pay fees at new schools, many students, including children,[334] found jobs after their schools closed or after they experienced attacks or abuses. According to students, teachers, parents, and social workers in the Anglophone regions, out-of-school students became mechanics, hairdressers, tailors, domestic workers, or construction workers.[335] UN agencies, humanitarian organizations, and community leaders have reported that teenage pregnancies have significantly increased because of many girls and young women dropping out of school.[336] Teenage pregnancy is both a major obstacle to the educational achievement of female learners and often a consequence of them dropping out.[337] Numerous studies have shown that the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to be married as a child and or to become pregnant during her teenage years.[338]

Psychosocial and Emotional Consequences

Teachers Traumatized by Attacks on Education

Numerous education professionals who experienced or witnessed attacks told Human Rights Watch that they have since struggled with depression, anxiety, fear, trouble sleeping, nightmares, and other emotional difficulties.

Julia, who was attacked by armed separatist fighters in her school in Limbe, eventually felt better but decided to change schools: “After the attack, for days, I felt sad, scared, traumatized. I could not sleep. I was afraid of my shadow. I refused to listen to the words of encouragement by my family and friends, I just felt so empty. I truly feared for my life.”[339]

Andrew, who was kidnapped and shot by separatist fighters in the leg, conveyed his hopelessness:

Sometimes I am depressed when I think about my situation, when I realize that we live in towns and villages with devasted schools, schools abandoned, used as amba camps. We have traumatized children and desperate teachers. Teachers had to flee, run away out of fear for their lives. Students got displaced, sometimes separated from their families, unable to continue their education and to build a future.[340]

In all cases documented by Human Rights Watch, education professionals who survived attacks did not receive psychosocial support services from the government. In fact, there are not enough government psychosocial support services available to handle this problem.[341]

Some teachers told Human Rights Watch that they have experienced anxiety and stress because of their precarious financial situation, which was often worse for private school teachers. Our research found that public school teachers continued to receive their salaries regardless of school closures and were sometimes redeployed, but private school teachers became jobless.

A 57-year-old private school teacher whose home in Mile 40, South-West region, burned during a confrontation between soldiers and separatist fighters in October 2017 struggled for over one year to find another teaching job:

I teach in a private school now, but I am not paid. I struggle to feed my six children. I am forced to do small farming to get some food… I live with the memories of the atrocities I saw. I carry with me the images of my sudden displacement. And as a result, I feel down. I behave in ways that are unfamiliar to me. I feel sad, depressed, low, and anxious.[342]

Students Traumatized by Attacks on Education

Since 2017, thousands of students in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions have experienced attacks on education. According to parents, teachers, and experts, these experiences have had serious long-term emotional and educational consequences for students, particularly young children.[343] A UN official working in Cameroon explained: “Children who have experienced violence and witnessed atrocities will have more challenges than others in learning, focusing during classes, completing their homework or exams. They are likely to experience post-traumatic stress.”[344]

A teacher at the Holy Rosary Integrated Comprehensive College, which suffered two separatists’ attacks, witnessed a range of trauma and negative emotions in his students, some of whom were displaced, attacked, threatened, or witnessed abuses:

We have children showing signs of trauma, depression, anger. I believe that some of them are former fighters; they didn’t open up to me, but from the way they talk and behave, I can tell they might have been in the bush fighting. Some also express the desire to join the separatist groups… Some students are also very violent—they have too much hate inside them.[345]

Maria expressed difficulty concentrating on her schoolwork after her kidnapping experience.[346] Tim, who was 17 years old when separatist fighters assaulted him on his way to school, could not stop feeling afraid. “The smallest noise would make me panic,” he said.[347]

A teacher at the Government Bilingual High School in Douala’s Bonaberi neighborhood, which has hosted many displaced children from the Anglophone regions, explained other emotional difficulties for displaced students:

They end up in classes with younger students because they have lost up to four years of school. So, they feel inadequate, inferior to their younger classmates, they feel as if they are not achieving…. It’s like these students are starting from scratch. It’s both embarrassing and traumatic for them.[348]

He also noted a correlation between students’ economic status, performance, and need for psychosocial support. Unfortunately, the lack of psychosocial support services for these students, which the government does not provide, is compounded by cultural norms that stigmatize those with mental health conditions.

According to another teacher: “I have students who have experienced violence, displacement, and all sorts of atrocities. They are absent-minded—it’s like they cannot forget the pain. Sometimes classmates make fun of them and call them fools. There is little to no understanding of mental [health conditions] in Cameroon.”[349]

UNICEF has been trying to close the gap in psychosocial support services by training teachers and community leaders on this and related topics and by supporting the creation of child friendly spaces for recreation and healing.[350]

Impact of Attacks on Students with Disabilities

The crisis has disproportionately affected children with disabilities. One teacher described children with disabilities whom she knew:

They were also particularly traumatized by the violence they witnessed... Many of the deaf children we have in school have been internally displaced. They told me that even if they could not hear the gunshots when their communities were under attack, they felt them, they felt the panic, they saw the terror in the eyes of their families trying to escape to safety. Some of these children have trouble sleeping; they cannot concentrate or do their homework.[351]

A former student with an amputated leg described additional barriers to education because of the crisis:

Access to education for [people with disabilities] was already a luxury prior to the crisis and has just become impossible now. The violence exacerbated our challenges in accessing education. Nowadays, only those who can run go to school. In case of an attack, you should be able to escape fast and take shelter. This is not the case of people who have some physical disabilities. And there is no support for us by the state—no material or psychosocial support.[352]

Student and Teacher Resilience

Despite the violence and abuses they experienced or witnessed, many students and teachers demonstrated remarkable resilience.

Veronica said she felt “traumatized and shocked but also determined to continue with my university” after her kidnapping. In her case, her family was able to pay her school fees and support her.[353]

Sam, a student who was threatened of harm by separatist fighters on his way back from school in Bamenda in February 2019, now in Yaoundé, is still pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor:

I wanted to go back to school. I did not want this bad experience to affect my ability to study and create a future for myself. I accepted the reality and moved forward. I moved to Yaoundé, where I study at a government bilingual high school…. I want to go to university and study medicine to become a doctor.[354]

Nina, a 19-year-old student, managed to change schools and continue her education after Our Lady of Mount Carmel College shut down in October 2017. “I don’t think I am brave—I just want to pursue my studies despite the threats posed by the separatist fighters,” she said.[355]

One government primary school teacher’s employer relocated her from Muyuka to Tiko, South-West region, after she was repeatedly threatened by separatist fighters. However, she refused to let such intimidation determine her future:

The amba threatened to harm me and my husband, but I still teach. I taught for 14 years, and my passion for education cannot just be taken away so easily. It is easy to panic and feel overwhelmed. This crisis is destroying the education sector. But if we all give up, who’s going to help our children build their future?[356]

Displacement of Teachers and Students

According to the UN, the cycle of violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions has internally displaced nearly 600,000 people since late 2016.[357] Among them are teachers—likely thousands—and at least 230,246 children who had to flee following attacks on education or against their communities.[358] Displaced teachers and students often struggle to return to school while trying to settle somewhere new. The trauma they endured and the loss of their possessions and livelihoods compound their challenges.[359]

Internally Displaced Teachers

Some of the internally displaced teachers who spoke with Human Rights Watch stopped teaching and took up different work, which was difficult to adjust to. A former teacher, whose husband was killed during a clash between armed separatist fighters and soldiers in Isu, North-West region, in April 2018, fled to Tiko. She has not taught since and instead farms for a living. She said: “I miss school, my students, the other teachers. Sometimes, I feel vulnerable, helpless. The experience of being displaced is hard. Integration in Tiko has not been easy – adapting to the new context, new people, losing your routine, losing what made you happy.”[360]

Challenges Faced by Displaced Older Teachers

Due to their age, older teachers had greater difficulty fleeing and living in the bush for weeks to months at a time. In the bush, older people faced higher risks of exposure to diseases without medical care or shelter.

A 60-year-old former teacher said he ran away from Ekona, South-West region, following a violent confrontation between soldiers and separatist fighters in February 2018:

There was indiscriminate shooting. Bullets were flying. Rounds of bullets. It was like being in a warzone. Everyone ran away. Running away during the attack was a shock for me. I am old and I cannot run as fast as young people. I did my best to collect few things and leave.[361]

A 63-year-old former primary school teacher fled Defang, South-West region, in late 2019, during a violent confrontation between separatist fighters and soldiers:

As the gunshots approached, we just took a few things and left. I escaped to the bush with my wife, my kids. I spent three months in the bush. Fleeing was not easy for me. I am old and cannot walk as fast as others. In the bush I was sick. I was sleeping in a hut on the ground, exposed to the weather. Mosquitos were constantly beating me.[362]
 

Internally Displaced Students

Attacks on education led to thousands of families leaving their hometowns and villages to move to safer areas where their children could access school safely. According to a January 2021 World Bank report, “a significant number of displacements occurred because of education-related reasons.”[363]

A 17-year-old student from the South-West region said: “I used to go to school in Tombel, in South-West region. In 2018, my parents decided to send me to study in Douala because the situation was getting bad and there was insecurity and too many threats against students, teachers, attacks on schools by the amba boys.”[364]

Other students never went back to school after dropping out. A 24-year-old student who had stopped school in 2017 following the closure of his school fled Sang, North-West region, in March 2019 after soldiers came to his house and shot him in the hand:

I ran to the nearby bush where I spent about two weeks. I don’t even know how I am still alive. My hand was bleeding. I had no medicines to take. I slept in the bush with other people from the village who had also ran away. It was really tough. I was in pain all the time. I was exposed to the weather. I had a fever. I thought I was going to die. Then, I managed to reach Bamenda, where I went to the hospital.[365]

Linda, a 17-year-old female student, had difficulties after dropping out from her school in Mbam, North-West region, and beginning work as a nanny in Buea: “Buea is not my city. Everything is new here. I have no friends—I just spend my time at home babysitting. I feel all the time some sort of uncertainty. I have no familiarity with this new social environment. I feel unsettled.”[366]

Asylum Seekers

Since late 2016, up to 66,000 people from Cameroon have sought asylum in Nigeria,[367] and thousands more have fled to Europe or the US.[368] In August 2019, Human Rights Watch interviewed 56 Anglophone Cameroonian asylum seekers in Cyprus, including 7 former students and 2 former teachers. While asylum seekers felt safer in Cyprus than they did in Cameroon, despite poor living conditions, all interviewees also mentioned feeling isolated and unhappy.

A view of the Pounara reception center for asylum seekers in Cyprus, where several Anglophone Cameroonians were seeking protection, August 2019. © 2019 Ilaria Allegrozzi/Human Rights Watch

A 27-year-old former University of Buea student fled in July 2019 due to the increasing risks and his inability to go to school:

I came to Cyprus because I was seeking safety and protection. Protection from the general violence, from the amba boys who would force you to join them or hinder your studies, protection from an abusive military who would not spare anyone…. Not that life is better here because I have no job and nothing to do. I live in bad conditions in a crowded home, but at least I sleep, and I am free to walk without fear of being arrested or assaulted.[369]
 

X. Cameroon’s Legal Obligations On The Right To Education

The right to education, as well as other rights implicated in attacks on education, is enshrined in Cameroonian law as well as binding human rights treaties. Accordingly, the government must refrain from interfering with the enjoyment of these rights and take the necessary steps to protect the population from separatist fighters.

Domestic Law

Cameroon has a bijural legal system, in which English common law is applied in the Anglophone regions and French civil law in the Francophone regions.[370] The 1972 Constitution incorporates recognition of obligations to respect the rights to life, humane treatment, freedom of expression, movement, and education, among others.[371] The government has an obligation to take measures to prevent separatist fighters from interfering with the enjoyment of these constitutionally protected rights. Cameroon’s 1998 and 2001 guidance laws on basic, secondary, and teacher’s education and on higher education further provide for the right to education and for the protection of both students and teachers in school.[372] The 1998 law also guarantees two separate, parallel Francophone and Anglophone public education systems.[373]

 

Regional and International Human Rights Law on Education

Cameroon is a party to all African and international instruments enshrining the right to education.[374] As a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), Cameroon is obligated to provide compulsory, free primary education as well as available, accessible, and progressively free secondary education.[375] Human Rights Watch calls on states to take immediate measures to ensure that secondary education is available and accessible to all free of charge. Human Rights Watch also calls on states to make education compulsory through the end of lower secondary school.

Under international human rights law, Cameroon has, as all governments do, an obligation to protect the rights to life, personal liberty, and security of students, teachers, academics, and all education staff.[376] The ICESCR requires that material conditions of teaching staff be continuously improved.[377] As children, students under the age of 18 receive special protections under the CRC and ACRWC, which require the “best interests of the child” be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities, or legislative bodies.[378] The government is also required to also ensure, to the maximum extent possible, the survival and the development of children.[379] Cameroon is also required to take measures to encourage regular attendance by children at schools and the reduction of child dropout rates.[380]

Cameroon has signed but not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which guarantees the right to quality inclusive education and the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk.[381] The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has noted that situations of and akin to armed conflict have a disproportionate impact on the right to inclusive education. Temporary learning environments in such contexts must ensure the right of children with disabilities to education on an equal basis with others.[382]

Attacks on schools and education facilities, and more generally, failure to respect the right to education are deemed a serious violation of international human rights law.[383] For example, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights considered that the closure of universities and schools for two years was a “serious or massive” violation of article 17 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights – the right to education.[384] The scale and longevity of denial of education to students in Cameroon could be considered a gross violation of human rights. In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law.[385] The Basic Principles provides that victims of gross violations of international human rights law are entitled to a remedy including compensation and reparations, such as for loss of education.[386]

Safe Schools Declaration

In September 2018, Cameroon endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, an international political commitment aimed at strengthening the prevention of and responses to attacks on students, teachers, schools, and universities during times of armed conflict.[387] By endorsing the Declaration, Cameroon has committed to using the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict,  which urges parties to armed conflicts not to use schools, particularly functioning ones, “for any purpose in support of the military effort.”[388] These non-binding recommendations remain informative even in crises that do not amount to armed conflicts, such as the crises in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions.

 

XI. The Way Forward

The Cameroonian government has obligations to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of attacks on students, teachers, and schools as well as to provide assistance and reparations to victims. This should include restoration of access to education where it has been cut off and protected where it exists or when it is re-established. The creation of special task forces to assist in meeting obligations of investigation and prosecution and the establishment of a reparations program, including restoring access to education, could be an effective and practical way forward.

Special Task Forces

It has become increasingly urgent for the Cameroonian government to take concrete steps to tackle the crisis of education in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions and address two prongs of the problem – the impunity for attacks and the provision of access to safe education. Given both the immediate severity of the impacts on children and the potential long-term consequences, the government of Cameroon should consider establishing two special task forces, with adequate human and financial resources, each to address one of the aspects of the crisis.

The mandate of one task force would be to help reverse the longstanding impunity for attacks against students, teachers, and schools, and to ensure that perpetrators, whether separatist fighters or government actors, are held accountable for their actions. The task force, which should draw on international support as needed, would assess and make recommendations regarding investigations into attacks on students, teachers, and schools and prosecutions of perpetrators. Such a task force would not conduct investigations and prosecutions itself but could provide support and expertise to the judicial authorities.

The special task force should include prosecutors and police with experience in crimes against children (Cameroon has a police unit that specializes on crimes against children: Police Spécialisée sur les Crimes contre Mineurs), as well as independent forensic experts. Experts from the UN and AU should offer to support the task force.

The second special task force should have a mandate to further the re-establishment and protection of access to education for all on an equal basis. It should include experts on children’s rights, women’s rights, and disability rights, and draw members from the education ministries, the ministry of justice, and representatives from the National Human Rights Commission, and Cameroonian civil society. UN agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) should offer support to the task force. The task force could provide recommendations, with the best interests of the child at the center, on how to tailor effective protective measures for places of education, and options for ensuring access to safe, quality education going forward. It could also advise on the content of a reparations program (see below).

Better information collection and analysis of attacks on education would assist both task forces. Information should be disaggregated by date, location, type of school (educational level, private, public), gender and age of victims and suspected perpetrators, and if the school had been used by armed separatist groups or for military purpose.

Reparations Program

Teachers and students who experienced attacks on education, as well as their families, deserve reparations to help remedy the harms they suffered.

The government should establish, through a transparent and participatory process, a credible and inclusive reparations program, with an adequate annual budget and human resources, to support victims of attacks on educations and their families.

In addition to the provision of free education for all students as a right, reparations for those affected by attacks could include compensation for loss of materials, and extra support and opportunities, including financial as necessary, to make up for lost education time. The government should also financially compensate teachers who have suffered harm or losses during the exercise of their duties or as a result of being targeted for their profession. To address the physical and emotional trauma of teachers and students, the government should provide adequate free physical rehabilitation and psychosocial support services to victims. This is critical to address the current, massive lack in the provision of such assistance.

The government should promote public awareness of this reparations program, compensation options, and how to access reparations. It should also encourage victims (or their relatives if the victims are children) and education professionals to submit compensation claims.

Support Needed from Cameroon’s International Partners

Cameroon’s international partners should publicly and privately press the Cameroonian government to create the special task forces and the reparation programs, leveraging their political and economic relationships as needed.

Cameroon’s regional and international partners, such as Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the US, the UK, the European Commission, UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, and the AU should provide financial and expert assistance to any special task forces established and the reparations program to ensure they are adequately resourced and sustainable. Along with civil society organizations, they should supply experts on criminal and reparative justice for attacks on education who would support the mechanisms while developing or improving the Cameroonian staff’s skills and expertise.

 

Recommendations

To Leaders of Separatist Groups

  • Publicly announce and ensure an end to the school boycott as well as attacks and threats against schools, teachers, education officials, and students.
  • Do not engage in any activities that would threaten, undermine, or prevent safe school resumptions.
  • Issue statements and disseminate pamphlets, leaflets, and instructions among members and fighters explaining and endorsing the need to comply with international human rights law.

To Armed Separatist Groups’ Fighters

  • Cease all human rights abuses, including killing, torturing, kidnapping, extorting, and threatening civilians, including students and teachers.
  • Immediately cease all recruitment of children under 18 years old.
  • Immediately release all kidnapped civilians, including students and teachers.
  • Release all children under 18 years old from armed groups and ensure their safe return by acting in cooperation with concerned authorities, including those responsible for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of child soldiers.
  • Cease attacking schools and using schools for any purposes including for camps, weapons, and ammunition and supply depots.
  • Comply with international human rights law, including by handing over alleged perpetrators of attacks on education and other crimes to the government for prosecution.

To the Cameroonian Government

  • Ensure students deprived of educational facilities because of the crisis are promptly given access to accessible alternative forms of education, such as community education; distance learning using the most effective medium to reach affected students, including work packets, radio, television, and internet; and temporary learning schools or spaces, with suitable equipment and adequately trained teachers.
  • Ensure schools damaged or destroyed because of the crisis are promptly rebuilt and are accessible for children with different types of disabilities and teaching and learning equipment and materials are replaced.
  • Take concrete measures—for example, through legislation, military orders, and trainings—to deter the military use of schools, drawing upon examples of good practice by other African Union countries, and at a minimum implementing the Safe Schools Declaration and the Guidelines on Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use During Armed Conflict.
  • Facilitate monitoring and reporting of the human rights situation by independent observers and rights groups by granting them unfettered access to the North-West and South-West regions.
  • Facilitate visits by relevant United Nations special procedures and African Union special rapporteurs.
  • Compensate education workers who suffered property loss or injury during attacks.
  • Facilitate the enrollment or re-enrollment of those who have missed out on their education during the crisis, including children with disabilities.
  • Adopt positive re-entry policies and expedite regulations that facilitate pregnant girls and young mothers of school-going age returning to primary and secondary school.
  • Take immediate measures to ensure that both primary and secondary education is available and accessible to all free of charge. Make education compulsory through the end of lower secondary school.
  • Ensure education staff, families of students, and students themselves are regularly and formally consulted regarding the security provided to schools.
  • Employ a sliding scale of security measures in response to assessed risks to schools and teachers. If possible, appropriately trained civilian personnel—such as guards and watchmen—should be used to provide security. Only as the security situation necessitates should this be escalated to police, gendarmes, and then armed forces personnel.
  • Establish a credible and inclusive reparations program, through a transparent and participatory process, to support victims of attacks on education and their families. Such a program should be sensitive to the particular needs of women and men, boys and girls, and address the needs of students and families living with disability, their families and those in hard-to-reach areas.
  • Consider establishing two special task forces, one to assess and make recommendations regarding investigations into attacks on students, teachers, and schools and prosecutions of perpetrators; the second to further the re-establishment and protection of access to education for all on an equal basis (see Section XI: “The Way Forward”).
  • Ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
  • Amend the Penal Code and Military Justice Code to ensure the inclusion of definitions of war crimes and crimes against humanity as provided for in international law.

To the Cameroonian Police and Gendarmerie

  • Conduct effective investigations into government authorities and members of the security forces allegedly responsible for human rights abuses committed during operations against separatist fighters in the Anglophone regions, including attacks on schools, with a view to securing their successful prosecution in fair trials.
  • Conduct effective investigations into separatist leaders and fighters allegedly responsible for human rights abuses, including attacks on students, teachers, and schools, and use of schools that violate domestic laws, with a view to securing their successful prosecution in fair trials.

To the Cameroonian Judicial Authorities

  • Ensure victims of human rights abuses by all sides have access to effective remedies, including accessible complaint mechanisms, witness protection, and the opportunity to participate in a transparent judicial process.

To the Cameroonian Ministers of Basic, Secondary, and Higher Education

  • Effectively implement the Safe Schools Declaration, and work with relevant authorities, community leaders, and parents to ensure better security for schools in the Anglophone regions.
  • Ensure the availability, accessibility, and adaptability of schools.
  • Take immediate measures to ensure that both primary and secondary education is available and accessible to all free of charge, and that no students—including those who have been displaced or affected by attacks—are excluded from their right to education by any direct or indirect costs.
  • Expand temporary learning spaces and other “education in emergencies” programs to reach additional towns and cities hosting large numbers of displaced people, prioritizing those that have not yet benefitted from such programs.
  • Ensure teachers and administrators are not pressured to reopen schools in insecure zones without appropriate, effective security measures.
  • Ensure all students, teachers, and education staff who were victims of attacks receive timely, appropriate, and subsidized medical and psychosocial support and follow ups.
  • Expand and improve efforts to collect data on attacks on students, teachers, and schools and the use of schools by armed separatist groups, including date and location of attacks, type of school attacked, disaggregated information about victims and suspected perpetrators, and the number of students and teachers affected.

To the Cameroonian Security Forces

  • Ensure security operations in the Anglophone regions respect and protect human rights, including by abiding by the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Firearms, respecting principles of necessity and proportionality, and deploying military judicial police officers on operations to monitor the conduct of security forces, report abusive members to commanding officers, and advise commanding officers on human rights issues.
  • Take steps to deter the military use of schools, including at a minimum by implementing the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.
  • Ensure child protection training for all military personnel.
  • Ensure education staff, families of students, and students themselves are regularly and formally consulted regarding the security provided to schools.
  • Ensure that, if armed forces personnel are engaged in security tasks related to schools, their presence within school grounds or buildings be avoided if at all possible, including for accommodation. Where necessary, establish wider security perimeters in neighborhoods around schools, rather than directly outside schools, to minimize disruption to children’s education and avoid militarization of school and university grounds.
  • Where necessary and following consultation with affected communities, consider providing security sweeps along routes traveled by teachers and students to and from schools, before and after the school day.

To the African Union (AU)

  • Following the Fourth International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration and in keeping with the AU Silencing the Guns Initiative and the Safe Schools Declaration, advocate for more comprehensive and sustained measures to protect education from attack in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions, by calling on the Cameroonian government to prioritize security of schools, students, and teachers, including the assessment of any security risks for schools which are currently open. 
  • Engage proactively with the Cameroonian government and support its efforts to expand and strengthen monitoring and reporting on attacks against education and military use of schools, including by collecting and reporting disaggregated data by type of attack on education, sex, age, location, person, or group responsible. 
  • Encourage and support the Cameroonian government to implement fully the commitments contained in the Safe Schools Declaration at all levels of education.

To the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) and to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)

  • Conduct an investigative mission to Cameroon, focusing on the right to education in the Anglophone regions, make the findings public and present them before the AU Peace and Security Council.
  • The ACHPR should appoint a Special Rapporteur on Education to liaise with and facilitate coordination among the ACHPR, ACERWC, and the AU policy organs.
  • Both the ACERWC and the ACHPR should call on the Cameroonian government to conduct impartial, transparent, and independent investigations into attacks against students and teachers, including physical assaults, killings, abductions, threats, and into attacks against school buildings, including destruction and arson, in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. Urge Cameroonian authorities to publicize the findings of these investigations, prosecute those responsible in fair trials, and incorporate lessons learned into future protection measures and strategies to prevent attacks against education.

To the AU Peace and Security Council

  • Include the situation in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions as a priority item on the AU peace and security agenda, request a briefing by the ACHPR and the ACERWC on the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Anglophone regions, and demand an end to human rights abuses.
  • Unequivocally condemn attacks against education in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions and play a more assertive role, including by using all political and diplomatic tools at your disposal, such as imposing targeted sanctions, on separatist leaders and fighters responsible for attacks against students, teachers, schools.

To the AU Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development Department, the AU Human Resources, Science and Technology Department and other AU education agencies

  • Include the right to education in Cameroon as a priority goal in your strategies and policies.
  • Urge the ACERWC to carry out an investigative mission focusing on the right to education in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions and to make findings public. Engage and collaborate with key stakeholders, including Cameroonian civil society, the national human rights commission, community and religious leaders, and teachers’ unions to improve the monitoring and documentation of attacks against education in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions, and raise awareness on the crisis and its impact on education.

To the United Nations (UN)

To the UN Secretary-General

  • Continue to include Cameroon as a situation of concern in the annual report on children and armed conflict to the UN Security Council. Include in the annex of the report any parties engaging in violations against children. Ensure voices and experiences of children with disabilities are included.
  • Regularly raise the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon with the UN Security Council as a situation that threatens international peace and security.
  • Ensure the integrity of the annual report on children and armed conflict by applying consistent standards, based on evidence and not political pressure, when deciding which abusive parties to list in the report.

To the UN Security Council

  • Include Cameroon as a priority item on its agenda, request a briefing by the UN Secretary-General on the situation in Cameroon, and demand an end to human rights abuses.
  • Request the UN Secretary-General to name parties who commit grave violations against children.
  • Establish a sanctions regime in Cameroon, including targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes against individuals credibly implicated in serious abuses, including attacks on students, teachers, and schools.
  • Request the UN to engage with parties to develop action plans to cease and prevent the six grave violations against children - including children with disabilities, bearing in mind their specific rights and needs - and the use of schools by armed groups.
  • Recommend the provision of technical assistance to Cameroon to improve the national judiciary’s capacity to effectively investigate and prosecute attacks on students, teachers, and schools.

To the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

  • Ensure accurate, public monitoring and reporting on threats and attacks on students, teachers, and schools as well as the use of schools by armed separatist groups.
  • Highlight the urgency of the situation in Cameroon in reports and updates to UN bodies, namely the General Assembly, Human Rights Council, and Security Council, and in discussions with the Cameroonian government and its international and regional partners.

To the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

  • Improve its mechanism in cooperation with NGOs and other UN agencies to monitor and report threats and attacks on students, teachers, and schools, as well as the use of schools by armed groups and other grave violations against children committed in the context of the Anglophone crisis (and the Far North region).

To the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

  • Make publicly available the findings of its 2019 investigations and any future investigations into the Anglophone crisis.
  • Actively monitor the situation in the Anglophone regions and provide regular updates to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council, including by holding intersessional briefings and informal conversations with Council mem­bers and observers. These updates should include information about OHCHR’s work in Cameroon, including its engagement with Came­roon­ian autho­ri­ties and the situation in the Anglophone regions, including attacks on students, teachers, and schools.

To the UN Country Team in Cameroon

  • Under the formal Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on children and armed conflict, actively document and verify incidents of military use of schools, including use of schools by armed groups, and grave violations against children, including threats and attacks on students, teachers, and schools, and provide this information to the UN special representative to the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict. Actively monitor and document violations against children with disabilities, bearing in mind their specific rights and needs.

To Cameroon’s International Bilateral Partners, including France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Italy and the European Union

  • Privately and publicly urge the Cameroonian government and security forces to adopt and support the implementation of the above recommendations.
  • If established, provide technical and financial support to the special task forces on attacks on students, teachers, and schools, and to reparations program to support victims of attacks on education and their families.
  • Urge the national authorities to empower the investigative police, including its forensic criminal evidence gathering, judicial investigation, prosecutorial, and trial capacity and provide targeted and specifically monitored support.
  • Publicly denounce attacks on students, teachers, and schools as well as the military use of schools, and call for impartial investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators.
  • Encourage and financially support the Cameroonian government’s efforts to rebuild damaged or destroyed schools and to make schools safer, including by ensuring humanitarian education response plans are adequately funded.
  • Ensure any support to the Cameroonian security forces does not contribute to or facilitate human rights abuses.
  • Implement targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes, against individuals credibly implicated in serious abuses, including attacks against education.

To The World Bank

  • Ensure that a significant amount of the US $97 million provided to Cameroon’s government in support of education sector reform is used to improve access to safe schools in the Anglophone regions, including by assisting displaced students and teachers inrebuilding and repairing damaged or destroyed school buildings, support, if established, the special task forces on attacks on education and the reparations program to support victims of attacks on education and their families.
 

Acknowledgments

This report was researched and written by Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior researcher in the Africa Division. The report was edited by the senior editor in the Africa Division and Ida Sawyer, deputy Africa director. Babatunde Olugboji, deputy program director, provided programmatic review, and Aisling Reidy, senior legal advisor, provided legal review.

The report was also reviewed by Mausi Segun, executive director of Africa Division; Bede Sheppard, deputy director in the Children’s Rights Division; Zama Neff, executive director in the Children's rights division; Agnes Odhiambo, senior researcher in the Women’s Rights Division; Jane Buchanan, deputy director in the Disability Rights Division; Bridget Sleap, senior researcher on the rights of older people at Human Rights Watch; Louis Charbonneau United Nations director in the Advocacy Division; Carine Kaneza Nantulya Africa director in the Advocacy Division.

Aoife Croucher, associate in the Africa division, provided editorial and production assistance. The report was translated into French by David Boratav and vetted by Peter Huvos, web editor. Sakae Ishikawa, senior video editor, Lilliana Patterson, senior editor, and Ifé Fatunase, multimedia director at Human Rights Watch, produced and edited the video accompanying the report. Blaise Eyong, video journalist, filmed the video; Akem Kelvin Nkwain, human rights officer at the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, provided assistance during the filming of the video. The report was prepared for publication by Travis Carr, senior publications coordinator, and Fitzroy Hepkins, senior administrative manager. Birgit Schwarz, communication manager, wrote the witness piece accompanying the report; Kathleen Rose, senior editor, provided reviewed the press release accompanying the report.

Human Rights Watch would like to thank the many brave education professionals, students, witnesses, and family members of victims who, often at great personal risk, shared how they have been impacted by attacks on education as well as the organizations and individuals who connected us with these interviewees and provided interpretation as necessary. We are also grateful to the government officials, separatist leaders, activists, diplomats, humanitarian workers, civil society activists, lawyers, journalists, and community leaders who shared their experiences and views with us.

 

 

[1] For more detailed information on Cameroon’s colonial and post-independence history, please see Human Rights Watch, “These Killings Can Be Stopped” Government and Separatist Groups Abuses in Cameroon’s

Anglophone Regions (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2018), https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/cameroon0718_web2.pdf pp. 12-15.

[2] This is a summary of the situation through 2017. For more detailed information on Cameroon’s colonial, post-independence, and recent history, please see Human Rights Watch, “These Killings Can Be Stopped.”

[3] Amnesty International, “Cameroon: A turn for the worse: Violence and human rights violations in Anglophone Cameroon,” June 12, 2018, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr17/8481/2018/en/ (accessed July 2021).

[4] Human Rights Watch, “These Killings Can Be Stopped.”

[5] International Crisis Group, “Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis: How to Get to Talks?” May 2, 2019, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/cameroon/272-crise-anglophone-au-cameroun-comment-arriver-aux-pourparlers (accessed July 2021).

[6] Amnesty International, “Cameroon: A turn for the worse: Violence and human rights violations in Anglophone Cameroon.”

[7] “Cameroon: Video Shows Separatists Torturing Man,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 24, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/24/cameroon-video-shows-separatists-torturing-man.

[8] “Cameroon: New Attacks on Civilians By Troops, Separatists,” Human Rights Watch news release, March 28, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/28/cameroon-new-attacks-civilians-troops-separatists.

[9] Human Rights Watch, “These Killings Can Be Stopped”; Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Thousands Flee Violence in Cameroon’s English-Speaking Regions,” VoA, August 26, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/africa/thousands-flee-violence-cameroons-english-speaking-regions (accessed December 4, 2021); “Cameroon: Separatist Leaders Appeal Conviction,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 3, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/09/03/cameroon-separatist-leaders-appeal-conviction.

[10] Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Nearly 70 Killed in Cameroon as Separatists Stop Youth Week Activities,” VoA, February 9, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/africa/nearly-70-killed-cameroon-separatists-stop-youth-week-activities (accessed July 2021); Peter Tah, “Cameroon's conflict keeps schools shut,” BBC, September 3, 2019, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-49529774 (accessed August 2021).

[11] “Cameroon: Election Violence in Anglophone Regions,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 12, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/02/12/cameroon-election-violence-anglophone-regions.

[12] “Cameroon rebels declare coronavirus ceasefire,” BBC, March 26,2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-52053738 (accessed August 2021).

[13] Daniel Finnan, Mixed reception to call for Covid-19 ceasefire in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions, RFI, March 27, 2020, https://www.rfi.fr/en/africa/20200327-mixed-reception-to-call-for-coronavirus-ceasefire-in-cameroon-s-anglophone-regions (accessed August 2021).

[14] Tweet, Cameroon Radio Télévision, September 9, 2020, https://twitter.com/CRTV_web/status/1303453310951845889?s=20 (accessed August 2021); Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon Military Sweeps Northwest City to Weed Out Separatists,” VoA, September 10, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/africa/cameroon-military-sweeps-northwest-city-weed-out-separatists (accessed August 2021).

[15] “Cameroon Military Accused of “Severe Human Rights Abuses” in Operation “Clean Bamenda,”’ Mimi Mefo Info, October 8, 2020, https://mimimefoinfos.com/cameroon-military-accused-of-severe-human-rights-abuses-in-operation-clean-bamenda/ (accessed August 2021); Tweet, Ilaria Allegrozzi, September 12, 2020, https://twitter.com/ilariallegro/status/1304691181616607232?s=20 (accessed December 4, 2021).

[16] In December 2020, a 24,000-strong electoral college made up of regional delegates and traditional rulers voted to fill the posts of 900 regional councilors – 90 for each of the country’s 10 regions – putting into action a 1996 law that promised decentralized government but was never enacted.

“Cameroon holds first regional election amid opposition boycott,” Al Jazeera, December 6, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/6/cameroon-holds-first-regional-election-amid-opposition-boycott (accessed October 2021).

[17] “1 Killed, Others Wounded as Cameroon Holds First Regional Elections,” VoA, December 6, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/a/africa_1-killed-others-wounded-cameroon-holds-first-regional-elections/6199252.html (accessed August 2021).

[18] Ilaria Allegrozzi, “Armed Separatists’ Abuse Rife in Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions,” Human Rights Watch dispatch, March 12, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/03/12/armed-separatists-abuse-rife-cameroons-anglophone-regions#.

[19] “Cameroon: Attack On Sdo's Convoy in Mbengwi - Investigation Opens to Uncover Culprits,” All Africa, January 8, 2021, https://allafrica.com/stories/202101080575.html (accessed August 2021).

[20] “The Humanitarian Coordinator in Cameroon strongly condemns the attack on a United Nations convoy in the South-West region of Cameroon,” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) press release, April 3, 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/cameroon/humanitarian-coordinator-cameroon-strongly-condemns-attack-united-nations-convoy (accessed August 2021).

[21] “Cameroon: Nine Killed in Army Attack,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 4, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/04/cameroon-nine-killed-army-attack.

[22] “Rebel attacks kill 15 soldiers, civilians in western Cameroon,” Al Jazeera, September 20, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/20/rebel-attacks-kill-15-soldiers-in-troubled-cameroon (accessed October 2021).

[23] “Cameroon: PM Dion Ngute embarks on ‘peace mission’ to Bamenda,” Journal du Cameroun, October 3, 2021, https://www.journalducameroun.com/en/cameroon-pm-dion-ngute-in-bamenda-for-peace-mission/ (accessed October 2021).

[24] “Gunfire disrupts Cameroon prime minister's visit to separatist region,” Reuters, October 5, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/gunfire-disrupts-cameroon-prime-ministers-visit-separatist-region-2021-10-05/ (accessed October 2021).

[25] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 35,” UNOCHA situation report, November 5, 2021, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/cameroon/document/cameroon-north-west-and-south-west-situation-report-no-35-30-september (accessed November 2021).

[26] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 35,” UNOCHA situation report.

[27] “Healthcare in the community, by the community in Cameroon,” Médecins Sans Frontières, February 4, 2021, https://www.msf.org/community-based-healthcare-lifeline-displaced-people-cameroon (accessed August 2021).

[28] Ilaria Allegrozzi, “Renewed Attacks on Aid Workers in Cameroon,” Human Rights Watch dispatch, June 4, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/06/04/renewed-attacks-aid-workers-cameroon.

[29] “Cameroon Humanitarian Bulletin Issue N°23,” UNOCHA, August 2021, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Cameroon%20Humanitarian%20Bulletin%20Issue%20N%C2%B023%20-%20August%202021.pdf (accessed on October 2021).

[30] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 34,” UNOCHA situation report, August 31, 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/cameroon/cameroon-north-west-and-south-west-situation-report-no-34-31-august-2021 (accessed December 2021).

[31] UNOCHA, “Cameroon: Humanitarian Needs Overview 2021,” April 7, 2021,

https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/cameroon/document/cameroon-humanitarian-needs-overview-2021 (accessed August 2021).

[32] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 29,” UNOCHA situation report, March 31, 2021, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/cameroon/document/cameroon-north-west-and-south-west-situation-report-no29 (accessed August 2021).

[33] International Organization for Migration, “Mixed Migration Flows in the Mediterranean - Compilation of Available Data and Information,” August 31, 2019, https://reliefweb.int/report/world/mixed-migration-flows-mediterranean-compilation-available-data-and-information-august-1 (accessed December 2021); “Cyprus Fact Sheet,” UNHCR, February 2021, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/605b506d19.pdf (accessed December 2021); “US: Protect Cameroonians From Deportation,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 18, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/12/18/us-protect-cameroonians-deportation.

[34] The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), Data on Cameroon, https://acleddata.com/data-export-tool/ (accessed December 2021); “Cameroon,” International Crisis Group, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/cameroon (accessed December 4, 2021); Human Rights Watch monitoring.

[35] International Crisis Group, “Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis at the Crossroads,” August 2, 2017, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/cameroon/250-cameroons-anglophone-crisis-crossroads (accessed August 2021).

[36] World Bank Group, “La crise sociopolitique dans les régions du Nord-Ouest et du Sud-Ouest du Cameroun : Évaluation de l’impact économique et social,” January 2021 (accessed September 2021).

[37] Delphine Brun, “A failure to address the vulnerability of men and boys,” Norwegian Refugee Council, March 30, 2021, https://www.nrc.no/expert-deployment/2016/2021/a-failure-to-adress-the-vulnerability-of-men-and-boys/ (accessed August 2021).

[38] “Cameroon economy hard hit by anglophone unrest, jihadist attacks,” France24, October 5, 2018, https://www.france24.com/en/20181005-cameroon-economy-hard-hit-anglophone-unrest-jihadist-attacks (accessed August 2021).

[39] ACAPS, “ACAPS Thematic Report: Cameroon - The education crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions,” February 19, 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/cameroon/acaps-thematic-report-cameroon-education-crisis-northwest-and-southwest-regions-19 (accessed August 2021).

[40] Elias Ntungwe Ngalame, “Cameroon conflict turns climate-stressed farmers into 'food beggars,'” Thomas Reuters Foundation, July 30, 2019, https://news.trust.org/item/20190730063859-9uxv7/ (accessed August 2021).

[41] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with a single mother of four children in the North-West region, April 2021, and with a father of two children in the North-West region, April 2021.

[42] World Bank Group, “La crise sociopolitique dans les régions du Nord-Ouest et du Sud-Ouest du Cameroun : Évaluation de l’impact économique et social.”

[43] “National Dialogue in Cameroon goes on without the Separatists,” Vatican News, October 2, 2019, https://www.vaticannews.va/en/africa/news/2019-10/national-dialogue-in-cameroon-goes-on-without-the-separatists.html (accessed September 2021); Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Separatist Leaders Shun Cameroon's 'National Dialogue,'” VoA, September 26, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/africa/separatist-leaders-shun-cameroons-national-dialogue (accessed September 2021).

[44] “Cameroon’s MRC says no to Biya dialogue until Kamto is released,” Africa Times, September 19, 2019, https://africatimes.com/2019/09/19/cameroons-mrc-says-no-to-biya-dialogue-until-kamto-is-released/ (accessed August 2021).

[45] Ngala Killian Chimtom, “Cameroon's conflict: Will the National Dialogue make any difference?” BBC, October 5, 2019, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-49931662 (accessed August 2021).

[46] “Crise au Cameroun anglophone: ouverture du «grand dialogue national,»” RFI, September 30, 2019, http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20190930-crise-anglophone-cameroun-ouverture-grand-dialogue-national (accessed August 2021); “Ouverture du "grand dialogue national" pour régler la crise séparatiste au Cameroun,” France24, September 30, 2019, https://www.france24.com/fr/20190930-cameroun-ouverture-grand-dialogue-national-crise-separatiste-yaounde (accessed August 2021).

[47] Ngala Killian Chimtom, “Cameroon's conflict: Will the National Dialogue make any difference?”

[48] Open Letter from Human Rights Watch to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to Address Serious and Systematic Human Rights Violations in Cameroon, October 28, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/10/28/open-letter-urges-african-commission-human-and-peoples-rights-address-serious-and.

[49] R. Maxwell Bone, “Cameroon’s elusive peace: Rivals, rifts, and secret talks,” The New Humanitarian, March 29, 2021, https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/analysis/2021/3/29/cameroons-elusive-peace-rivals-rifts-and-secret-talks (accessed August 2021).

[50] Tweet, Cameroon Radio Télévision, September 20, 2021, https://twitter.com/CRTV_web/status/1440020035808997376?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1440020035808997376%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.crtv.cm%2F2021%2F09%2Fnord-ouest-et-sud-ouest-changement-de-strategie-au-front%2F (accessed October 2021).

[51] Armand Mouko Boudombo, “Crise Anglophone : comment les groupes armés étrangers changent la donne au Cameroun?” BBC, September 23, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/afrique/region-58672333 (accessed October 2021). In an April 9 2021 press conference, Ayaba Cho Lucas, leader of Anglophone separatist group, Ambazonia Governing Council, and Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a separatist group in Nigeria, announced to have joined forces and formed a cross-border alliance. “Separatists in Cameroon and Nigeria join forces,” Deutsche Welle, July 31, 2021, https://www.dw.com/en/separatists-in-cameroon-and-nigeria-join-forces/av-58713657 (accessed October 2021).

[52] “Cameroon - Minister for Foreign Affairs Addresses General Debate, 76th Session,” United Nations, September 27, 2021, https://media.un.org/en/asset/k1h/k1h2cmi88y (accessed October 2021).

[53] Statement from the UK Mission to the United Nations Geneva, “Human Rights Council 40: Cameroon,” March 21, 2019, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/human-rights-council-40-cameroon (accessed August 2021).

[54] European Parliament, “European Parliament resolution on Cameroon,” April 17, 2019, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/RC-8-2019-0245_EN.html (accessed August 2021).

[55] “Bachelet welcomes Cameroon’s willingness to cooperate to tackle human rights crises,” UNHCR news release, May 6, 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24565&LangID=E (accessed August 2021).

[56] “Arria-Formula Meeting of the UN Security Council,” UN Web-TV, May 13, 2019, http://webtv.un.org/live-now/watch/arria-formula-meeting-of-the-un-security-council/6036271424001/?term= (accessed August 2021).

[57] Mausi Segun (Human Rights Watch), “Africa Should Not Fail Cameroon”, Op-ed, Jeune Afrique, June 28, 2019,

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/28/africa-should-not-fail-cameroon.

[58] “Swiss government to mediate Cameroon peace talks,” Reuters, June 27, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cameroon-separatists-swiss/swiss-government-to-mediate-cameroon-peace-talks-idUSKCN1TS2F0 (accessed August 2021).

[59] Ilaria Allegrozzi, “US Cuts Cameroon Trade Privileges Over Rights Abuses,” Human Rights Watch dispatch, November 5, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/05/us-cuts-cameroon-trade-privileges-over-rights-abuses. In February 2019, the United States had already scaled down its military assistance to Cameroon over allegations of human rights violations by the Cameroonian security forces. Dionne Searcey, Eric Schmitt, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “U.S. Reduces Military Aid to Cameroon Over Human Rights Abuses,” New York Times, February 7, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/world/africa/cameroon-military-abuses-united-states-aid.html (accessed August 2021).

[60] “Guterres ‘deeply concerned’ over deadly assault in north-west Cameroon,” UN News, February 18, 2020, https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/02/1057571 (accessed December 5, 2021); Rupert Colville, “Press briefing note on Cameroon,” Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, February 18, 2020,

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25566&LangID=E (accessed August 2021); “UN officials call for enhanced protection of civilians facing escalating violence in Cameroon,” United Nations press release, https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/2020.shtml (accessed August 2021).

[61] Daniel Finnan, “Can Vatican visit to Cameroon break the Anglophone crisis stalemate?” RFI, May 5, 2021, https://www.rfi.fr/en/africa/20210205-can-vatican-visit-to-cameroon-break-anglophone-crisis-stalemate-diplomacy-africa-paul-biya-bamenda-armed-separatists-attacks (accessed August 2021).

[62] United Nations Security Council, “The situation in Central Africa and the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa,” S/2021/517, June 1, 2021, https://undocs.org/S/2021/517 (accessed August 2021).

[63] Antony J. Blinken, Announcement of Visa Restrictions on Those Undermining the Peaceful Resolution of the Crisis in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon, June 7, 2021, https://www.state.gov/announcement-of-visa-restrictions-on-those-undermining-the-peaceful-resolution-of-the-crisis-in-the-anglophone-regions-of-cameroon/ (accessed August 2021).

[64] European Parliament, “Joint Motion for a Resolution on the Human Rights Situation in Cameroon,” November 25, 2021, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/RC-9-2021-0553_EN.html (accessed November 2021).

[65] Human Rights Watch interview with a parent of two primary school children in the South-West region, May 3, 2021.

[66] R. Maxwell Bone & Akem Kelvin Nkwain, “After the Kumba massacre: Schools in Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis,” African Arguments, November 3, 2020, https://africanarguments.org/2020/11/after-the-kumba-massacre-schools-in-cameroons-anglophone-crisis/ (accessed August 2021); Mbom Sixtus, “In Cameroon, education has become a victim of war,” The New Humanitarian, July 24, 2019, https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2019/07/24/cameroon-education-has-become-victim-war (accessed August 2021).

[67] R. Maxwell Bone & Akem Kelvin Nkwain, “After the Kumba massacre: Schools in Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis,” Ilaria Allegrozzi, “Targeted for Going to School in Cameroon,” Human Rights Watch dispatch, March 12, 2o20, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/12/targeted-going-school-cameroon; ACAPS, “Cameroon - The education crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions.”

[68] Human Rights Watch, “These Killings Can Be Stopped.”

[69] Human Rights Watch interview with Peter, April 27, 2021.

[70] “Cameroon: Separatist Leaders Appeal Conviction,” Human Rights Watch news release.

[71] The split in the movement followed the arrest of Sisiku in Nigeria in January 2018, along with nine other leaders and their extradition to Cameroon. See also: “Who We are?” Interim Government Official Site Federal Republic of Ambazonia, https://www.ambazoniagov.org/index.php/about-us/who-we-are (accessed August 2021).

[72] International Crisis Group, “Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis: How to Get to Talks?”

[73] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with separatist leaders and activists in June, July, August, and September 2021.

[74] Human Rights Watch conversation with Ebenezer Derek Mbongo Akwanga, leader of the African People’s Liberation Movement (APLM), May and September 2021.

[75] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with separatist leaders and activists in June, July, August, and September 2021.

[76] International Crisis Group, “Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis: How to Get to Talks?”

[77] Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “In Cameroon's Anglophone Regions, Some Schools Reopen After 4-Year Closure,” October 9, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/africa/cameroons-anglophone-regions-some-schools-reopen-after-4-year-closure (accessed August 2021). See also Ayaba Cho Lucas explaining the concept of ‘Ambazonia Education Board’: “We did not simply reject its enslaving curriculum of education; we have created ours and modelled it on a study of more than 10 of the best educational systems in the world. We did not only reject its GCE Board. We have established the Ambazonia Education Board that currently oversees Community schools.” “Back To School: Ambazonia Leaders Maintain Boycott, Activists Advocate For Resumption,” Cameroon News Agency, October 4, 2020, https://cameroonnewsagency.com/back-to-school-ambazonia-leaders-maintain-boycott-activists-advocate-for-resumption/ (accessed August 2021).

[78] Ambazonia Governing Council, Executive Office, “Statement on Education,” May 25, 2021, available in Appendix VIII.

[79] Letter sent via email by Akoson Raymond, Secretary of the Department of Human Rights & Humanitarian Services of the Ambazonia Governing Council, on September 30, 2021, available in Appendix VII.

[80] Human Rights Watch e-messages with Ebenezer Derek Mbongo Akwanga in May 2021.

[81] Letter sent via email by Dr. Jonathan Levy, legal representative of Akwanga, on September 29, 2021. The letter is available in Appendix III.

[82] “Cameroon: Separatist Leaders Appeal Conviction,” Human Rights Watch news release.

[83] Human Rights Watch exchanges with Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe, May 2021.

[84] Letter from the “Leadership of Ambazonia in Prison,” signed by Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, Barrister Eyambe Elias, Professor Augustine Awasum, Dr Egbe Ogork, Barrister Shufai Blaise S. Berinyuy, DR. H. T. Kimeng, Dr Nfor N. Nfor, Dr Cornelius N. Kwanga, Dr Fidelis Ndeh-Che, November 28, 2021, available in Appendix IX

[85] Tweet, Sauel Sako, September 30, 2020, https://twitter.com/SamuelSako/status/1311082525092126720?s=20 (accessed August 2021).

[86] Human Rights Zoom interview with Christopher Anu, September 27, 2021.

[87] E-Messages by Christopher Anu to Human Rights Watch in November 2021.

[88] Atia T. Azohnwi, “Cameroon - Anglophone Crisis: Eric Tataw, Mark Bareta drum calls for effective school resumption in North West, South West,”Cameroon-Info.net, September 30, 2020, http://www.cameroon-info.net/article/cameroon-anglophone-crisis-eric-tataw-mark-bareta-drum-calls-for-effective-school-resumption-in-383841.html (accessed August 2021); Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “In Cameroon's Anglophone Regions, Some Schools Reopen After 4-Year Closure.”

[89] Tweet, Eric Tataw, September 28, 2020, https://twitter.com/EricTataw/status/1310647798698774532?s=20 (accessed August 2021).

[90] Tweet, Mark Bareta, September 29, 2020, https://twitter.com/MarkBareta/status/1310864066110521347?s=20 (accessed August 2021).

[91] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a chemistry teacher from the South-West region on June 7, 2021.

[92] Lewis Mudge, “Residents Caught in Outbreak of Violence in Cameroon,” Human Rights Watch dispatch, February 20, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/20/residents-caught-outbreak-violence-cameroon.

[93] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Steve, April 1, 2021.

[94] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Steve, April 1, 2021, and with his relative, June 30, 2021.

[95] “Crise anglophone: 15 joueurs de l'équipe de football de l’équipe de football de l’Université de Buea kidnappés,” Journal du Cameroun, March 20, 2019, https://www.journalducameroun.com/crise-anglophone-15-joueurs-de-lequipe-de-football-de-luniversite-de-buea-kidnappes/ (accessed August 2021); “Student football team abducted in Anglophone Cameroon,” BBC, March 20, 2019, https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/21/africa/cameroon-university-football-team-abducted-intl/index.html (accessed August 2021); Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon Football Teams Move After Kidnapping of Players, Coaches,” VoA, March 29, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/a/cameroon-football-teams-move-after-kidnapping-of-players-coaches-/4842843.html (accessed August 2021).

[96] Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon Football Teams Move After Kidnapping of Players, Coaches.”

 

[97] Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon Football Teams Move After Kidnapping of Players, Coaches.”

[98] Meme Dominic and Bukola Adebayo, Kidnapped university football team freed in Cameroon, CNN, March 22, 2019, https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/21/africa/cameroon-university-football-team-abducted-intl/index.html (accessed August 2021).

[99] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 23-year-old University of Buea student, April 5, 2021

[100] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 23-year-old University of Buea student, April 5, 2021

[101] Ilaria Allegrozzi, “Targeted for Going to School in Cameroon.”

[102] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Marie, February 12, 2020.

[103] “Explosive attack on Cameroon university lecture hall wounds 11,” Reuters, November 11, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/explosion-injures-nine-university-students-suspected-cameroon-attack-2021-11-10/ (accessed November 2021); “Bomb Wounds 11 University Students in Cameroon,” VoA, November 10, 2021, https://www.voanews.com/a/bomb-wounds-11-university-students-in-cameroon/6308195.html (accessed November 2021).

[104] “Explosive attack on Cameroon university lecture hall wounds 11,” Reuters.

[105] “Explosive attack on Cameroon university lecture hall wounds 11,” Reuters.

[106] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Tim, April 6, 2021.

[107] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Tim, April 6, 2021.

[108] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Tim’s mother, March 2021.

[109] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sara, April 7, 2021.

[110] Human Rights Watch in-person interview with Carl, Nicosia, Cyprus, August 16, 2019.

[111] Human Rights Watch in person interview with Carl, Nicosia, Cyprus, August 16, 2019.

[112] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sam, April 8, 2021.

[113] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with an 18-year-old student from the North-West region, April 3, 2021, and April 9, 2021.

[114] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a student from the North-West region, June 2021.

[115] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Maria’s parents, November 2019.

[116] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 27-year-old man, November 2019.

[117] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maria, November 2019.

[118] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jim, April 8, 2021.

[119] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jim, April 8, 2021.

[120] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a student from the North-West region, April 7, 2021.

[121] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 20-year-old high school student, November 17, 2021.

[122] Audio message sent by Christopher Anu to Human Rights Watch on November 12, 2021.

[123] “Cameroon: Lethal Force Against Protesters,” Human Rights Watch news release, November 19, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/11/19/cameroon-lethal-force-against-protesters.

[124] ACAPS, “ACAPS Thematic Report: Cameroon - The education crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions.”

[125] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher from the South-West region, July 9, 2021.

[126] Human Rights Watch interview with Boris, March 23, 2021.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with Boris, March 23, 2021.

[128] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maria, November 2019.

[129] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ida, April 8, 2021.

[130] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Veronica, April 5, 2021.

[131] Josiane Kouagheu, “Cameroun : la mort d’une fillette fait craindre une nouvelle poussée de violences en zone anglophone,” Le Monde, October 18, 2021, https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2021/10/18/cameroun-la-mort-d-une-fillette-fait-craindre-une-nouvelle-poussee-de-violences-en-zone-anglophone_6098868_3212.html (accessed October 2021).

[132] Tweet, Ilaria Allegrozzi, October 15, 2021, https://twitter.com/ilariallegro/status/1448912348195004416?s=20.

[133] Tweet, Ilaria Allegrozzi, October 15, 2021, https://twitter.com/ilariallegro/status/1448912348195004416?s=20.

[134] Tweet, Ilaria Allegrozzi, October 15, 2021, https://twitter.com/ilariallegro/status/1448912348195004416?s=20.

[135] Tweet, Mimi Mefo Info, November 12, 2021, https://twitter.com/MimiMefoInfo/status/1459284369974206465?s=20 (accessed November 2021).

[136] “Cameroon: Lethal Force Against Protesters,” Human Rights Watch news release.

 

[137] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Andrew, a teacher from the North-West region, April 7, 2021.

[138] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with the owner of the Community Christian College in the South-West region, March 26, 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a former teacher at the Community Christian College, June 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a member of a Cameroonian civil society organization, June 2021.

[139] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with owner of the Community Christian College in the South-West region, March 26, 2021.

[140] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Clara, March 22, 2021.

[141] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 26-year-old man, June 2021.

[142] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Clara, March 22, 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 26-year-old man, June 2021.

[143] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Clara, March 22, 2021.

[144] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Aster, October 19, 2019.

[145] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Aster’s mother, October 2019; Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with a member of a local civil society organization, October 2019; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a UN staff member, November 19, 2019.

[146] It was not possible to obtain additional corroboration for this case, due to victims’ fear of reprisals.

[147] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Boris, March 23, 2021.

[148] “Cameroon: Civilians Killed in Anglophone Regions,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 27, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/27/cameroon-civilians-killed-anglophone-regions.

[149] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a family member of Paulinus Song, June 28, 2020.

[150] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 35-year-old man, June 29, 2020.

[151] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 42-year-old teacher in the South-West region, March 22, 2021.

[152] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 39-year-old man from Bafia, May 2021.

[153] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 42-year-old teacher in the South-West region, March 22, 2021.

[154] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lily, June 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 36-year-old teacher, June 2021.

[155] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lily, June 2021.

[156] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Florence and her husband, October 2021.

[157] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Florence and her husband, October 2021.

[158] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ida, April 8, 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a Cameroonian human rights activist, June 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a Cameroonian journalist working in the Anglophone regions, June 2021.

[159] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ida, April 8, 2021.

[160] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Andrew, March 6, 2021.

[161] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 49-year-old teacher, August 14, 2019.

[162] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ida, April 8, 2021.

[163] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 20-year-old former student from the North-West region, April 2021.

[164] World Bank Group, “La crise sociopolitique dans les régions du Nord-Ouest et du Sud-Ouest du Cameroun : Évaluation de l’impact économique et social” ; Amnesty International, “Cameroon: A turn for the worse: Violence and human rights violations in Anglophone Cameroon, ” June 12, 2018, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr17/8481/2018/en/ (accessed September 2021); “Geneva Palais briefing note on the situation for children in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon,” UNICEF press release, June 21, 2019, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/geneva-palais-briefing-note-situation-children-north-west-and-south-west-regions (accessed September 2021).

[165] Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR) and Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA), “Cameroon’s Unfolding Catastrophe: Evidence of Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity,” June 3, 2019, https://www.raoulwallenbergcentre.org/en/news/2019-06-03 (accessed August 2021).

[166] Human Rights Watch, “These Killings Can Be Stopped”; Amnesty International, “Cameroon: A turn for the worse: Violence and human rights violations in Anglophone Cameroon”; Solidarity and Development Initiative (SODEI), “Baseline Research: Education in Crisis in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon,” January 2021, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Baseline%20Research_Education%20in%20Crisis%20in%20the%20Anglophone%20Regions_Final.pdf (accessed August 2021); ACAPS, “ACAPS Thematic Report: Cameroon - The education crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions.”

[167] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a former female student at the College, May 4, 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Nina, June 1, 2021.

[168] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Nina, June 1, 2021.

[169] “Cameroon: Gunmen Massacre School Children,” Human Rights Watch news release, November 2, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/02/cameroon-gunmen-massacre-school-children.

[170] Fred Bihina, “Cameroun - Massacre de Kumba: Le gouvernement note que l’école attaquée a lancé ses activités «à l’insu des autorités administratives compétentes, et n’a pu bénéficier des mêmes mesures de protection que d’autres établissements scolaires du Département de la Mémé»,” Cameroon-Info.net, October 25, 2020, http://www.cameroon-info.net/article/cameroun-massacre-de-kumba-le-gouvernement-note-que-lecole-attaquee-a-lance-ses-activites-386439.html (accessed August 2021).

[171] Josiane Kouagheu, “Cameroon sentences four men to death for shooting attack on school,” Reuters, September 8, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/cameroon-sentences-four-men-death-shooting-attack-school-2021-09-08/ (accessed September 2021).

[172] “Cameroon: Sham Trial for Kumba School Massacre,” Human Rights Watch news release, October 22, 2021,

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/10/22/cameroon-sham-trial-kumba-school-massacre.

[173] The attack was reported by international media: “Anglophone Crisis: Gunmen attack Kulu Memorial College naked teachers and students, burn school,” BBC, November 4, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/pidgin/tori-54813736 (accessed August 2021).

[174] Human Rights Watch interviews with a teacher and the principal at Kuku Memorial College, November 19, 2020; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Julia, teacher Kuku Memorial College, November 20, 2020.

[175] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Julia, November 20, 2020.

[176] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher at Kuku Memorial College, November 19, 2020.

[177] Tweet, Regina Sondo, November 4, 2020, https://twitter.com/ReginaSondoM/status/1323927039049633793?s=20 (accessed December 2021).

[178] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with two women residents in Muyuka, September 16 and September 13, 2021.

[179] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a woman resident in Muyuka, September 16, 2021.

[180] “Statement by the Humanitarian Coordinator in Cameroon condemning the killing of school children in the South-West region,” UNOCHA news release, November 25, 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/cameroon/statement-humanitarian-coordinator-cameroon-condemning-killing-school-children-south (accessed November 2021). See also: “Ekondo Titi: Schools dey fear to open afta classroom attack leave three students and one teacher dead,” BBC News, November 25, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/pidgin/tori-59413311 (accessed November 2021); “Three children, one teacher killed in Cameroon school attack,” Al Jazeera, November 24, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/24/three-children-one-teacher-killed-in-cameroon-school-attack (accessed November 2021).

[181] Human Rights Watch interview with a female resident of Ekondo Titi, November 25, 2021.

[182] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a resident of Ekondo Titi, November 26, 2021.

[183] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a female resident of Ekondo Titi, November 25, 2021.

[184] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with three residents of Ekondo Titi, November 25 and 26, 2021.

[185] Tweet, President Paul Biya, November 29, 2021, https://twitter.com/PR_Paul_BIYA/status/1465424183303852034?s=20 (accessed December 2021); CHRDA, “Cameroon: The Massacre of Students and a Teacher in School in Ekondo Titi is Unacceptable,” November 24, 2021, https://www.chrda.org/cameroon-the-massacre-of-students-and-teachers-in-school-in-ekondo-titi-is-unacceptable/ (accessed November 2021).

[186] Tweet, EU Delegation in Cameroon, November 24, 2021, https://twitter.com/UEauCameroun/status/1463543858265047048?s=20 (accessed November 2021); Tweet, British High Commission in Cameroon, November 24, 2021, https://twitter.com/UKinCameroon/status/1463538014869721099?s=20 (accessed November 2021); Tweet, US Embassy in Cameroon, November 24, 2021, https://twitter.com/USEmbYaounde/status/146356585514133504 6?s=20 (accessed November 2021); Tweet, UNOCHA Cameroon, November 25, 2021, https://twitter.com/USEmbYaounde/status/1463565855141335046?s=20 (accessed November 2021); Tweet, High Commission of Canada in Cameroon, November 24, 2021, https://twitter.com/USEmbYaounde/status/1463565855141335046?s=20 (accessed November 2021); Tweet, Education Cannot Wait, November 24, 2021, https://twitter.com/EduCannotWait/status/1463557985125425152?s=20 (accessed November 2021); Tweet, David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International, https://twitter.com/daveswords/status/1463548639595450373?s=20 (accessed November 2021).

[187] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with three Ekondo Titi residents, November 25, 2021.

[188] “Ekondo Titi: Schools dey fear to open afta classroom attack leave three students and one teacher dead,” BBC News.

[189] “Ekondo Titi: Schools dey fear to open afta classroom attack leave three students and one teacher dead,” BBC News.

[190] Office of the Deputy Defense Chief letter to Samuel Sako, November 24, 2021, available in Appendix V.

[191] Yannick A. Kenne, “Cameroun – Tueries d’Ekondo Titi (Sud-Ouest) : L’armée accuse des assaillants sécessionnistes déguisés en uniformes militaires,” Cameroon-Info.net, http://www.cameroon-info.net/article/cameroun-tueries-dekondo-titi-sud-ouest-larmee-accuse-des-assaillants-secessionnistes-deguises-en-uniformes-militaires-405474.html (accessed December 2021).

[192] Tweet, Mark Bareta, November 25, 2021, https://twitter.com/MarkBareta/status/1463769839332433920?s=20 (accessed November 2021).

[193] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Thomas, May 4, 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 21-year-old former student at the Government Bilingual High School, Jakiri, May and June 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a community leader in Jakiri, June 2, 2021.

[194] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Thomas, May 4, 2021.

[195] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 21-year-old former student at the Government Bilingual High School, Jakiri, May and June 2021.

[196] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a community leader in Jakiri, June 2, 2021.

[197] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 21-year-old former student at the Government Bilingual High School, Jakiri, May and June 2021.

[198] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with two female teachers at Ashong high school, June 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a local authority from Ashong, June 2021.

[199] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a female teacher at Ashong high school, June 2021.

[200] Human Rights Watch in-person interview with a 32-year-old teacher from the North-West region, Nicosia, Cyprus, August 2019.

[201] Human Rights Watch in-person interview with a 32-year-old teacher from the North-West region, Nicosia, Cyprus, August 2019. A local journalist who spoke with witnesses to the attack who also confirmed the incident. Human Rights Watch interviews with a Cameroonian journalist working in the North-West and South-West regions, June 2021.

[202] Jonathan Pedneault, ‘Free Cameroon’s Kidnapped School Children,” Human Rights Watch dispatch, November 6, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/11/06/free-cameroons-kidnapped-school-children.

[203] “Dozens of students abducted in Cameroon by alleged separatists,” Al Jazeera, November 5, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/11/5/dozens-of-students-abducted-in-cameroon-by-alleged-separatists (accessed August 2021); Bellingcat, “How Schoolchildren Became Pawns in Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis,” July 16, 2021, https://www.bellingcat.com/news/africa/2021/07/16/how-schoolchildren-became-pawns-in-cameroons-anglophone-crisis/ (accessed August 2021); Edwin Kindzeka Mozi, “Separatists kidnap 79 pupils in Cameroon’s restive northwest,” AP, November 5, 2018, https://apnews.com/article/africa-ap-top-news-media-social-media-international-news-613d03d0c1b84f89a22eda5325148e65 (accessed August 2021).

[204] Tabi Marriane Enow, “Kidnapped PSS Nkwen students released,” Journal du Cameroun, November 7, 2018, https://www.journalducameroun.com/en/news-in-brief/kidnapped-pss-nkwen-students-released/ (accessed August 2021).

[205] “Cameroon's key separatist commander killed in troubled region,” Xinhua, May 2, 2020, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-05/02/c_139026569.htm (accessed August 2021); Bellingcat, “How Schoolchildren Became Pawns in Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis.”

[206] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a female teacher at the Morning Star Nursery and Primary School, November 4, 2020; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a male teacher at the Morning Star Nursery and Primary School, November 6, 2020; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a female teacher at the Morning Star Nursery and Primary School, November 11, 2020; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a female teacher at the Morning Star Nursery and Primary School, November 14, 2020.

[207] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a female teacher at the Morning Star Nursery and Primary School, November 4, 2020.

[208] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a male teacher at the Morning Star Nursery and Primary School, November 6, 2020.

[209] Human Rights Watch interview with Samuel Fonki Forba, November 4, 2020; Human Rights Watch interview with a teacher at the Presbyterian School, November 10, 2021.

[210] Attack also covered by international media. See, for instance: “Several teachers kidnapped in restive Cameroon region: Union,” Al Jazeera, November 4, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/11/4/at-least-six-teachers-kidnapped-in-restive-cameroon-region (accessed August 2021); Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon Officials Say 11 Teachers Abducted by Separatist Groups,” VoA, https://www.voanews.com/africa/cameroon-officials-say-11-teachers-abducted-separatist-groups (accessed August 2021).

[211] Human Rights Watch interview with Samuel Fonki Forba, November 4, 2020.

[212] Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon Officials Say 11 Teachers Abducted by Separatist Groups.”

[213] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with 2 teachers at the Government Bilingual High School Atiela, May 4, 2021 and June 2021.

[214] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher at the Government Bilingual High School Atiela, June 2021.

[215] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher at the Government Bilingual High School Atiela, May 4, 2021.

[216] Tweet, Israel Ayongwa, January 11, 2019, https://twitter.com/iayongwa/status/1083760705239638016?s=20 (accessed August 2021); Tweet, Israel Ayongwa, January 11, 2019, https://twitter.com/iayongwa/status/1083802717733060608?s=20 (accessed August 2021).

[217] “Verified incident: School burning in Eka,” Scholars Portal Dataverse, 2019, https://dataverse.scholarsportal.info/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.5683/SP2/QF5HP7 (accessed August 2021); Bellingcat, “How Schoolchildren Became Pawns in Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis.”

[218] Bellingcat, “How Schoolchildren Became Pawns in Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis.”

[219] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a resident of Widikum, July 2021.

[220] KumKum Massa, “Alert! Ambazonia Widikum Propaganda,” KontriPipo, https://kontripipo.com/alert-ambazonia-widikum-propaganda/, January 5, 2019 (accessed September 2021).

[221] Human Rights Watch interview with a member of a Cameroonian human rights organization, November 18, 2020.

[222] The World Bank reported that in January 2021, 47 schools were used as bases by separatist fighters, of which 12 in the North-West region and 35 in the South-West region. World Bank Group, “La crise sociopolitique dans les régions du Nord-Ouest et du Sud-Ouest du Cameroun : Évaluation de l’impact économique et social.”

[223] Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon: Separatist Fighters Occupy 50 Schools,” VoA, July 22, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/africa/cameroon-separatist-fighters-occupy-50-schools (accessed August 2021).

[224] Moki Edwin Kindzeka Cameroon Campaigns for Schools Reopening, VoA, September 28, 2020,

https://www.voanews.com/africa/cameroon-campaigns-schools-reopening (accessed August 2021)

[225] “Cameroon: Video Shows Separatists Torturing Man,” Human Rights Watch news release; “Cameroon: New Attacks on Civilians By Troops, Separatists,” Human Rights Watch news release.

[226] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a former separatist fighter, April 27, 2021.

[227] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a Tan community leader, June 2, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with a Tan resident, May 30, 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher from Tan, June 15, 2021.

[228] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a Tan community leader, June 2, 2021.

[229] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher from Tan, June 15, 2021.

[230] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a Tan community leader, June 2, 2021.

[231] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher from Tan, June 15, 2021.

[232] Human Rights Watch interview with a Tan resident, May 30, 2021.

[233] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sara, April 7, 2021.

[234] “Cameroon is 81st Country to Endorse Safe Schools Declaration,” Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), September 11, 2018, https://reliefweb.int/report/cameroon/cameroon-81st-country-endorse-safe-schools-declaration (accessed August 2021).

[235] “Safe Schools Declaration,” GCPEA, https://protectingeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/documents/documents_safe_schools_declaration-final.pdf (accessed August 2021).

[236] Human Rights Watch interviews with representatives of UNOCHA, UNICEF, the US, French, Canadian embassies in Yaoundé, June and July 2021.

[237] Ruth Maclean, “Stay home or risk being shot: Cameroon's back-to-school crisis,” The Guardian, September 3, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/sep/03/cameroon-pupils-risk-being-shot-back-to-school (accessed August 2021); Institut français des relations internationales, “Education et pouvoir dans le conflit anglophone au Cameroun,” June 2020, https://www.ifri.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/petrigh_education_conflit_cameroun_2020.pdf (accessed August 2021).

[238] Human Rights watch telephone interview with Tina, June 2021.

[239] Eulalia Amabo, “Back-to-School : Defence Officials Join Campaign Train,” August 23, 2019, Cameroon Tribune, https://www.cameroon-tribune.cm/article.html/27501/fr.html/back-to-school-defence-officials-join (accessed August 2021); Emmanuel, “Back-to-school Campaign : Growing Social Media Mobilisation,” Cameroon Tribune, September 2, 2019, https://www.cameroon-tribune.cm/article.html/27654/fr.html/back-to-school-campaign-growing-social-media (accessed August 2021); Kiven B. Nsodzefe, “Cameroon, Back To School Campaign: Government Called To Free All Schools Taken Hostage By Separatists,” Cameroon-Info.net, July 24, 2019, http://www.cameroon-info.net/article/cameroon-back-to-school-campaign-government-called-to-free-all-schools-taken-hostage-by-348639.html (accessed August 2021).

[240] Moi Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon Campaigns for Schools Reopening,” VoA, https://www.voanews.com/africa/cameroon-campaigns-schools-reopening (accessed August 2021); “Back to school 2020: Campaign to restore students’ academic drive launched, Cameroon Radio Télévision, October 11, 2020 https://www.crtv.cm/2020/10/back-to-school-2020-campaign-to-restore-students-academic-drive-launched/ (accessed August 2021); Felix Tih and Aurore Bonny,
“Cameroon: Students return to school after seven months,” Andalou Agency, October 10, 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/cameroon-students-return-to-school-after-seven-months/1995857 (accessed August 2021).

[241] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 25,” UNOCHA situation report, November 30, 2020, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/sitrep_nwsw_nov_2020_vf.pdf (accessed August 2021).

[242] Please see Section III “Attacks on Schools” for further information about these attacks.

[243] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Chris, June 2021; Bellingcat, “How Schoolchildren Became Pawns in Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis”; “UNICEF alarmed by spike in school attacks in Cameroon,” UNICEF press release, November 6, 2020, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/unicef-alarmed-spike-school-attacks-cameroon (accessed August 2021).

[244] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Chris, June 2021.

[245] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 36-year-old teacher from the South-West region, June 2021.

[246] Minister of Defence’s Facebook page, September 3, 2021, https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1849906221861395&id=453680038150694&m_entstream_source=feed_mobile&anchor_composer=false (accessed September 2021).

[247] Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon Says Students and Teachers Defy Separatists School Lockdown,” VoA, July 19, 2021, https://www.voanews.com/africa/cameroon-says-students-and-teachers-defy-separatists-school-lockdown (accessed August 2021).

[248] “Cameroon: NW Region records improvement in school attendance,” Journal du Cameroun, September 10, 2021, https://www.journalducameroun.com/en/cameroon-nww-region-records-improvement-in-school-attendance/ (accessed September 2021); “Cameroon: SW Region records positive numbers after first week of school resumption,” Journal du Cameroun, September 10, 2021, https://www.journalducameroun.com/en/cameroonsw-region-records-positive-numbers-after-first-week-of-school-resumption/ (accessed September 2021).

[249] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 35,” UNOCHA situation report.

[250] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a woman from the South-West region, September 16, 2021.

[251] “Crise anglophone : un mot d’ordre de confinement de deux semaines à Bamenda divise les leaders séparatistes, ” Agence Cameroun Presse, September 15, 2021, https://agencecamerounpresse.com/societe/soci%C3%A9t%C3%A9/crise-anglophone-un-mot-d%E2%80%99ordre-de-confinement-de-deux-semaines-%C3%A0-bamenda-divise-les-leaders-s%C3%A9paratistes.html (accessed December 5, 2021).

[252] “Cameroon Flash Update: Ban on movements and activities in the North-West and South-West,” UNOCHA situation report, September 28, 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/cameroon/cameroon-flash-update-ban-movements-and-activities-north-west-and-south-west-28 (accessed December 5, 2021).

[253] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a man from the South-West, September 28, 2021.

[254] Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Students to Return to Class After Cameroon University Bombing,” VoA, November 11, 2021, https://www.voanews.com/a/students-to-return-to-class-after-cameroon-university-bombing/6309196.html (accessed November 2021).

[255] GCPEA, Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, 2014, https://protectingeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/documents/documents_guidelines_en.pdf (accessed December 5, 2021), Guideline 5.

[256] “Commentary on the “Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict,”’ GCPEA, 2015, https://protectingeducation.org/publication/commentary-on-the-guidelines-for-protecting-schools-and-universities-from-military-use-during-armed-conflict/ (accessed December 5, 2021), p. 5.

[257] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lily, June 9, 2021.

[258] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Chris, June 2021.

[259] Human Rights watch telephone interview with a teacher in the South-West region, June 2021.

[260] Human Rights Watch interview with a student from the North-West region, July 20, 2021.

[261] Human Rights watch telephone interview with a teacher from the South-West region, June 9, 2021.

[262] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher at the Government Bilingual High School Atiela, June 5 and 7, 2021.

[263] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 36-year-old teacher from the South-West region, June 7, 2021.

[264] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 22-year-old student at the Saint Paul Comprehensive College July 16, 2021.

[265] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a female teacher at Government Nursery School Bokwoango, June 7, 2021.

[266] “Cameroon: Gunmen Massacre School Children,” Human Rights Watch news release.

[267] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a man from Kumba, October 28, 2020.

[268] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a man from Kumba, October 28, 2020.

[269] Fred Bihina, “Cameroun - Massacre de Kumba: Le gouvernement note que l’école attaquée a lancé ses activités «à l’insu des autorités administratives compétentes, et n’a pu bénéficier des mêmes mesures de protection que d’autres établissements scolaires du Département de la Mémé.»”

[270] “Cameroon: Gunmen Massacre School Children,” Human Rights Watch news release.

[271] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Julia, November 20, 2020; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a female teacher at the Kulu Memorial College, November 19, 2021.

[272] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Julia, November 20, 2020.

[273] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with two female teachers from the North-West region, June 3 and 6, 2021.

[274] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Tina, June 7, 2021.

[275] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jim, April 8, 2021.

[276] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lily, June 9, 2021.

[277] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a parent of two primary school children in the South-West region, May 3, 2020.

[278] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a student from the North-West, April 7, 2021; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a father of two children in the South-West region May 3, 2021.

[279] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a high-school female student from Bamenda, July 2021.

[280] “Cameroon's conflict keeps schools shut,” BBC; ACAPS, “Education in crisis in the North-west and South-West regions,” February 2021, https://www.acaps.org/special-report/cameroon-education-crisis-north-west-and-south-west-regions (accessed August 2021).

[281] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a former senior education staffer at Akeh school, May 3, 2021.

[282] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Thomas, May 4, 2021.

[283] “Cameroon: Emergency Response Plan seeks US$15M to reach 160,000 internally displaced people in the next three months,” UNOCHA news release, May 29, 2018, https://www.unocha.org/story/cameroon-emergency-response-plan-seeks-us15m-reach-160000-internally-displaced-people-next (accessed August 2021); “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 35,” UNOCHA situation report.

[284] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 24,” UNOCHA situation report, October 31, 2020, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/ocha_cameroon_sitrep_nwsw_-_october_2020.pdf (accessed August 2021).

[285] ACAPS, “ACAPS Thematic Report: Cameroon - The education crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions.”

[286] Human Rights Watch interviews with a member of a Cameroonian civil society organization working in the South-West region, November 18 and 20, 2021; with a staff working for a UN agency, November 18, 2020; with Lily, June 2021; and with a 54-year-old teacher from the South-West region, June 2021.

[287] Noela Ebob Bisong, “Anglophone Crisis: Teachers To Be Redeployed To Functional Schools,” The Sun, October 15, 2019, https://thesuncameroon.cm/index.php/2019/10/15/anglophone-crisis-teachers-redeployed-functional-schools-3/ (accessed August 2021).

[288] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lily, June 9, 2021.

[289] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Chris, June 2021.

[290] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Tim, April 6, 2021.

[291] “Cameroon: West and Littoral Regions,” UNOCHA Multi-Sector Rapid Assessment (MIRA), October 2019, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/assessments/cmr_mira_west_littoral_oct19_report_final_ok.pdf (accessed August 2021).

[292] Ngala Killian Chimtom, “Cameroon conflict: 'I go to a secret school,'” BBC, December 12, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50663389 (accessed August 2021).

[293] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher working in Douala, June 21, 2021.

[294] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher working in Yaoundé, June 21, 2021.

[295] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Clara, March 22, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with a 26-year-old man from the South-West region, June 3 and 14, 2021.

[296] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Clara, March 22, 2021.

[297] Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon Football Teams Move After Kidnapping of Players, Coaches.”

[298] “Cameroon: Sham Trial for Kumba School Massacre,” Human Rights Watch news release.

[299] For more on the unfair trial, see section VIII and “Cameroon: Sham Trial for Kumba School Massacre,” Human Rights Watch news release.

[300] On September 21, 2021, Human Rights Watch sent a letter, with its findings and a list of questions, to Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute. The Prime Minister has not replied. The letter is available in Appendix II.

[301] “Cameroon: Human Rights Watch Denied Entry,” Human Rights Watch news release, May 2, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/05/02/cameroon-human-rights-watch-denied-entry-0.

[302] “Access Now files new legal intervention in Cameroon against shutdowns,” Access Now, August 2, 2018, https://www.accessnow.org/access-now-files-supporting-intervention-in-renewed-legal-challenge-to-internet-shutdown-in-cameroon/ (accessed November 2021).

[303] “New internet shutdown ordered in Cameroon,” Internet Sans Frontières, October 2, 2017, https://internetwithoutborders.org/new-internet-shutdown-ordered-in-cameroon/#:~:text=%E2%80%9C%20Internet%20Without%20Borders%20is%20again%20concerned%20about,the%20longest%20shutdown%20by%20a%20country%20in%20Africa (accessed November 2021).

[304] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with three Cameroonian journalists and four residents of the Anglophone regions, November 2021.

[305] “Cameroon: Ensure Independent Probe of Reporter’s Death,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 9, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/06/09/cameroon-ensure-independent-probe-reporters-death.

[306] “Cameroon: Ensure Independent Probe of Reporter’s Death,” Human Rights Watch news release.

[307] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with an international journalist, November 24, 2021.

[308] Human Rights watch telephone and WhatsApp interviews with two international journalists, November 24, 2021.

[309] Human Rights Watch WhatsApp interview with an international journalist, November 24, 2021.

[310] Human Rights Watch WhatsApp interview with an international journalist, November 24, 2021.

[311] “Bamenda protests: Mass arrests in Cameroon,” BBC, November 23, 2016, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38078238 (accessed November 2021); “Cameroon: Release of Anglophone leaders a relief but others still languish in prison,” Amnesty International, August 30, 2017, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/08/cameroon-release-of-anglophone-leaders-a-relief-but-others-still-languish-in-prison/ (accessed November 2021); “Cameroon: Arrests and civil society bans risk inflaming tensions in English-speaking regions,” Amnesty International, January 20, 2017, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/01/cameroon-arrests-and-civil-society-bans-risk-inflaming-tensions-in-english-speaking-regions/ (accessed November 2021).

[312] “Cameroon to hold ‘national dialogue’ on separatist crisis,” Al Jazeera, September 11, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/9/11/cameroon-to-hold-national-dialogue-on-separatist-crisis (accessed November 2021); Mbom Sixtus, “Cameroon government ‘declares war’ on secessionist rebels,” The New Humanitarian, November 4, 2017, https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/analysis/2017/12/04/cameroon-government-declares-war-secessionist-rebels (accessed November 2021).

[313] “Yaoundé Conference Centre,” Major National Dialogue, September 30 – October 4 2019, https://www.nationaldialogue.cm/ (accessed November 2021); See also “Cameroon opens dialogue to end Anglophone separatist crisis,” France 24, https://www.france24.com/en/20190930-cameroon-opens-dialogue-to-end-anglophone-separatist-crisis (accessed November 2021).

[314] “Cameroon,” Human Rights Watch, Cameroon Country Page, https://www.hrw.org/africa/cameroon.

[315] Human Rights Watch WhatsApp interview with a Cameroonian lawyer, November 23, 2021.

[316] Atia T. Azohnwi, “Cameroon Anglophone Crisis: Armed men kill physics teacher in Kumba,” Cameroon-Info.net, July 2, 2021, http://www.cameroon-info.net/article/cameroon-anglophone-crisis-armed-men-kill-physics-teacher-in-kumba-402528.html (accessed November 2021).

[317] Human Rights Watch interview with a Cameroonian lawyer, July 2021.

[318] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a parent of two primary school children in the South-West region, May 3, 2021.

[319] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jim, April 8, 2021.

[320] Human Rights Watch telephone Interview with a 23-year-old student from the South-West region, June 2021.

[321] Human Rights Watch in person interview with a 23-year-old former student from the South-West region, Nicosia, Cyprus, August 20, 2019.

[322] Human Rights Watch video interview with Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla, President of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, November 2021.

[323] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a Cameroonian human rights activist, April 2021.

[324] See ACAPS, “ACAPS Thematic Report: Cameroon - The education crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions.”

[325] Email correspondence between Human Rights Watch and a staff working for a UN agency in Cameroon, who cited information received from the ministries of primary and secondary education, August 18, 2021.

[326] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a senior official at the Government High School Akeh, May 3, 2021.

[327] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Thomas, May 4, 2021.

[328] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 35,” UNOCHA situation report.

[329] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 35,” UNOCHA situation report.

[330] Email correspondence between Human Rights Watch and a staffer working for a UN agency in Cameroon, August 18, 2021.

[331] United Nations Security Council, “The situation in Central Africa and the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa.”

[332] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Tim, April 6, 2021.

[333] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Linda, April 2, 2021.

[334] ACAPS, “Cameroon - The education crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions.”

[335] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with a member of a Cameroonian civil society organization in the South-West region, November 18, 2020; with a human rights activist in Yaoundé, November 22, 2020; and with a humanitarian worker from a UN agency, November 18, 2020. See also SODEI, “Baseline Research: Education in Crisis in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon.”

[336] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 25,” UNOCHA situation report; Ruth Maclean, “Stay home or risk being shot: Cameroon's back-to-school crisis”; ACAPS, “ACAPS Thematic Report: Cameroon - The education crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions.”

[337] Human Rights Watch, “Leave No Girl Behind in Africa,” (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2018), https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/06/14/leave-no-girl-behind-africa/discrimination-education-against-pregnant-girls-and.

[338] United Nations Population Fund, “State of the World’s Population 2017,” 2018, https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/sowp/downloads/UNFPA_PUB_2017_EN_SWOP.pdf, (accessed April 20, 2018), p. 50.

[339] Human Rights Watch interview with Julia, November 20, 2020.

[340] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Andrew, April 2021.

[341] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with a member of a member of a Cameroonian civil society organization. operating in the South-West region, November 2020; with a teacher working in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, July 2021; with a human rights activist in the North-West region, August 2021; and with a UN staffer working in the South-West region, November 2020.

VoA, Psychological Care Lacking in Cameroon’s Separatist Conflict, October 16, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/africa/psychological-care-lacking-cameroons-separatist-conflict (accessed August 2021)

[342] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 57-year-old teacher from the South-West region, March 22, 2021.

[343] Cai Nebe, “Children's drawings shed sinister light on Cameroon conflict,” Deutsche Welle, June 22, 2021, https://www.msn.com/en-xl/news/other/childrens-drawings-shed-sinister-light-on-cameroon-conflict/ar-AALj6aO?ocid=BingNewsSearch (accessed August 2021).

[344] Human Rights Watch interview with a UN staffer working in the Anglophone regions, head of Education Cluster (UNICEF), November 18, 2020.

[345] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 40-year-old teacher from the North-West region, November 6, 2020.

[346] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maria, November 2019.

[347] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Tim, April 6, 2021.

[348] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher working in Douala, June 21, 2021.

[349] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a teacher in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, June 2021.

[350] Email correspondence between Human Rights Watch and a UN staffer working in Cameroon, August 18, 2021.

[351] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 35-year-old teacher from the North-West region, November 14, 2020.

[352] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a former student from the North-West region, June 21, 2021.

[353] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Veronica, April 5, 2021.

[354] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sam, April 8, 2021.

[355] Human Rights Watch interview with Nina, June 1, 2021.

[356] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 47-year-old teacher, June 2021.

[357] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 35,” UNOCHA situation report.

[358] Email correspondence between Human Rights Watch and a staff working for a UN agency in Cameroon, citing information from UN reports and assessments, August 18, 2021.

[359] UNESCO, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, The impacts of internal displacement on education in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2020, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/2020%20backround%20paper%20FINAL%20IDMC.pdf (accessed August 2021).

[360] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 47-year-old teacher, March 25, 2021.

[361] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 60-year-old man, March 23, 2021.

[362] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 63-year-old man, March 23, 2021.

[363] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 35,” UNOCHA situation report.

[364] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 17-year-old student, August 11, 2021.

[365] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a 24-year-old former student, April 6, 2021.

[366] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Linda, April 2, 2021.

[367] “CAMEROON: North-West and South-West Situation Report No. 29,” UNOCHA situation report.

[368] International Organization for Migration, “Mixed Migration Flows in the Mediterranean - Compilation of Available Data and Information”; “Cyprus Fact Sheet,” UNHCR, February 2021, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/605b506d19.pdf (accessed August 2021); “US: Protect Cameroonians From Deportation,” Human Rights Watch news release.

[369] Human Rights Watch in person interview with a 27-year-old former student, Nicosia, Cyprus, August 19, 2019.

[370] Charles Manga Fombad, “UPDATE: Researching Cameroonian Law,” Hauser Global Law School Program, New York University School of Law, November/December 2015, https://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Cameroon1.html#_The_Cameroonian_Legal (accessed August 2021).

[371] Cameroon's Constitution of1972 with Amendments through 2008, via Constitute Project, https://www.constituteproject.org/constituion/Cameroon_2008.pdf?lang=en (accessed August 2021) Preamble, paras. 4, 12, 16, and 18.

[372] LOI N°98/004 DU 4 AVRIL 1998 D’ORIENTATION DE L’EDUCATION AU CAMEROUN, via UNESCO, http://www.unesco.org/education/edurights/media/docs/3fbc027088867a9096e8c86f0169d457b2ca7779.pdf (accessed December 6, 2021) arts. 15, 27(1), 35, 37(2); Law No. 005 of 16 April 2001 to Guide Higher Education, http://www.minesup.gov.cm/ipescam/en/textes/1_LOI_N%C2%B0_005_du_16_avril_2001.pdf (accessed August 2021) article 46: (1): Students’ right to physical and moral integrity shall be guaranteed in the higher education realm.

[373] LOI N°98/004 DU 4 AVRIL 1998 D’ORIENTATION DE L’EDUCATION AU CAMEROUN, via UNESCO, arts. 3, 15.

[374] African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (“Banjul Charter”), OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev.5, 21 LLM 58 (1982); African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/24.9/49 (1990); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx (accessed August 2021); Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx (accessed August 2021); Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/ConventionRightsPersonsWithDisabilities.aspx (accessed August 2021).

[375] ICESCR, art. 13; CRC, art. 28; ACRWC art. 11.

[376] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) acceded to by Cameroon in 1984, arts. 6, 9, and 10.

[377] ICESCR, op. cit., art. 13 (e).

[378] CRC art. 3 (1); ACRWC art. 4(1).

[379] CRC art. 6; ACRWC art. 5.

[380] CRC art 28 (e). ACRWC 11 (3) (d).

[381] Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signed by Cameroon October 1, 2008, arts. 11, 25.

[382] Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, General Comment no. 4, on the right to inclusive education, November 25, 2016, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRPD/C/GC/4&Lang=en (accessed October 2021) para. 14.

[383] Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, “What amounts to ‘a serious violation of international, human rights law’? An analysis of practice and expert opinion for the purpose of the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty,” August 2014, pp. 5, 22, 37.

[384] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, World Organization against Torture v. Zaire, Communication Nos. 25/89, 47/90, 56/91, 100/93 (1996) ACHPR 1, para. 48 ff.

[385] Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 60/147, December 16, 2005. 

[386] Basic Principles, articles 11 and 20 (b).

[387] “Cameroon is 81st Country to Endorse Safe Schools Declaration,” GCPEA; “Safe Schools Declaration,” GCPEA.

[388] GCPEA, Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.

 

Region / Country