Children Kidnapped In Cameroon By Gunmen Released
NOEL KING, HOST:
Scores of children who were kidnapped from a boarding school in Cameroon earlier this week have been reunited with their families. The authorities say the kids were released by an unidentified gunman. This is all happening amid mounting tension between Cameron's minority English-speaking regions and the majority French-speaking government. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton says two staff members from the school are reportedly still being held.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Crying).
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Initial cries of anguish gave way to relief after two days of heartache when some of the nearly 18 missing school children met up with their parents in Bamenda, Cameroon's northwest commercial hub. This 15-year-old girl, whose family preferred anonymity, says the worst part of their captivity was walking barefoot in the bush.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: The only problem that I had was the trekking - very, very long distances when we started the journey at night and they left us at a Presbyterian church.
QUIST-ARCTON: The students were kidnapped before dawn on Monday in Cameroon's restive English-speaking region, which has been plagued for the past two years by instability and increasing violence between the security forces and armed separatists. The rebels accuse Cameroon's dominant French-speaking government of discrimination against their two Anglophone regions, and they're vowing to establish a breakaway republic. Both sides blame each other for the mass kidnapping. Cameroon's 85-year-old President Paul Biya made no concessions to the separatists, telling them to lay down their arms.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT PAUL BIYA: (Speaking French).
QUIST-ARCTON: Talking directly to those living in the English-speaking areas, Cameroon's president said they know better than anyone what life would be like under the yoke of extremists who have been spreading terror and desolation. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.