Thousands Flee Renewed Clashes in Central African Republic

The U.N. refugee agency reports renewed fighting between government forces and rebel groups in Central African Republic has sent more than 2,000 refugees fleeing for their lives to neighboring Chad this past week.

Newly arriving refugees have been telling aid workers in Chad of the mayhem engulfing their region. The refugees, who come from CAR’s northern Kaga-Bandoro region describe shocking acts of violence, looting and extortion by rebel groups as government forces were closing in on them.

As people were fleeing toward the Chadian border, U.N. refugee spokesman, Babar Balloch, says other people from towns they passed along the way joined them, fearing that they too would come under rebel attack.

“To reach Chad, people had to wade shoulder-deep through the Grande Sido river, with some carrying their few belongings on their heads," he said. "The refugees are now settled in Gandaza village inside Chad on the other side of the border… although some are having to resort to crossing back into CAR to find food or salvage what little is left from their properties.”

Chad is hosting nearly 11,000 of the 117,000 Central African refugees who have fled violence sparked by CAR’s contested presidential and parliamentary elections in December.

Most of the refugees, about 92,000, have fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Several thousand others have taken refuge in neighboring Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.

The country has enjoyed a period of relative calm since mid-March after government forces and their allies reclaimed most of the rebel strongholds. Balloch says the newly arrived refugees are in urgent need of shelter, food and water, as well as access to sanitation and health care.

“UNHCR’s ability to meet their basic requirements is severely constrained by a lack of funding and resources… The CAR humanitarian situation is one of the most underfunded of UNHCR operations globally, with only 12% of the required 164 million U.S. dollars needed,” he said.

Post-election violence also has displaced 164,000 people inside the country. CAR’s decade-long war has uprooted nearly one-third of its 4.7 million population. The United Nations reports 2.8 million people, more than half of the population, needs international aid and protection.

Source: Voice of America