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Seeking refuge in Cameroon
by Amin George Forji
2006-12-14 10:09:12
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With the two CEMAC landlocked countries of Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) presently rocked by bitter conflicts between the military and rebel movements, over 240,000 people have been displaced throughout the region.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) chief in the Cameroonian capital of Yaoundé, Jacques Franquin, announced in an official statement that up to 30,000 refugees from these countries have successfully crossed into the Eastern province of Cameroon for refuge. The statement added that this influx has meant that the agency will have to open up an office in the Cameroon border town of Meiganga, as early as January to assist the refugees.

The statement further predicted that number to double in the coming months if the situation worsens, despite Cameroon tightening control at the borders. "We are going to establish a sort of watchtower on Cameroon's eastern border and be ready to act because the situation in CAR and Chad is still very volatile. Most of these people are nomadic Mbororo who are escaping harassment from CAR rebels and fugitive Chadian forces that helped bring Central African Republic President Francois Bozize to power. The rebels, but also armed bands and increasingly highway robbers, frequently attack them, seize their cattle, abduct their children and demand ransom."

Both conflicts in CAR and Chad are said to have direct footprints to the current humanitarian conflict in Darfur, Sudan. The Sudanese government backed Janjaweed militia massacring the ethnic Darfurians are said to have pursued the refugees wherever they have gone, notably in Chad and CAR. To keep their mission upbeat, they have merged up with local rebel movements in these regions, who in turn have launched violent insurgencies against their own governments.

Marcus Prior, the regional spokesman for the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has said of the situation as being extremely complicated. “The picture is very confused. There seem to be all manner of different clashes, and certainly a fear of bandits,” Marcus noted.

The WFP is very worried about the conflicts, and describing the situation as "a humanitarian crisis in one of the most forgotten corners of the world” on Tuesday sought urgent international funding of $11 million to help the agency provide the refugees with food. "The world must wake up to the reality and extent of the suffering in Central Africa," WFP Central African Director Jean-Charles Dei lamented. "It's hard to comprehend just how traumatised and desperate many of those affected by the fighting have become. This is a very real humanitarian crisis in one of the most forgotten corners of the world," he added.

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