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Thousands of Chadian asylum seekers fleeing violence flock to Central African Republic


Thousands of Chadian asylum seekers fleeing violence flock to Central African Republic

Tens of thousands of Chadian families fleeing intercommunal conflicts have recently arrived in the Central African Republic. UNHCR and the local authority are trying to relocate them away from the border but resources to support them are overstretched.
3 February 2024 Also available in:
Central African Republic. Chadian Asylum seeker, Alain Ndoubayo was attacked in his farm by a group of herders. He sought refuge in CAR and has settled in the Betoko site, with his family. They are rebuilding their lives with the help of UNHCR and its partners

Alain Ndoubayo, 45, is impatiently waiting at a food distribution centre in Betoko in north-western Central African Republic (CAR). He fled Chad in mid-May after an altercation with herders in which he lost three fingers on his left hand.  

"I had all my harvest and millet stocks in my field, and herders brought in their cattle, which ate everything. When I protested, one of them took out his machete and wanted to bring it down on my head. I tried to protect myself with my hand, but my fingers were cut off.”, the father of 11 children said.

Alain added that another herder tried to slit his throat, but his machete landed on his chest, and he fell on the ground. His attackers stayed to watch him for a while and he hadn’t moved at all, so they thought he was dead and abandoned him there. “I left my village the same day, it was May 14th, in the middle of the night. That's how we set off and spent the night by the river. At dawn, a pirogue took us across.”

Alain is among more than 32,000 Chadian asylum seekers fleeing inter-community conflicts, notably linked to transhumance, who have been registered to date in CAR.

Thousands of people are scattered across more than fifty villages without proper shelter. To accommodate them, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the government have set up a 150-hectare extension of the Betoko village (45 km from Paoua), which will eventually house 10,000 people.

The Central African Republic is facing a succession of crises due to political instability, decades of conflicts, insecurity, and the impact of climate change.

"I'm with my children, because at the time of the war, my wife was killed," said Joachim Mbaindoh who fled a small village on the Chadian border. “What really made us leave was that the herders went to block people in a church, they killed them as well as a pastor. So, we thought it best to leave because if we stayed, we risked losing our lives, so we fled through the bush until we arrived here in the Central African Republic.”

UNHCR is working with partners and the local authority to provide life-saving assistance such as shelter, water, food and healthcare but the needs are overwhelming.

 “We've built 187 shelters on the Betoko extension, whereas we need around 2,000. So, I'd like to take this opportunity to appeal to the generosity of all those involved to be able to welcome the 10,000 people expected on this site, and to continue to support those who will remain in the host villages, for one reason or another. Not everyone can be relocated at the same time. There will still be around 25,000 to 26,000 people staying in the host villages", said Ibrahim Peghouma, Senior Field Officer in Paoua.

Alain who is still recovering from the trauma of the attack that forced him to flee said he hardly sleeps at night and his disability prevents him from providing for his family and being as active as he used to be. "I can't do field work anymore, or even wash my clothes, my wife does almost everything for me now.", he said.

But he is still optimistic about the future of his children and hopes to put them in school so that "it will help them tomorrow."

Joachim Mbaindoh also hopes to restart his farming livelihood activity and rebuild his family’s life as he waits for peace to return to his home country.

"I want help to resume my business as I did in Chad. I had cattle to plow my land, I was a trader, and my children went to school. I want to make a life here with my family."