Fighting in Central African Republic drives thousands into Chad
NDJAMENA, Chad, Feb 18 (UNHCR) - Thousands of refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) have fled northwards to Chad to escape recent fighting between government troops and rebel forces. Smaller numbers of refugees from areas south of the CAR capital, Bangui, have also gone south to the Republic of Congo to escape rebel activity near their homes.
The UN refugee agency has despatched a three-person team to southern Chad to verify reports of the recent arrival of nearly 20,000 people who fled fighting in the northern areas of the Central African Republic.
Local non-governmental organisations say that the new arrivals consist of some 6,000 CAR refugees, and an estimated 13,000 Chadians who had been living in northern CAR. They have gathered in two main border areas: Koumba, some 65 km south-east of the southern border town of Goré, and Kaba-Roangar, some 35 km south-west of Goré.
The UNHCR assessment team that left the Chadian capital, Ndjamena, on Sunday is now at the two locations, making a rapid assessment of the needs of the refugees and returning Chadians. Both groups are said to be in poor condition without adequate food, shelter or proper health care.
Meanwhile UNHCR staff in Ndjamena have met with Chadian authorities and other UN agencies to arrange for assistance to the refugees and to draw up a re-integration plan for the returning Chadians.
Many of the new arrivals say they are fleeing fighting in northern CAR that has pitted government troops against rebel forces loyal to the former CAR Chief of Staff, François Bozizé. There are unconfirmed reports that the rebels recently recaptured the strategic northern town of Bozoum, which lies on the main road linking Bangui and Cameroon's seaport of Douala.
Other rebel activities south of Bangui have also displaced more Central Africans into neighbouring Republic of Congo. By the end of last week, the UNHCR office in Betou, located along the banks of the Oubangui river, had registered more than 70 refugees who said they were fleeing rebel activity in Mongoumba, close to the border between CAR and Republic of Congo.