In Chad, UN agency to relocate Central African refugees fleeing marauders

In Chad, UN agency to relocate Central African refugees fleeing marauders

Newly arrived refugees grind millet at the Maya border crossing
As refugees in Chad who are fleeing a fresh wave of village raids in the Central African Republic (CAR) swell to 14,000 in number, the United Nations refugee agency said today it will begin moving them to more accessible areas away from the border.

“We plan to begin the first refugee transfers today, Friday, to a temporary site near the village of Dembo, 25 kilometres inland from the border where tents, blankets, plastic sheeting, jerry cans, and food aid will be distributed,” a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in Geneva.

The refugees say they have been fleeing armed raids, looting and house torching in the lawless reaches of north-eastern CAR and blame most of the violence on rival armed groups and on the zaraguina – bandits – who rustle cattle and abduct children for ransom.

There is disagreement, however, about moving from the border among the refugee leaders, many of whom told UNHCR official Fatta Kourouma during a recent visit to the town of Maya, where refugees have overburdened local resources, that they want to remain close to their homes in CAR.

"I know many of you feel attached to your homes even though you're here in Chad, but we can't accept leaving you so close to the border," Kourouma, who heads the refugee agency's office in Danamadji, told them. "When the rainy season arrives [in April], we won't be able to get food and supplies here by road."

Other factors that lead to the move, UNHCR said, include the conflict within Chad last month, which saw rebel forces briefly enter the capital N'Djamena. Thousands of Chadians fled to neighbouring Cameroon, while the refugee agency evacuated much of its staff.

Before the latest influx, Chad was hosting some 45,000 CAR refugees at four sites in the south. There are a further 240,000 refugees at 12 UNHCR-run camps in eastern Chad, while a further 180,000 Chadians have been displaced in the south-east.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General today appointed Rima Salah of Jordan as the new Deputy Special Representative for the UN Mission in the CAR and Chad (MINURCAT), established by the Council last September to help bolster regional security in the countries bordering the war-ravaged Darfur area of Sudan.

Ms. Salah is the former Deputy Executive of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), where she had worked for nearly twenty years.

The mission aims to be an innovative, multidimensional security presence including European Union military forces and comprising 300 police and 50 military liaison officers, as well as civilian staff that focus on civil affairs, human rights, the rule of law and mission support.