6 January 2014

African Nations Pull Out Citizens From Central African Republic

Photo: UNHCR
Nigerian refugees (file photo).

The UN has reported that 2.2 million people are in need of assistance in the Central African Republic. Meanwhile, several African nations are rapidly pulling their citizens out of the war-torn nation.

UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council on Monday that half the population of the Central African Republic's capital, Bangui, have been made homeless by religious strife between Christian and Muslim militias.

A total of 513,000 people have been driven from their homes in Bangui, according to Feltman. Around 100,000 people have crowded into a makeshift refugee camp at the airport outside of the city.

As the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic deteriorates, several African nations have begun evacuating their nationals from the war-torn country. Mali, which is still grappling with the consequences of its own civil war, has repatriated 267 of its citizens via charter plane. Officials in Bamako said that the same number of Malians would be repatriated on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Senegal has repatriated 600 of its nationals from the Central African Republic, according to officials in Dakar. And Nigeria said it was in the process of relocating 1,600 of its citizens, who have sought refuge at the Nigerian embassy in Bangui.

Torn by religious strife

The Central African Republic was thrown into a state of political and social turmoil last March, when the rebel group Seleka launched a coup, installing the country's first Muslim president - Michel Djotoda.

Although Djotoda ordered Seleka to disband, renegade factions went on a months-long killing, rape and looting spree, with Christians forming vigilante groups in response. Around 50 percent of the country's 5 million people practice Christianity, while 15 percent of the population adheres to Islam. The rest of the population practices indigenous beliefs.

France, the Central African Republic's former colonial ruler, deployed 1,600 troops in December to support an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in the country. The AU force is expected to increase its strength from 2,500 to 3,500 troops to help stem the violence.

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