Central African Republic: Exodus Adds to CAR Crisis

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Nearby was Hadja Rame Higa, who said she was born in the north of CAR "about 100 years ago."

"I come from Bouca [450km north of Bangui]. They set fire to my house with all my belongings. They killed my two children; one was the local chief, the other a trader. They were both killed. My house was totally burned; I couldn't take anything. I fled Bouca for Bangui, and now I have to flee Bangui to go to Chad," she told IRIN.

Evacuations

The Chadian government established an air bridge and humanitarian corridor between Bangui and N'djamena on 22 December.

Since then, it has organized 52 flights airlifting 9,648 people and three road convoys carrying a further 9,000 people. (Citizens of Nigeria, Mali, Senegal and Cameroon have also been evacuated from CAR.)

In late December, Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Mahamat Faki visited Bangui and publicly appealed to the people of CAR. "Chadians are not your enemies and never will be. Don't let yourself be misguided by failed politicians who want to plunge you into an extremely perilous adventure."

For his part, the ousted Bozize has denied having any connection with or control over the anti-balaka forces.

And the man who toppled him, Djotodia, in a televised speech on New Year's Eve, condemned "all forms of xenophobia and at the same time the large-scale returns of long-term-resident foreigners to their respective countries. Because our country is and will remain a place of refuge and hospitality for all peace-loving people."

The exodus will have major ramifications for both CAR and Chad. People of Chadian origin - together with those from Cameroon and Nigeria - form the backbone of the trading and livestock sectors in CAR.

Major economic problems lie down the road, according to Richard Pouambi, chief of staff in CAR's Ministry of Communications.

"Those who are leaving are traders, they are the tax payers, and without them the state will have trouble filling its coffers. Billions of francs [hundreds of thousands of dollars] are spent every day in KM5," he said, referring to Bangui's largest market.

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