Authorities in Cameroon say over 250 foreign workers, most of them Chinese, have fled post-election violence in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) to the border town of Garoua Boulay. The foreign workers say they are the target of rebel groups disgruntled with the C.A.R.’s December 27 presidential election that saw Faustin-Archange Touadera reelected.
Li Yu, 43, calls himself a spokesman for Chinese workers who fled post-election violence in the CAR to Cameroon, said 152 Chinese merchants, construction engineers, and those working on mining sites escaped to Cameroon in the past week.
According to Li, armed rebel groups began threatening Chinese mining workers after the C.A.R’s December 27 elections. He says the situation worsened during the first week of January when groups of heavily armed men started searching their homes, looting and asking all Chinese citizens to either leave or be killed. Li says he is happy about the hospitality they have received in Cameroon.
He says more than 60 of the Chinese were working on mining sites in the C.A.R. and some of them had to make the journey through the bushes for days, before arriving in Cameroon.
He says the Central African Republic’s military had to assist some Chinese and other foreign workers to the border.
According to Cameroon authorities, more than 250 foreign workers in the C.A.R. had crossed over to Cameroon in the past week.
Cameroon Territorial Administration Minister Paul Atanga Nji payed a visit to the fleeing workers Sunday in Garoua Boulay.
Nji says the country’s President Paul Biya dispatched him to the border to ensure their safety and to provide aid.
He says the president asked him to ensure that all foreign workers escaping the violent clashes in the C.A.R. are safe in Cameroon, particularly the Chinese. Nji says the mattresses, food, and first aid products they are handing out are from President Biya to help the fleeing workers in Garoua Boulay.
He says Cameroon’s military will assist to transport Chinese citizens who wish to go to their embassy in Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital.
Nji says since December, 4,500 civilians have fled election-related violence in the C.A.R. to Garoua Boulay.
He says because of the violence in the Central African Republic, close to 2,000 trucks have also been blocked at Garoua Boulay trying to get from Cameroon’s coastal city of Douala to Bangui, the capital of C.A.R.
On Sunday, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, said violence was rising to an alarming extent.
According to MINUSCA, 4,000 civilians in the C.A.R. towns of Bouar and Grimari fled heavy fighting between rebels and troops to safety in Bouar’s Roman Catholic Church.
Due to the violence between armed groups since 2013, nearly 700,000 people have been displaced inside the Central African Republic and over 600,000 forced to flee — most to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.