Thursday, February 07, 2008

Refugees on run to Cameroon

Trying to control the outrage I feel as this situation spills out of control and the rest of the worlds elite, the Geneva 5-6 countries, sit back and continue to do nothing. While our country watches millions and millions and yes now by most estimates BILLIONS being spent on staff and advertising to win a Presidential election. This is an epic humanitarian crisis and it is happening right now on our watch. Write to your local, state, and federal leaders and demand assistance for the more than 500,000 refugees caught in the crossfire of this madness of a corrupt Sudan government.

Chad refugees roughing it in Cameroon By EDWARD HARRIS, Associated Press Writer
Thu Feb 7, 5:41 PM ET

The old school campus is dilapidated. There is little food, water from only a single tap, no toilets. Families sleep in the open or under tents made of scavenged tree branches and lengths of cloth used as skirts during the day.

To this have come thousands of refugees who fled Chad's capital when rebels advanced into the city. They found safety, but also squalor.

Home is just across the river, but they fear that going back would be just as bad, with markets burned, stores looted and reports that the rebels may be regrouping east of the capital, N'Djamena.

"If we go back, we're between the anvil and the hammer," said Ngarmbatinan Mbailemdana, a 23-year-old security guard who fled with his wife and two children to the Cameroonian town of Kousseri, just across the Chari River. "The country needs real peace before we go home."

The U.N. estimated that at least 30,000 people have fled the oil-rich country for Cameroon after fighting broke out over the weekend in N'Djamena, a city of about 1 million. International relief efforts have not yet been mounted.

Rebels who accuse President Idriss Deby of corruption and embezzling millions in oil revenue attacked Chad's capital Feb. 1 in pickup trucks mounted with guns. The uprising appears to be a power struggle within the elite that has long controlled Chad.

The rebels had advanced in a matter of days from their eastern bases near the Sudan border, but were repelled after bloody weekend battles. Refugees fear the fighting will erupt again.

Mbailemdana said Thursday he ventured back into N'Djamena two days earlier and found his house burned and saw bodies on streets. Others said they were going home during the day to check conditions, then returning to Cameroon to sleep.

Food in Kousseri is available only to those refugees who can afford it, and prices at local markets were rising because of refugee demand. A loaf of bread, which used to cost about 4 cents, has quintupled in price in recent days, residents said.

"The situation in Kousseri is really quite serious," Jennifer Nazaire, the representative for Catholic Relief Services in Cameroon, said in a statement Wednesday. "Chadians are pouring out of N'Djamena, and there's little set up to receive them at the moment. The Catholic Church in Kousseri, the local government, United Nations, and aid agencies are all scrambling to work out temporary and longer-term measures to host people."

Chadians were still leaving their homeland, although the flow was decreasing to a trickle.

Deby said his government had total control of Chad and urged the refugees to return. But French Defense Minister Herve Morin said Wednesday his intelligence showed a rebel support column was moving from the east to reinforce the insurgents.

Chadian Prime Minister Nouradin Koumakoye on Thursday declared a curfew in the capital and other regions of the country, effective immediately, to help restore order.

Refugee Mbaire Wanda said Chadian officials had visited Kousseri's makeshift camps to try to persuade people to go home.

"I don't think that people dare go home now," Wanda said. "How will people take care of their kids? The markets are burned. The pharmacies have been pillaged. There's no jobs and no money. There's no home to return to."

U.N. workers who were surveying the school Thursday said they were considering moving the refugees farther from the Chari for security reasons. Several Chadians were organizing themselves, including compiling a list of those taking shelter there, in anticipation the U.N. would soon step in.

The situation adds to an already daunting challenge for humanitarian workers in the region. While the recent violence pushed Chadians from their homes in southwestern Chad, earlier fighting between the government and rebels had displaced thousands in the east. Eastern Chad also is home to thousands of Sudanese, who have fled fighting in Sudan's Darfur.

No civilian planes — including aid flights — have been allowed into Chad since fighting around the capital started, and the relief group Save the Children said it was running out of food and supplies for camps serving more than 500,000 people — including displaced Chadians and Sudanese refugees — in eastern Chad.

The recent fighting also prompted Europe to postpone deployment of a force to protect refugees and aid operations in the east.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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