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Foreigners airlifted from CAR

Thousands of foreign nationals have sought shelter at an airport near the capital, seeking to flee the violence.

Last updated: 11 Jan 2014 13:11
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Stranded foreign nationals are being evacuated from the Central African Republic following appeals from neighbouring countries.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) started an airlift on Saturday, one of three charter flights this weekend, to repatriate 800 Chadians from a refugee camp near the capital Bangui.

“Several concerned governments including Mali, Senegal, Niger and Chad have already organised evacuation flights, but need additional resources to cope with all the migrants wanting to leave the CAR and those arriving home, who are often destitute,” said IOM West Africa Director Carmela Godeau, in a statement published on the organisation's website.

“The evacuation of these migrants must be done quickly and in an orderly manner to avoid people trying to leave on their own overland and taking terrible risks, in desperation.”

Up to 100,000 people have been living in a makeshift camp near Bangui's airport due to violence between the predominantly Muslim Seleka fighters, who seized power last March, and Christian militias.

On Friday the country's interim President Michel Djotodia agreed to resign after failing to halt inter-religious violence, leading to gunfire and celebration on the streets of Bangui.

The resignations of Djotodia and Nicolas Tiangaye, the prime minister, were announced in a statement issued at a two-day summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) in neighbouring Chad.

Talks to decide on new leadership will take place in CAR, it said.

Under an agreement brokered by the CEEAC last year, CAR's transitional assembly (CNT) elected Djotodia to his position as interim president in April to take the former French colony to elections, due at the end of this year.

Power vacuum feared

As news from the summit reached Bangui, thousands of residents took to the streets, dancing, singing and honking horns in celebration.

Cheers also erupted at the camp for the displaced, mainly Christian civilians at the city's French-controlled airport.

Despite the celebrations, there are fears that a power vacuum will lead to greater instability if it is not filled quickly.
Djotodia seized power in the CAR last March and became the country’s first Muslim leader.

"The international community is going to have to react very quickly as there is no one regionally who can unite CAR," Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips, reporting from Bangui, said.

"The foreign troops are largely welcome but they are not necessarily enough. The trouble in recent weeks and month has not just been in Bangui."

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defence minister, said he wished for the new leadership to be announced "as soon as possible", adding that "the aim is to move forward with elections before the end of the year".

"We need the National Transitional Council to find a provisional alternative," he said.

Thousands of people have been killed and one million - about a fifth of the country's population - displaced by cycles of violence since abuses by Djotodia's rebels prompted the creation of Christian self-defence armed groups after he seized power in March.

France sent hundreds of troops to CAR last month to support African peacekeepers trying to keep the peace.

But the killings have continued, and France has repeatedly voiced its frustration with Djotodia's government.

France has 1,600 troops in the country, operating under a UN mandate to assist an African force that is due to be bolstered to 6,000 men.

It strengthened its military presence on the streets on Friday.

European Union officials have also proposed this week sending a military force to support the French contingent.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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