African countries have started repatriating their citizens from the Central African Republic in recent days, where continuing violence has led to deteriorating humanitarian conditions.
Mali’s government chartered two flights to evacuate around 500 of its citizens on Sunday while 150 of Niger’s citizens arrived back in the capital Niamey on Friday night.
“I can’t say whether there were incidents of aggression against Malians, but most countries have now decided as a precaution to bring home their citizens,” said Mahamane Baby, a Mali government spokesman.
Chad has already evacuated around 12,000 of its citizens in recent days by emergency flights and land convoys, many more than other countries because Chad citizens have been targeted by Christians who accuse Chadian forces of supporting the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels who took over the country in March 2013 in a coup.
Chad strongly denies this allegation.
By Friday, Senegal had evacuated more than 200 citizens and the Nigerian Government had repatriated 365 Nigerians from Bangui, the country’s capital.
The evacuees who had been taking shelter at the Nigerian Embassy in Bangui were flown into Abuja aboard two aircraft belonging to Arik Air.
“The number will increase by the day and all those that are vulnerable will be evacuated. All those whose lives are in danger will be repatriated and I think it will end as quickly as possible in 5-6 days,” said Alhassan Nuhu, deputy planning director of Nigerian Emergency Management Agency.
According to reports there are at least 29,700 Nigerians still trapped in the Central African Republic.
Aid in short supply
Aid workers are struggling to provide medical care and adequate food and water for more than 100,000 people who are at the main makeshift camp for those who have fled their homes, situated at the airport outside the capital Bangui.
The deployment of 1,600 French and nearly 4,000 African peacekeepers has failed to stop the killings in the Central African Republic.
Central African Republic’s interim government, in a broadcast on Saturday, called for citizens to return to work.
“The country has fallen and the national economy is at the bottom of an abyss – and that’s why civil servants should go back to work as early as 6 January to boost the country,” said the minister of public works, Gaston Makozangba, in a message played on repeat on state radio.
Since independence from France in 1960, the Central African Republic has seen five coups and numerous rebellions.
Seleka rebels seized power in March 2013, prompting a wave of killing and looting in the nation.
More than 1,000 people have been killed since December and the United Nations says 935,000 have been displaced.