YAOUNDE, CAMEROON— More than 200 Mauritanians fleeing the troubled Central African Republic have been stranded in Cameroon. These people tell terrible stories of their experiences in the C.A.R.
Many of the Mauritanians are children less than 13 years old. They look weary and hungry after covering long distances from the troubled Central African Republic on foot and motorcycles through bush roads as they escaped from attackers. Keina Kelly, a 22-year-old mother of two, said most of them need urgent attention.
"There are many of us whose children are sick," said Kelly.
The Mauritanians said that when they arrived in Garoua Boulai, a Cameroonian town on the border with the C.A.R., they pleaded with Cameroonian authorities to inform their government that they were in a desperate situation. Chieck Ousman, a 52-year-old businessman, said they could no longer bear spiraling violence in CAR.
"It is bad out there Mr. Journalist. It is bad. There is war, looting, people use machetes to cut others into pieces. And nobody wanted to see a Muslim where I was," said Ousman.
Fatematou Awah, 25, said children were no longer going to school because of the fighting.
"We have really suffered. Our children have not been going to school. That is why we have left Central African Republic to go back to Mauritania," said Awah.
Shakira Abdoul, who was rushed to the hospital to be treated for wounds she said were inflicted by anti-Balaka fighters, said she was returning without her two sons who were killed two weeks ago.
"So many people are dying. We hear so many gunshots. It is not easy to live in such a place where you some time find corpses littered on the roads. What should we do? The best thing is to escape from such a place," said Abdoul.
On Friday, Cherif Ahmed Ould Taled, the Mauritanian Consul for Central African Countries, came to Cameroon from his base in Equatorial Guinea to assure the refugees that Mauritanian President Ahmed Abdelaziz had ordered a special flight to take them home.
"President Abdelaziz has instructed me to take care of the needs of all of his people fleeing from C.A.R. I have been asked to take them back home. The minister of External relations of my country has just called and assured me that a Mauritanian special flight will leave Nouakchott to take all of these people back home," said Taled.
The Central African Republic is now facing unprecedented levels of inter religious conflict between the majority Christian population and minority Muslims. Humanitarian agencies are warning that reprisal attacks between vigilante groups of both religions risk collapsing into genocide. Already, Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria have withdrawn their citizens from the C.A.R.