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CAR Refugees Release UN Aid Workers in Cameroon

A Congolese man carries an umbrella decorated with a United Nations flag as Muslim and Christian refugees protest together outside the head office of the United Nations refugee agency in Bangui, Central African Republic, Jan. 6, 2014.
Refugees from the troubled Central African Republic have released two United Nations workers in Cameroon - taken hostage to protest a lack of needed aid. The refugees involved appear to be rebels - highlighting the growing crisis for the C.A.R.’s neighbors.

The UNHCR workers - identified as Mamady Fata Kourouma and his colleague Adama were taken hostage on January 4 in Bertoua - the provincial capital of Cameroon’s Eastern Region.

Eastern Region Governor Ivaha Diboua Samuel Dieudonne said they were released Monday after negotiations. The UN workers were targeted due to frustration by C.A.R. refugees who accused them of not doing enough to provide for basic needs.

Ivaha Diboua explained that many of the refugees are fleeing rebels complicating Cameroon and international efforts to help those coming over the border to escape spiralling violence and hunger.

He said officials have explained to the refugees that the UNHCR only provides assistance to civilians seeking refuge in Cameroon from the Central African Republic and rebels or those with a military background must seek help from the International Red Cross.

He said the situation has gotten more precarious in Cameroon since more rebels began crossing the border in December after the arrival of French and African Union military reinforcements to disarm fighters in C.A.R.

Diboua said some soldiers are hiding among the population with arms and we cannot accept that.

Cameroonians in the border region have been targets of theft and violent assaults by some of the 52,000 C.A.R. refugees in the east of the country.

Donor agencies including the World Food Program and the Cameroon Red Cross say they do not have the supplies to meet the increasing humanitarian needs.