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Thousands Flee Central African Republic to Escape Escalating Violence

FILE - A herder is seen standing with his cattle near the town of Bouar, Central African Republic, March 9, 2014.

The United Nations refugee agency reports thousands of people in the Central African Republic (CAR) are fleeing to Chad and Cameroon to escape increasing violence in their country.

The UNHCR reports more than 5,600 refugees from have fled to Chad and another 555 to Cameroon since mid-June. This latest exodus comes barely six months after the election of President Faustin Archange Touadera.

The election ushered in hopes of lasting peace after three years of warfare that left thousands dead and nearly one million displaced. UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming says the hopes, for now, appear to have been dashed.

She tells VOA the current exodus of refugees began on June 12 when clashes re-ignited between livestock herders and local farmers in northwest C.A.R.

“What is disturbing here is that the two opposing militias, the Seleka and anti-Balaka, are now joining in this clash and fighting each other," said Fleming. "So, this is becoming something that could have wider implications and could spread further."

Fleming says the country is very fragile and there are growing fears that these clashes could unleash a greater wave of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries.

“We are concerned that things are still tense, that there are flashpoints within CAR, and that we need to keep an eye on it and that there are people who are fleeing for their lives and who are in need and are reporting terrible atrocities — killings, kidnappings, lootings, torching of their homes,” Fleming said.

The UNHCR says its humanitarian operation for more than 300,000 CAR refugees in Chad and Cameroon is in financial trouble. It says this new influx of refugees is adding to the difficulties.

The agency has appealed for $225 million to provide life-saving assistance to the refugees this year. It only has received 11 percent or $24.7million of what it needs.