Thousands of refugees have fled to southern Chad to escape fighting between government and armed groups in the Central African Republic. It is unclear whether the fighting is caused by bandits or a militia group.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says that over 8,000 people have fled fighting in the Central African Republic over the past two weeks to take refuge in Chad.

A spokesperson for the refugee agency in Geneva, Marie Helen Verney, says that she is concerned that the semi-desert country's meager resources cannot accommodate a renewed influx of refugees.

"The situation is pretty bad," she said. "They are at the moment staying with local people in Southern Chad. As you can imagine local families in Southern Chad have very little for themselves so they really stay in very makeshift accommodation, shelter. Some of them don't even have really any shelter. There's very little food in the area because crops failed."

Chad already hosts around 200,000 refugees fleeing Sudan's civil war in Darfur, and 30,000 refugees from CAR who arrived when President Ange Felix Patasse was toppled in a coup in 2003.

Francois Bozize
The new fighting in CAR takes place as President Francois Bozize begins a new term in office. It is unclear whether the clashes have been caused by militias or by armed bandits operating in the lawless border area.

An Africa analyst, Chris Melville, says it is possible that Chadian mercenaries who supported Mr. Bozize in an armed insurgency against President Ange-Felix Patasse in 2003 are responsible for the fighting. At the time, the coup leader, Mr. Bozize, was Mr. Patasse's army chief of staff. Mr. Melville says Francois Bozize later expelled the Chadian militias in 2004.

"They bear a certain grudge against Bozize's government and so, if it is the same group they may have wanted to derail his inauguration which took place last weekend, or just undermine his reputation for maintaining security in the Central African Republic," he said.

Mr. Melville says that the fighting does not appear to be a serious threat to the presidency.

Mr. Bozize ended over two years of military rule by winning over 60 percent of the vote in May elections. He promised in his campaign to bring stability and national unity to the CAR which has had a politically turbulent history.