Cameroon authorities say more than 250 foreign workers, most of them Chinese, have fled post-election violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) to the border town of Garoua Boulay.
The foreign workers say they are being targeted by rebel groups disgruntled with the C.A.R.’s December 27 presidential election that saw Faustin-Archange Touadera reelected.
Li Yu, 43, calls himself a spokesman for Chinese workers who fled post-election violence in the Central African Republic to Cameroon.
He says 152 Chinese merchants, construction engineers, and those working on mining sites escaped to Cameroon in the past week.
Li says armed rebel groups began threatening Chinese mining workers after the December 27 elections in the CAR. He says the situation worsened during the first week of January when groups of heavily armed men started searching their homes, looting and asking all Chinese citizens to leave or be killed. Li says he is happy that Cameroon is hospitable to them.
Li says more than 60 of the Chinese were working on mining sites in the CAR and some of them trekked through the bush for days before arriving in Cameroon.
He says some Chinese and other foreign workers were assisted to the border by the Central African Republic’s military.
Cameroon authorities say over 250 foreign workers in the CAR had crossed over to Cameroon within the past week.
Cameroon Territorial Administration Minister Paul Atanga Nji visited the fleeing workers Sunday in Garoua Boulay.
Nji says Cameroon’s President Paul Biya dispatched him to the border to ensure their safety and to provide aid.
He says Biya asked him to make sure that all foreign workers escaping the violent clashes in the CAR are safe in Cameroon, especially the Chinese. Nji says the mattresses, food, and first aid products they are handing out are from Biya to help the fleeing workers in Garoua Boulay.
He says Cameroon’s military will help transport Chinese citizens who want to go to their embassy in the capital, Yaoundé.
Nji says 4,500 civilians have fled election-related violence in the CAR to Garoua Boulay since December.
He says the violence has also blocked close to 2,000 trucks at Garoua Boulay trying to get from Cameroon’s coastal city of Douala to the C.A.R.’s capital, Bangui.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, on Sunday said violence was rising to an alarming extent.
MINUSCA said 4,000 civilians in the CAR towns of Bouar and Grimari fled heavy fighting between rebels and troops to safety in Bouar’s Roman Catholic Church.
Cameroon’s Chief of Defense Staff Lieutenant General Rene Claude Meka last week visited Garoua Boulay. Speaking Sunday, he said Cameroon’s intelligence indicated that CAR rebels were moving towards the border.
Meka says he visited Cameroon’s eastern border with the CAR to ensure that troops strictly apply measures to protect civilians from the disorder in the CAR. He says he is happy that the military is keeping Cameroon’s side of the border safe by making sure that rebels and weapons do not infiltrate into Cameroon.
Violence flared in the CAR over the December 27 presidential election, which saw Faustin-Archange Touadera reelected with more than 53% of the votes.
The CAR accuses former president Francois Bozize, whose candidacy for the presidential election was rejected, of attempting a coup.
He denies organizing December rebel attacks, which were repelled by U.N. troops.
Bozize’s opposition coalition demanded the election be postponed due to the violence, but the government went ahead with the polls.
Violence between armed groups since 2013 has displaced nearly 700,000 people inside the Central African Republic and forced over 600,000 to flee — most to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.