The escalating religious violence in the Central African Republic has prompted Cameroon to pull its citizens out of country. The first returnees have arrived home, many are Muslims needing urgent medical care.
Cameroon's Air Force CASA CN-235 landed on Monday (17.02.2014) at the Douala International airport. This was the first flight to bring Cameroonian citizens home country since President Paul Biya ordered an evacuation mission in the event of the situation in neighboring CAR worsening..
Among the 500 returnees was 42 -year-old Sali Samma, whose hands are now completely paralyzed. He was taken hostage and tortured. Samma is one of the many returning Cameroonian Muslims who were at the receiving end of the violence in CAR.
"Anti-balakas held me hostage and tied my hands and legs for one hour, fifteen minutes insisting that I was spying for Selekas when actually, I am not a spy,” Samma told DW.
The anti-balaka are Christian militia formed after the rise to power of the former CAR leader Michel Djotodia. When Djotodia's Muslim Seleka rebel fighters pulled out, the minority Muslim population was left exposed. Christians, who had earlier accused the Seleka rebels of targeting them, started revenge killings and the violence escalated.
Violence not yet over
The interim government of CAR held a meeting on Sunday (16.02.2014) with anti-balaka representatives, some of whom said they were prepared to cooperate in efforts to end the violence.
"They say they have no more reason to fight and therefore they are ready to be integrated into the security forces, or jobs in the administration, " Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa Project Director at the International Crisis Group in Nairobi told DW.
But there are other anti-balaka groups in the bush who do not feel bound by the outcome of talks in Bangui.
"There is also a certain level of inter-community violence within the people, therefore violence is not over yet," Viroulon said.
Tens of thousands of refugees have fled to neighbouring Chad or Cameroon. Among them was 30 year old Rabi Njoya. "All of my friends with whom I lived in Bangui were killed, that is why I went to the Cameroonian embassy to ask for help," he told DW.
Assuming Cameroonian identity
Most of those who were evacuated by the Cameroonian government are women and children. Many told how the men escaped into the bushes and didn't return. Sixteen year old Attoh Harouna, who was a student in Bangui, told DW correspondent in Cameroon that normal life has been disrupted in CAR.
Tens of thousands of Mulsims have fled for their lives as Christian militamen and angry crowds step up their attacks
"We were no longer attending classes. We stayed at home, yet were not free. They even killed my two brothers," he said.
Other refugees like Boubakari Oumarou from Chad had to pose as Cameronians to be able to leave CAR.
"Those guys came to our neighborhood in the PK13 district of Bangui looting and pillaging Muslims. Those who resisted were cut into little pieces like beef," he told DW.
Before the crisis, Muslims made up about 15 percent of Central African Republic's 4.6 million inhabitants.