The president of the Central African Republic Faustin-Archange Touadera announced last week he intends to close the camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in the capital’s international airport.
The government would like to send the estimated 28,000 displaced Bangui residents “home for Christmas.”
One of the displaced persons philippe Guianandji said he has lived at the M’poko camp for nearly three years. He and his family fled to the camp during the fighting between Muslim and Christian militias in 2013. French soldiers and U.N. peacekeepers at the airport kept the camp secure.
For me, the burden is not heavy because I’m working.But I’m pleading for the people here because they don’t have work. You can see the cassava leaves.
Guianandji said he is not too concerned about leaving, but says others are worried, even terrified about trying to reclaim their former lives.
“For me, the burden is not heavy because I’m working.But I’m pleading for the people here because they don’t have work. You can see the cassava leaves. This is their food. Even though I work I will face some challenges, but not as bad as them,” he said.
He noted that Life is “very, very difficult” for residents of the camp. “They don’t have any food. They don’t sleep well. They don’t have any electricity,” making it insecure at night with no lights,” he said.
While Guianandji and his family will be able to afford rent, others in the camp have no money to spend on housing.
“We don’t know yet the amount that the government promised, but we worry it will not be enough,” said Christine Dnambe, an IDP who has lived in the camp for the past two years.
At a recent ceremony, the government handed out “return kits” to about 30 families, which included money for relocation.
Dnambe said she was happy to see the president visit because “it shows that we’re going to have peace.” However, she doesn’t have enough money to pay rent.
A 20-minute walk from the camp, Leocadie Guiando can visit her old neighborhood, but she can’t afford to live in the camp. During the conflict, militias destroyed her house and her husband later died.
But the government stresses it will respect the IDPs’ dignity and human rights as it closes the camp, but it’s unclear even to the government how much support the camp residents will get.