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CAR refugees in Cameroon leave for home

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Central African Republic

It is with tears and many emotions that this mother and her children leave in this bus, a departure that will take them to the Central African Republic, their country of origin. In fact, there are 200 refugees who are being voluntarily repatriated by the UNHCR from the largest camp which shelters most of the Central African refugees located in Gado-Badzere in the district of Garoua Boulaï in Cameroon.

This is the case of Fadimatou Amadou who after 6 years spent on Cameroonian soil in this camp decides to return. Mother of 9 children, one of whom has already returned a long time ago and a second groom, she decided to return with the rest of her 7 children.

She, who used to work in the fields to survive with her family, wants to go back home to start a new life in Cameroon.

" I stayed with 7 others. I'm going home with them. I'm going back because I no longer find it advantageous to stay here, because on the other side it has calmed down, I would like to go and enjoy the calm that is returning to my country. In CAR I lost everything, I came to Cameroon and I was doing the fields, after 5 years my husband lost all his strength, nobody brings any income home, I prefer to leave and with the little money we have we can buy an ox and see how we can continue"- Fadimatou explained.

Sheis one of the 200 people who are leaving Cameroon for good to return to the land they fled after the war; a war that caused the majority to lose everything. For some, the spectre of a return to normal life is not obvious.

Yacouba Diallo, a father of 8, believes that if peace is restored thanks to the current government, the next elections will ensure that he can recover what he lost. Diallo was a former trader who fled the war to take refuge in Cameroon in 2014.

"It was the war that drove us away from CAR and we found refuge here in Cameroon. I was a trader in CAR. We have hope because as peace returns to CAR thanks to the government, we think that if we go back to CAR we can find what we lost in the past maybe, we know we will get it back" Diallo said.

On the morning of December 2, during a protocol ceremony and in respect of the protection measures, women, men and children take part on board the buses. And then it's the departure, tears,screaming, and goodbye accompany these people who have decided to leave everything behind to go back to their former lives.

 At the border, the Cameroonian office of the UNHCR acknowledges their departure and puts them at the disposal of the UNHCR of the Central African Republic. They will first take the road to Beloko before continuing on to Bangui at a later date.

This return facilitation process was initiated last year by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the localities of Lolo and Garoua Boulaï. They resumed a few days ago after being stopped due to the Corona virus pandemic.

For the head of the UN office in Cameroon, it is imperative to facilitate this process because above all it is a legitimate right.

"Security is back and soon the elections and certainly everything will be even better, these are reasons as many that push these people to return home. For the moment the UN office is not yet involved in a refugee return programme, but it is facilitating the return of these refugees, because the right to return home is a fundamental right and all refugees who want to do so, we will facilitate their return" Olivier Beer, UNHCR representative in Cameroon told journalists.

About7,000 Central African refugees live in the Gado-Badzere camp. 1500 refugees are expected to return to their land in the coming days.

JOEL HONORE KOUAM for Africanews

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