Foreigners to be evacuated from war-torn CAR

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iol pic afr CAR08_CENTRALAFRICAN-DJOTODIA_0110_11 REUTERS People gesture as they celebrate the resignation of Central African Republic's interim President Michel Djotodia at Bangui airport camp on January 10, 2014. Picture: Emmanuel Braun

Cape Town -

The International Organisation for Migration on Saturday began to evacuate foreign nationals from the Central African Republic (CAR), as a power vacuum grew in the diamond-rich nation a day after the president resigned.

Interim president Michel Djotodia - the country's first Muslim leader - and prime minister Nicolas Tiangaye stepped down on Friday, bowing to pressure from regional leaders at a two-day summit in neighbouring Chad to debate the worsening sectarian conflict in CAR.

The aid Organisation said it had received appeals from several African countries - including Chad, Niger, Mali, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo - to airlift their most vulnerable, stranded nationals out.

The IOM initially planned to repatriate 800 Chadians, who sought refuge at an emergency camp near the airport in capital Bangui, the group said in a statement.

“Several concerned governments, including Mali, Senegal, Niger and Chad, have already organised evacuation flights, but need additional resources to cope,” said IOM West Africa director Carmela Godeau.

More than 60 000 migrants from neighbouring countries had asked their embassies in CAR to be evacuated, according to Godeau.

Of those individuals, almost half had already left CAR, but at least 33 000 remained in urgent need of help. Meanwhile, CAR's 135 parliamentarians, who had traveled to Chad at the request of President Idriss Deby on Thursday, on Saturday debated in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, about who would take over from Djotodia until elections.

CAR has been plunged into a humanitarian crisis since Djotodia's Seleka coalition rose up against the government in December 2012 and overthrew president Francois Bozize, a Christian, in March.

But even after Djotodia, who was sworn in as interim president in August, officially dissolved the Seleka coalition that brought him to power, he remained unable to end the violence.

Nearly 1 million people have been displaced.

About 2.2 million - around half the population - need humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations. - Sapa-dpa

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