The ‘returnees’ — from Central African Republic to Chad

A few kilometers from Maro in the south of Chad, you’ll find the site of Maïgama. Around 17,000 people live here. They are not refugees like the Central Africans who fled the waves of violence in their country. They are called “returnees” — Chadian citizens who were living in the Central African Republic (CAR) for generations and then forced to ‘return’ to Chad due to the conflict. Some of them don’t know Chad at all.

Mouren Al Kibra (below) is one of them. A father of four, he arrived two years ago with his wife and his brother who has six children.

In Bangui he was a driver but he lost everything: his house, his car. Today he runs a new business and the kids on the site are happy to have a bit of fun.

He managed to buy a TV and he runs ‘TV shows’. His audience? Mainly children. It will take some time for Mouren to fully pay the TV; the price of a “TV show” is 50 CFA Francs (less than 10 cents).

When Mouren thinks about his life back in CAR, sadness is inevitable, he says. “It hurts when you think about all that you lost.” Would he want to go back? “Only if there is peace for everybody,” he replies.

Ibrahim Abachar (below) lives not far from Mouren. His meagre belongings are stored in an area with a thatched roof.

“In CAR I was a big businessman. I could only take some old trousers and a shirt with me when we fled. Look at me now: my wife is gone, I have seven children and it’s really difficult to sell something here…I would like to have access to micro credit to rebuild my life”.

Under the same shelter, Abba Koura (below) is sewing. He’s been a tailor since he turned 13. Now, in his 70s, he has to start from scratch.

“In CAR I had nine sewing machines. Here I only stich old clothing. And I can’t go anywhere else…transport is too expensive.”

Hawa Abdoulaye (below) left Bangui three years ago. She was living in the neighborhood called PK 5, which was heavily hot by violence. When she first arrived in Chad she was for a while resettled in Doyaba site, near Sahr, a three-hours’ drive from Maro (distance doubles during the rainy season).

“It was better for the market. Here, you can hardly sell anything. I’m here with my daughters and their ten kids. WFP is helping us but not as much as before.”

Due to funding constraints, the last food distribution at Maigama site took place in April.

30-years-old Ibrahim Djibet (below) is also trying to do a job he had in CAR’s capital — being a butcher.

The difference between now and then, he says, are the debts and lots of anger against those “who killed my parents.”

“I don’t want to go back even though conditions are difficult here. I don’t want to risk the lives of my wife and my two children”.

The site has expanded, what people here call “the village” are shelters built in the neighbouring forest.

Widower Bouali Adamou Amadou (above) is growing his own vegetables-beans, sorgho, maize.

In CAR he was a trader “but here you have to adapt, you’ve got no choice”, he says.

Some 90,000 ‘returnees’ are living in the south of Chad. Just like the ‘returnees’ at Maïgama site, they are waiting for WFP’s food vouchers distributions to resume so that they can make ends meet. WFP urgently requires US$ 9 million to resume life-saving assistance until the end of the year.

Pictures & text: WFP/Nathalie Magnien