BANGUI, 24 February (IRIN) - Internally
Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Bozoum (384 km northwest of the capital,
Bangui) have started going home after government and allied forces recaptured
the town on 13 February, government-owned Radio Centrafrique reported on
"Presently, a precarious calm prevails in Bozoum," Jean Pierre Sacko, Bozoum's deputy-governor, told the radio.
Bozoum's 20,000 residents have been hiding in the bush since 19 December 2002, when rebels loyal to Francois Bozize, the former army chief of staff, occupied that town. Since then, they have received no aid as humanitarian workers could not reach the area.
Sacko said even though the IDPs were returning, the town was still insecure. He had asked the government to send police and gendarmes to guarantee public order and security. He said some rebels, who were unfamiliar with the area, were still hiding in abandoned homes and in the surrounding mountains. He noted that his services, youth organisations and the local Red Cross were examining ways of burying the corpses now littering the town so as to avoid epidemics.
Commenting on the alleged massacre of Chadians and Muslims by government forces and their Mouvement de liberation du Congo allies from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sacko, who went to Bozoum a day after its recapture, said he had seen no evidence of any such killings.
However, he acknowledged there was tension between the Chadians and the indigenous residents of Bozoum. He blamed this on the rebels, who, during their occupation, had protected Chadians, but ill-treated the indigenous people. He said meetings were being held with the population to ease tensions.
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