Over 3,600 Cameroonians stranded in C.A.R. were flown back home following a decision of the President of the Republic.
Memories remain fresh almost five years after President Paul Biya took a fatherly decision to repatriate his compatriot in order to save them from the fangs of war in neighbouring Central African Republic.
The decision was a stitch in time considering the escalation of the sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims in C.A.R. The lives of the over 20,000 Cameroonians living in the war torn country was very much at stake.
The operation which started in mid December, 2013 stretching right to the end of the month brought back over 3,600 Cameroonians. Code name, "pont aerien entre le Cameroun et la RCA", carelessly translated as "Air Bridge between Cameroon and CAR", the operation consisted in transporting Cameroonians from the capital, Bangui on board a chattered Camair Co plane and air force military aircraft to Douala and Yaounde from where they were further escorted to their families.
Each time the two planes touched down at the Airport there was an atmosphere of anxiety from compatriots present at the airport and visible relief and satisfaction on the faces of repatriated Cameroonians alighting from the plane.
Cameroon, as stated by the then Charge d'Affairs at the Cameroon Embassy in Bangui, Nicolas Nzoyoum, Cameroon was one of the rare countries to have taken such a humanitarian decision to repatriate its citizens from the CAR.
The mechanism put in place to ensure smooth transportation to Cameroon was made easy by the rapid disbursement of the means when the violence reached fever height in December, 2012. It was a herculean task for embassy officials who were compelled by circumstances to receive and lodged at least 1,000 people almost on a daily basis.
They were lodged, fed and evacuated and a whole gamut of confidence building measures taken to replace the fear that was already implanted in the population. The success of the operation as prescribed by the country's number one citizen was rendered possible by a network of operational teams set up and coordinated by the Charge d'Affairs.
It was a veritable team spirit that threaded through the various teams, notably; that in charge of security, transport, communication, hygiene and sanitation, health and kitchen work.
"The President has done a very good thing by flowing us back into the country", Bouba Housseini, owner of a building material shop in Bangui told CT on arrival at the Douala International Airport, stating inter alia that he lost his shop and all its content in PK 13, a neighbourhood in Bangui.
In effect, all those who were interviewed at the airport on arrival confessed they had brought virtually nothing along with them.
However, the joy of regaining freedom and landing back in their country partly reduced the shock in them. The Presidential largess could be likened to hiding chicks from hawks. It was a translation of the manifestation of high patriotic concern.
The repatriation was, to say the least, temporary measure pending security arrangement and end of violence; for many who came back were into serious lucrative activities in the CAR and still nursed the hope of regaining their businesses once the war is over.