HIGH TENSION IN BANGUI

HIGH TENSION IN BANGUI©DR/Radio Ndeke LukaBangui deserted on Monday
2 min 34Approximate reading time

The Central African Republic capital Bangui returned to gradual and only relative calm Tuesday after three days of inter-community violence which left at least 40 dead and 100 injured according to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR. Some 27,000 inhabitants of Bangui have also fled to displaced people’s camps, especially near the airport, where international peacekeepers are based. International and national security forces on Tuesday used force to remove roadblocks on various main arteries of the city. “It’s the Burundian, Bangladeshi and Senegalese contingents that are removing the roadblocks,” says Ghislain, a young inhabitant of the Combattant quarter in the 8th arrondissement, where the dead body of a young Moslem was found, sparking the latest violence in Bangui. “They are employing strong-arm tactics to disperse the protesters. A young man was hit by a stray bullet and died before my very eyes.” Another victim of a stray bullet was reported in the Gobongo quarter of the 4th arrondissement, after shooting aimed at freeing up roadblocks.

Looting of NGOs

There was looting overnight by groups of armed youth, despite a curfew declared by the government in the capital. Humanitarian organizations looted include the ICRC, ACTED, Action Against Hunger, CORDAID, Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) and Première Urgence. The looters were sometimes pushed back by the international and national forces. However, numerous rumours of an advance on Bangui by rival Anti-balaka and Seleka militia are fuelling ongoing tension throughout the city. The Anti-balaka are Christian and animist militia that fought the mainly Moslem Seleka after mass killings in 2013/2014 and persecuted Moslems in the capital after the fall of the Seleka. “They are positioned in groups, armed with machetes, in the streets of the 8th and 5th arrondissements", one of the rare people to venture out of their homes told AFP on Tuesday.  At around 17.00 on Monday, the entire population of the Ngaragba prison in Bangui escaped. These prisoners number around 500, including about 60 criminals considered hardened, who were tried and convicted last summer.

Call for demonstrations

Civil society has maintained its call for civil disobedience. Inhabitants of Bangui are being urged to gather at Martyrs’ Square “without arms of any kind, or handbags or backpacks”. Gervais Lakosso, coordinator of the Beafrica movement, says that “our movement is a pacifist movement promoting good citizenship, which has nothing to do with the attempt to destabilize the institutions of the Republic”. He says that the main demands of civil society continue to be “the redeployment of FACA (Central African armed forces) and strict application of the UN mandate”. Bangui airport remains closed. On the other hand, a few trading points have reopened. “In our area, women have come out to sell soup and coffee, and some kiosks have reopened,” said Axel Nana, a young inhabitant of the Sica2 quarter of the 2nd arrondissement.

Calls for calm

President Catherine Samba Panza launched an appeal for calm from New York, where she is attending the UN General Assembly. “I am appealing to my compatriots for calm,” she said. “I am asking you to return to your homes. I know that when I appeal to you, you listen to me,” she continued in a message broadcast on Tuesday by the national radio. “We will together see how we can put this renewed violence behind us.” The transition government also issued a statement read on the national radio, in which it issued a warning to troublemakers. “All army officers and other people responsible for this violence have been identified and are being monitored,” it said.

“When the time comes, the Government will assume its responsibility, because all this is against commitments made publicly at the Bangui Forum, that is to say, the FACA are and shall remain apolitical,” declared Dominique Saïd Panguindji, Minister of Public Security and government spokesman. “All those (police, gendarmes and soldiers) who assume the risk of staying on the side of enemies of peace will be considered deserters and incur the according legal consequences,” Panguindji warned. He also announced the reopening of four petrol stations and an emergency number for any person in need of protection.