Fear reigns in CAR's capital Bangui

2012-12-31 12:13
 Demonstrators hold a placard reading "We want peace and the development of our country, we refuse war" at the airport in Bangui, as the President of the Central African Republic greets the current president of the African Union and President of Beni

Demonstrators hold a placard reading "We want peace and the development of our country, we refuse war" at the airport in Bangui, as the President of the Central African Republic greets the current president of the African Union and President of Beni

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Bangui - Nightfall in Bangui's normally bustling streets brings an eery quiet to the capital of the Central African Republic, where authorities have enacted a curfew ahead of a possible rebel move on the city.

Men carrying machetes and arrows patrol the deserted roads to ward off would-be looters. Many in the impoverished city of almost a million residents are afraid.

"It was so quiet under the curfew that I almost couldn't sleep," said one resident, who described a "scary quiet" after authorities on Saturday implemented the 19:00 to 05:00 stay-in restriction.

Rebels from a coalition known as Seleka, who took up arms on 10 December near the border with Chad and have met little resistance from government troops, on Sunday warned they could enter Bangui.

After Saturday's curfew announcement, shops, restaurants and bars quickly shut and traffic on the city's dusty roads all but disappeared.

The silence seemed magnified by the darkness in the city, where a power cut lasted several hours.

In the town centre, generators buzzed as groups of machete-carrying guards chatted. Sometimes, one of them would scrape his blade on the sidewalk - making a menacing sound, even though the men did not seem aggressive.

Self-defence groups

The situation is different in outlying neighbourhoods, where authorities have asked groups of young men to put up roadside barriers to stave off any rebel advance.

But some residents grumbled these "self-defence" groups were extorting locals.

"They gave these layabouts machetes. They control everyone and ask for money for coffee. Sometimes, they take all your money," said a resident in the northern neighbourhood.

These areas are strongholds of President Francois Bozize, and at the edge of the ever-shrinking area held by loyalist troops. The Central African Republic's army has offered scant resistance to rebels and is underpaid, poorly organised and ill-equipped.

Religious discrimination

The Central African Republic is predominantly Christian and many here say the rebels are largely Muslim, leading to discrimination against the religious group.

"I'm really scared. I am a Muslim, and I think twice before going out," the resident said.

The situation is similar in the eastern neighbourhood of Kassai.

"They checked me, even though they know me," a taxi driver said. "We're worried, they are armed with machetes and arrows."

Interior Minister Jose Binoua said the groups were working to help police identify "anyone who seems suspicious", but stressed any racketeering or aggression would be sanctioned.

Still, witnesses speak of unlawful arrests and disappearances, especially targeting Muslims.

Opposition leader and former prime minister Martin Ziguele on Sunday denounced these practices and the "search for scapegoats".

"We have no need for extra forces or special organisations to help the security situation," he said.

Rebel attack possibilities

Seleka coalition spokesperson Eric Massi, who has not ruled out attacking the capital, said he is worried about the security situation here and about suspected sympathisers being harassed.

Many residents are terrified of the possibility of a rebel attack.

"I'm scared. If the rebels come, what are we going to do for food?" said Mary, a pregnant street vendor.

Still, Gabin, a resident of a northern neighbourhood, said he supported the curfew as rebels moved to within 160km of the capital.

"The government is right. The curfew will allow them to keep intruders in check," he said.


Read more on:    car  |  central africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Weird things dogs do

Caught your dog doing something... well a little bit odd? Don’t worry, there’s a simple explanation for his behaviour.



Makeover saves dog’s life
For the love of Corgis!
Can we communicate with our pets?
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.