Weapon-heavy roadblocks instil fear among Bangui residents

 
Residents of Bangui, the Central African Republic’s capital, are getting ready for a possible Seleka rebel advance. A France 24 Observer sent us photographs showing armed civilians building roadblocks. While government troops tolerate the roadblocks, they only add to the insecurity felt by residents.
  
On the right, a man carries a bow in his left hand and a machete is strapped to his right shoulder (screen capture from a video sent by our Observer in Bangui).
 
After halting their advance 190km north of the capital in the town of Sibut, Seleka rebels announced their desire for a transitional government that does not include the current President, François Bozizé.  A delegation of Seleka representatives went to the capital of Gabon, Libreville, to start peace talks under the direction of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). 
 
Video showing roadblocks and armed men filmed by a France 24 Observer (early December 31st).
Contributors

"The young volunteers are armed with bows and arrows, machetes and knives"

Hervé Aristide (pseudonym) lives in Bangui. Between December 30th and January 1st, he secretly filmed civilian-made roadblocks in the city centre.
  
I filmed roadblocks manned by young armed men at about 4 o’clock in the morning. They set them up at roundabouts and road junctions using tables, chairs and piles of rocks. They ask foreigners as well as locals for identification. But to actually let anyone through, they usually ask for money. Some of them smell of alcohol, and I think others are under the influence of drugs. I had to hide - anyone caught filming is accused of spying against the government.
 
Most of them are local youths going under the banner ‘groups of patriots’, who have taken heed of the President’s call to be vigilant against the rebels. They’re armed with bows and arrows, machetes and knives, and they distribute the weapons to all those willing to join them in defending Bangui. The Central African Armed Forces (FACA) lets them do it, and even encourages them.
 
 
Boarded-up Lebanese shops in Bangui (December 31st).
 
The armed groups manning the roadblocks create a sense of insecurity in Bangui. Most of the city’s big and small shops have been boarded up, as shopkeepers fear armed men will take to looting. ‘Ryan’, one of the biggest Lebanese supermarkets in Bangui, has shut shop and employed guards day and night in an attempt to put off potential looters. Eco Bank has been closed for more than a week. As far as I know, no lootings have been reported.
 
French Army and FACA vehicles patrol in front of the supermarket ‘Ryan’. The once busy Bangui street is now largely bereft of passers-by
 
Very few cars are on the roads, except for those belonging to the French Army and FACA. Some of the vehicles left outside have had their tyres taken off. I’ve hidden my car, I don’t want to get anything stolen.
 
The tyres of these vehicles were deliberately taken off by their owners, who do not want them to get stolen (photo taken December 30 in Bangui). 

Comments

Very good report. I have

Very good report. I have friends in Bangui and am very concerned for them.

Glen Williams

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