10 Jan 2014

Preventing a bloodbath in CAR after the president’s resignation

Minutes after the news hit the streets, there were bursts of automatic gunfire across many areas of the capital. Across much of the afternoon, there has been something of a lull until about 4.30 local time, when the renewed sounds of gunfire and small explosions, possibly grenades or mortars, could be heard across the city.

Almost every military force that could be on the streets is on the streets. Perhaps most visible, the various contingents of African troops – Chadian, Burundi and Congolese.

Pre News refresh player – this is the default player for the C4 news site – please do not delete. Ziad

The French forces have naturally responded to a changed situation and have a massively difficult job at hand. On the one hand, they have to ensure that people without a government can express their joy, which the Christian majority feel at the departure of the president, on the streets. On the other hand, they have quite simply to prevent a bloodbath.

The bizarre sight of heavily armed French soldiers politely explaining to euphoric crowds that they must not interfere with the traffic flow certainly takes delicacy and professionalism.

But they can, and do, take no chances. For the first time today, 50 calibre machine guns set up today in the broad, leafy boulevards of this spread-out city. By air, their helicopters quarter the ground, and close to the airport their light tanks were on the road.

None of these forces – and, frankly, nobody here – can predict what is going to happen in the coming days. It boils down to one key question. Will the lightly armed Christian militias now seek revenge against the far more heavily armed fighters who represent the Muslim minority here?

Read more from Alex Thomson in the Central African Republic

Follow @alextomo on Twitter


Tweets by @alextomo