12 Dec 2013

Central African Republic: amidst ongoing terror, progress is relative

I’m not going to name here or give any clue to her location. But she’s British, in Bangui and terrified:

“They came last night. Heavily armed men. Lots of them. I don’t know who they are but I need to get out of here.”

She was keen that we got to her to speak about what was happening and perhaps help in some way.

An hour later I called:

“Hi – we are in your area is it good to call now?”

“No Alex please – please don’t come now. There’s shooting. It’s too dangerous.”

Suffice to say we’ve made sure the relevant French authorities are aware of this situation and will hopefully get to her in the coming hours.

A man is pictured as he takes part in looting a mosque in Fouh district in Bangui

There’s no question both religious communities are marked by guilt for the terrible violence here.

Half a mile from the gates of the airport a group of Christian men is manhandling the gates of the local mosque along the road.

The looters are passing a row of completely destroyed Muslim shops across the main route through Quartier Combattants – the district where two French paratroopers were shot dead.

We are almost at the spot where African peacekeepers shot dead their own man as we filmed the day before yesterday.

Moments later, not far off, two young Muslim men stop their motorbike. They want us to film in the Mosque. They say the bodies of five of their Muslim brothers are lying there with their throats cut.

That said, the taxis are out again now, plying their trade.

True, one driver had to be saved by French soldiers after making the error of picking up a Muslim fare – a baying mob of Christians surrounded him at once.

But cabs are returning. The Grand Cafe – Lebanese and something of an institution here – open again serving delicious iced coffee and cakes.

There are long queues for petrol it’s true. But that is progress – the petol station is open again, at least.

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