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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 21:09 GMT 22:09 UK
Eyewitness: Bangui's deserted streets
Full garage in Bangui
Most residents of Bangui are too nervous to travel in the city
By Lucy Jones in Bangui

People attempting to move around the Central African Republic capital of Bangui on Monday were turned back at gun point, despite government assurances that last week's coup attempt has been foiled.

I saw government soldiers rounding up rebels and shooting them

The central market place was deserted - even the street children had found somewhere safer to sleep - while shops and restaurants remained firmly closed.

Lebanese businessmen protected by hired government soldiers could be seen delivering boxes of food, while government troops patrolled the streets in pick-up trucks.

"There are still pockets of rebels at large in the city. We are going from street to street, house to house, to try and find them," said a member of the presidential guard.


Five corpses covered with blankets lay decomposing in the sun next to the central roundabout in Bangui. There are reports of bodies strewn across the streets in other neighbourhoods.

"I saw government soldiers rounding up rebels and shooting them," said a Lebanese businessmen, who visited Bimbo, an area which is seeing heavy fighting.

Human rights activists say they have been unable to assess the death toll since last week's coup attempt, but say the figure is higher than the official figure of 32.

We can't go onto the streets to buy more food

Bangui resident
"Lots of civilians are dead. But we don't know yet if they were killed by rebels or soldiers," said Nicolai Tchungi, of the International Organisation for Human Rights in Bangui.

Many of Bangui's residents are running out of food and water. There has not been electricity in some districts for more than a week. "We have nothing left. We can't go onto the streets to buy more food. It's too dangerous at the moment," said Sonia Nbawa, a resident in Quango, formerly a rebel strong-hold in the south of the city.

General  Andre Kolingba, ruler of the CAR until 1993
General Andre Kolingba: Blamed for the coup attempt
Meanwhile, the looting continues. Storage facilities on the edge of the city have been looted by soldiers.

"Three of my guards were killed," said one businessman, who is now hiring government soldiers to protect his stocks.

One witness saw a piano being dragged down the street by soldiers.

Meanwhile, president of the Central African Republic, Felix Patasse urged residents to stay calm.

"The government is in control of the situation," he said.

He also offered a reward for information leading to the arrest of Andre Kolingba, his long-time foe and former head of state, who admitted that he was behind last week's coup attempt.

"Until the government finds Kolingba, Bangui is unlikely to return to normal. They want to finish this," said a diplomatic source.

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See also:

03 Jun 01 | Africa
Army occupy CAR general's house
02 Jun 01 | Africa
Troops regain control in CAR
30 May 01 | Africa
CAR: Plagued by mutinies
29 May 01 | Africa
Civilians flee Bangui fighting
28 May 01 | Africa
CAR 'coup attempt' fails
23 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Central African Republic
28 Mar 01 | Africa
Impressions of Bangui
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