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Very tense situation in Bangui since Sunday. Several dead, dozens injured

(B2) After the intervention of blue helmets on Sunday (April 8) in the PK5 district (kilometer 5), the situation remains very tense in Bangui. A peacekeeper died, several civilians also died on Tuesday (April 10) in new clashes. Humanitarian organizations present on site announce that they have received many injured people

The disarmament operation started on April 8…

It all actually starts last Sunday (April 8). A joint disarmament and arrest operation is launched jointly by the Internal Security Forces (ISF), the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), and MINUSCA " targeting the bases of certain criminal groups in the PK5 district in Bangui, one of the most sensitive neighborhoods in the Central African capital. Objective displayed by the minusca : disarm the criminal groups that are rampant in the neighborhood, ransoming merchants, attacking civilians and opposing any form of return of state authority, and arresting certain ringleaders. Which does not happen smoothly (2).

…degenerates on Tuesday

The context is very tense. After the kidnapping of a woman, the crowd demonstrated in the direction of the Miskine district, where the Central African army had a police station, according to an internal MINUSCA note revealed by Radio France Internationale. The operation degenerates. Rwandan peacekeepers face “ for four hours " at " heavily armed elements of criminal groups who deliberately opened fire on international forces indicates the force of the United Nations in a communicated. " Nine Blue Helmets members of the Rwandan contingent are injured, one of them fatally. Another blue helmet is in critical condition. » (3)

Blue helmets overwhelmed

The version of our colleagues on site is more complete. The peacekeepers of the Rwandan contingent wanted to intervene between the demonstrators and the crowd. But quickly, with only two armored vehicles, they are overwhelmed by the firepower coming from the Autodéfenses. "" Around twenty Rwandan peacekeepers, according to witnesses on the spot, then advanced on foot, one of their armored vehicles being disabled. And in front of the mosque, where 200 people came to seek refuge, the fighting intensified. ". In addition to the blue helmet killed (Sergeant Jean Bosco Hategekimana), " at least 24 residents of PK5 also died in the exchange of fire, and several dozen people were injured (4). All are not apparently perfectly innocent according to Jean-Pierre Lacroix, interviewed by RFI. « These deaths – numerous –, many, undoubtedly [are] young people, who were manipulated by the gang leaders and who confronted us with […] heavy weapons »said the head of UN missions visiting Bangui.

Saturated medical services

According to humanitarian sources on the spot, two of the city's main hospitals received and treated more than 120 wounded.

Bangui community hospital services saturated

The trauma department of one of the country's main hospitals is saturated following the clashes which broke out in the capital, according to a press release from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) received by B2 on Friday (April 13). " All 34 trauma beds at our community hospital are full explains Marcelle Baltzinger, ICRC project manager at the community hospital in Bangui. " We have installed the wounded in two other rooms, including one reserved for intensive care, but they are also saturated. We have two tents in reserve, ready to be erected, with a total capacity of 20 beds. Bangui's community hospital has received 52 wounded since the start of the clashes.

Sixty wounded treated by MSF

For their part, the surgical teams of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), present at Sica hospital, treated 24 injured people on Sunday April 8. Another 20 injured went to the Gbaya Dombia maternity ward, where they received first aid before being transferred to hospitals with surgical capacity or returning home. On Tuesday (April 10), Sica hospital teams faced a new influx and treated 40 gunshot wounds in the evening, when Red Cross ambulances were finally able to bring back the injured from PK 5.

Impediments to the movement of ambulances

The volunteer paramedics in charge of transporting the wounded, " some of whom are in critical condition, from a dispensary in the PK5 district run by the Central African Red Cross to the community hospital in Bangui have often been delayed by street clashes and barricades,” says the ICRC. Which is a problem. Because " in the PK5 district, where the medical offer is limited to basic services, we must be able to quickly evacuate patients to better equipped structures if we want to save lives » underlines Diana Stoecklin, interim head of the ICRC delegation in the Central African Republic. It is a principle of humanity, she recalls. “ It is forbidden to target patients, means of medical transport, medical structures and health personnel, and to hinder their work”.

A very worried population, the very volatile situation

This Friday, the situation seemed calmer, according to an NGO manager contacted by telephone by B2. But " the situation remains very precarious. And the apparent calm could change very quickly. The situation is volatile. The population remains worried, remembering the events of 2013 and 2014. »

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Weapons which could have been recovered by self-defense groups on the black market and which could come, in part, from the resale of weapons by certain peacekeepers, according to certain information reported to B2.

(2) Prior to the operation, these " had been put on notice to disarm voluntarily and peacefully, with the possibility for some of their members and the community to receive socio-economic support. Unfortunately, the leaders of these groups refused this alternative, despite mediation organized by representatives of the civilian population. »Specifies the minusca in his press release.

(3) Download the press release minusca.

(4) Confusion exists, however, about the origin of the incidents. A first version mentioned the presence of Central African security forces, “ accompanied by Russian soldiers “, according to several witnesses, quoted by RFI.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).