French expatriates caught up in the fighting in the Central African Republic
spoke Friday of their terror.
They were speaking in the capital Bangui
as they prepared to be evacuated.
of Bangui remain tense, with French troops
on patrol against rebel soldiers who tried to overthrow President Ange-Felix Patasse
in Bangui - a suspected child looter is punished by three men who take the law into their own hands.
Parts of the city had transformed into a chaotic wreck as local guards fought looters to protect shops and storage sights.
No fighting was reported in the former French colony
Friday, as French tanks
and soldiers roamed the capital's
Efforts to restart peace
talks between the government and rebel soldiers were under way.
of foreign business people and aid workers have fled.
This French resident, preparing for evacuation, said she feared the rebels would shoot her:
At first it was very difficult because the rebels were going around the inside of the house and they led me down to the bottom of the garden. And then they told me that they themselves were fed up because the first time the French Army
saw them they shot at them and they would shoot the first French people
they saw. Then my friend had the good idea to say that we were part of the German
community. And then they said the first French people they saw they would fight on their own ground. Apart
from that there wasn't anything much. The shooting alarmed me. There was one dead body about fifty metres from the house. They were very well surrounded by the military who were right in front of my house...
...no, no ..
it was quite a big number (of people)....if you like we've lost everything..... that's life.
SUPERCAPTION: French Foreign National
The mutineers, surrounded by French troops in a military base on the outskirts of the city, claimed hundreds of troops from elsewhere in the country were ready to join their battle.
August Boukanga said President Patasse had offered to bring more groups into his multiparty government in hopes of winning over groups who might otherwise support the mutineers.
Boukanga said he and other politicians had yet to decide on the offer, but Boukanga himself appeared to favor a more radical solution.
Boukanga said Central
Africans were losing confidence in Patasse and that the president's reliance on French military
might had only contributed to the perception he was weak.
Demonstrators on Thursday burned down the French cultural center to protest the intervention.
has a long history of propping up a series of often tyrannical leaders whose corruption and misrule contributed to the country's - and the region's - current problems.
But some here believe that this time, France's intervention was different.
Patasse's election in 1993
was seen as the start of a new democratic era. Most of the army, however, remains faithful to Gen. Andre Kolingba
, who came to power in a bloodless 1981
coup and lost the 1993 vote to Patasse.
Patasse has angered the army by falling behind on salary payments and, most recently, transferring control of the national armory from soldiers to his presidential guards in an attempt to establish control over the army.
Bangui has been relatively calm since French soldiers, backed by Mirage
fighter jets and helicopter gunships, went into action against mutineers Wednesday.
maintain about 1,300
soldiers in their former colony, and Bangui serves as a major base for French military operations in francophone Africa
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- published: 21 Jul 2015
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