Insecurity, Traffic Jam, High Prices Pushing CAR Capital Bangui Into Chaos

The Central African Republic capital Bangui is a nightmare to live in these days as citizens, the majority of whom are displaced from other parts of the country are finding life difficult, HumAngle can report.

With military clashes in various parts of the country between the national army backed by the United Nations Organisation Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission (MINUSCA) and Russian as well as Rwandan mercenaries on the one side and rebels of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) on the other hand, thousands of internally displaced persons have fled to the national capital. 

This has occasioned an explosion in the population and with motorbikes prohibited in the capital, transportation has become a big headache.

Added to all these problems is the creeping rarity of basic commodities such as foodstuff and other provisions because of the blockade imposed by CPC rebels which have cut the supply route of goods from Cameroon to Bangui.

Who talks scarcity in the supply of goods and services must think of huge spikes in prices. This is the situation in Bangui right now. The people are tired of suffering. Government has to do something very fast because what one sees in the national capital now is a situation on the verge of explosion,” said Daniel Panza, a civil society activist.

Panza lamented that the capital city’s population is exploding due to the influx of displaced people.

“Bangui is bursting at the seams with a population that has greatly increased with the arrival of internally displaced persons from the provinces,” he said.

“The population in the capital now feels boxed in because they can hardly move around due to traffic jams.”

According to him, the people can hardly have what to eat or other basic needs due to the blockade of the capital. 

“Everybody is frustrated, except for the big people in government and international organisations. A society pushed into frustration constitutes a cocktail for a violent explosion.”

And while all this is happening, sporadic killings continue within the periphery of the capital.

On Monday, Jan. 25, a driver who plies the Cameroon-Bangui route was killed in an ambush by a group of rebels believed to be CPC combatants.

This killing has further dampened the morale of the drivers of the over 1,500 trucks loaded with goods and medical supplies stranded in Garoua-Boulai to dare attempt to cross over into the Central African Republic capital.

Whilst Bangui the capital is being choked, the war front daily creeps nearer to the capital and armed clashes have already hit the PK11 and PK12 quarters of Bangui which are 10 kilometres to the centre of the capital.

Following a murderous attack on the capital on Jan. 13, government authorities banned the circulation of motorbikes which is the main means of transportation for most students in the capital.

Schools that were suspended due to the outbreak of hostilities on Dec.19, 2020, were reopened on Monday, Jan. 25, occasioning an assault on bus stations by students in the absence of motorbikes.

“The chaos in bus stations and taxi stops is total as large populations fight for spaces in the available buses and taxis. I had to elbow my way into a taxi before coming to work today,” a security operative told HumAngle in Bangui Wednesday evening.

HumAngle reports that the number of primary school children, secondary and university students as well as office workers and ordinary people struggling for transport is far too much for the available buses and taxicabs.

With this acute shortage of means of transportation, private vehicle owners have been cashing in to make extra cash for themselves. And such private individuals charge above the official transport fares.

Besides the insecurity and transport problems, there is also the most important problem of scarcity of foodstuff and medicines as the route of supplies from Cameroon has been blocked by CPC rebels thus creating acute shortages and forcing up prices.

The Central African Institute of Statistics Wednesday announced a general increase in prices of 16 per cent while the prices of imported goods have increased to more than 240 per cent in some cases.

“The most troubling part of this situation is the explosive increase in the prices of foodstuff which has made it difficult for some families to even afford a single meal a day,” said an international humanitarian worker who opted for anonymity.

“The situation is worst with internally displaced persons. The spectre of famine looms within the communities of internally displaced persons.” 

With hundreds of thousands of people in Bangui unable to find food or not being able to afford the money to buy it when it is available, the number of hungry persons in the national capital has been rising by the day.

“The national capital Bangui has been the island of peace in a country torn apart by war,” said a resident who did not want to be named.

“Whilst CPC rebels have so far been unable to bring the war into the heart of the capital, it would appear the peace in Bangui would sooner or later be broken by hungry people in search of food if nothing is done very fast.”

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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