Disputed bridge illustrates challenges of CAR conflict
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A bridge on Bangui’s main supply road has become the scene of a standoff between rival Muslim and Christian militias. FRANCE 24 spoke to each camp entrenched on opposite ends of the overpass, as well as the French soldiers now caught in the middle.
A checkpoint on one side is commanded by mostly Muslim Seleka rebels, who say they are merely defending the position and awaiting orders. They claim they fire back only when the enemy attacks first, as was the case the previous night.
On the opposite end of the bridge a Christian anti-balaka, or anti-machete, militia stands its ground and carefully observes the checkpoint. Most of the men are former soldiers who left the Central African armed forces when the Seleka overran the country in March.
The fighters are armed, have training, and claim the Seleka instigated the previous night’s gun battle.
“What is going on here is an exact copy of what is going on in the whole of the Central African Republic,” said FRANCE 24’s James André. “On one side are anti-balaka Christian militias, on the other the Seleka, and in the middle the international peacekeeping force trying to avoid a bloodbath.”
A French Army convoy arrives on site, and offers a stern warning to the two groups: whoever opens fire next will be “wiped out”.
To watch FRANCE 24’s full video report from the Central African Republic, click on the player above.