Shootings here and there, grenades now and then. So is the life in Bangui I have grown accustomed to. The mind is exceptional at adaptation and soon enough, your standards of normalcy shift. But when you hear explosions so close it reverberates in your gut, you fall from your illusion of safety quite brusquely.
What started as a normal day at the office quickly turned tense when that first grenade detonated. Then came the second and third one. Then the shootings. That’s when you look around and try to discern whether or not you should be alarmed. My colleagues became alert but remained calm. We continued about with our work. Slowly, I started asking questions and got more and more worrisome news.
The story I heard from our staff is that, in the previous evening, a person from a religious group hijacked a taxi and entered another group’s area, throwing grenades in various locations, killing and wounding a few. This man got caught, beaten, dragged on the streets for a few kilometers, was beheaded and burnt. This morning’s confrontation was that man’s community coming to claim the body. I do not know at this moment of the accuracy of this information but I can assure you the tension is real.
By early afternoon, the streets have calmed. The Deputy Head of Mission summoned a meeting and announced that, as a preventive measure, the personnel should start heading home. Some time later, we received news that some axes were blocked and we remained in standby for the green light to move again. Attendance of the expats was taken before all 20 of us huddled into two vehicles and moved into the unrecognizable streets of Bangui. The main arteries were deserted but for the numerous military men and convoys, and the few lingering civilians. We were informed of certain areas to avoid and hence made detours. Oddly enough, parts of the city were moving normally, markets still populous.
I am now home and have given news to friends and family (please spare Ma & Pa the details). In between the periodic trenchant sound of helicopters hovering above our heads, I will try to get some shuteye.
Good night, Bangui. Hope to see you in a good shape tomorrow.
P.S. My heart goes out to one of my colleagues who has lost a loved one in yesterday’s unfortunate events.