Police, Troops Deploy Ahead of Demo in Central African Republic
Police and troops deployed in strength Friday in Bangui ahead of a march called by opposition leaders to demand that President Ange-Felix Patasse of the troubled Central African Republic (CAR) quit power.
Soldiers and police took up stations at all the main road junctions and on the outskirts of the CAR capital, where the mayor and government late Thursday banned the "peaceful protest" sought by the opposition.
Two days after security forces violently broke up an opposition rally on Tuesday, political leaders urged workers, youth movements and civic groups to join activists of 15 opposition parties in Friday's march.
The aim was to have protesters set out from different parts of the city to converge on the centre of Bangui and the presidential palace, but the head of one opposition party told AFP that armed security forces could make this hard.
Police on Tuesday arrested 75 people, including four members of parliament, after using tear gas and gunfire to disperse some 4,000 people who defied a ban and gathered in Bangui's stadium for an anti-Patasse rally.
Those detained were still behind bars on Friday, said an opposition leader who preferred not to be identified. At least 20 people were injured during a fracas on Tuesday, witnesses said, after protestors refused to disperse.
Most government workers have been on strike since October to press for the immediate payment of a year's worth of salary arrears, while many are owed more in the landlocked former French colony, where the opposition blames a deep economic crisis on Patasse.
Bangui mayor Cecile Gueret Seregue and the government reacted a few hours after the opposition Thursday called for further protests. The official media said demonstrations were "formally banned until further notice".
The opposition leader said that if the marchers were unable to gather on Friday, "spontaneous action" could be expected in districts of the city -- BANGUI (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)