Continuing unrest

On the third day of unrest (Wednesday, February 27, 2008), it remains unclear whether things will let up, stay the same, or get worse. Most of the day today was quiet—no vehicles on the road except for police and/or military, but no tires burning and no tear gas and/or concussion bombs—that is, none of the above until mid-afternoon. Up at the conference hall, we heard the unmistakable sound of an automatic rifle going off and shortly after that there were some tear gas/concussion bombs and another tire fire was lit just down the hill close to what used to be Nkwen market (the crowd burned it the first day).

From moment to moment things can change. I'm posting this now because I don't take for granted that power and internet will continue to be available. As I write this, I can hear crowds yelling and there were some cracks that may have been pistol shots on the road outside the compound. But so far, the trouble seems to only threaten those choosing to be involved, though of course, closed stores and lack of motorized transportation affects everyone.

The government did capitulate on the fuel prices side of things: 6 francs (500 CFA is approximately equal to $1). The issue is bigger than inflated prices on food and fuel—the government is proposing some changes to the constitution in the next few months which people are not happy about. So we remain cautious, aware that this has the potential to cause major upheaval.

Interesting story: yesterday, the crowd burned the taxation office. They looted it first, taking printers and photocopiers. I did not know this when I saw a police vehicle pull up at supper time, soldier get out, and retrieve a printer and a photocopier from the carpentry shop. Later, I discovered two facts that seemed to provide a very reasonable explanation for that strange phenomenon: the taxation office is just down the hill, and the looters were using the compound as a short-cut to elsewhere.


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