Central African Republic: Around Bangui

Driving around Bangui is somewhat surreal. On one hand – it’s a normal African city with lively markets in the streets, people walking or driving bikes, a football stadium, a university, several government buildings, corky monuments, and a pretty church. And then there is another side – heavily fortified UN barracks and bases with military contingents from half a dozen countries (Philippines, Nigeria, Georgia, Pakistan, etc) in blue helmets and bulletproof vests and driving armored vehicles with 50 caliber machine guns pointing everywhere, perhaps highest concentration of white SUVs with UN insignia I have ever seen, French military and gendarmerie in full fatigues and overloaded with weaponry, and various local police and warlord groups with their AK-47s blazing and dressed in shorts and t-shirts and flipflops overloading dinky pickup trucks. Nuts! Obviously, I stayed away from photographing the military side but still managed to sneak a few UN troop pictures – they seemed the most bored and disinterested about their surroundings.