Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Two
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Two Print E-mail
Written by Ray Critchell   
Sunday, 05 July 2009 23:37
Article Index
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4
Page Two
Page Three
Page Four
Page Five
Page Six
Page Seven
Page Eight
Page Nine
Page Ten
Page Eleven
Page Twelve
Page Thirteen
Page Fourteen
Page Fifteen
Page Sixteen
Page Seventeen
Page Eighteen
Page Nineteen
Page Twenty
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On the Monday morning, having cashed some travellers cheques, my wife and daughter went shopping in the town and I took the boys with me to make a courtesy call on the local Fire Brigade. On the way back to the hotel for lunch, we stopped for an ice cream at a pavement cafe, but this quiet interlude was suddenly brought to an end by the sound of gunfire. People around us did not appear to be shocked or surprised but hastily went indoors and shutters were soon going up. We were advised to return to our hotel.

The hoteliers were obviously alarmed about something, and said they understood there had been a coup and that Archbishop Makarios hade been shot and killed. As it turned out, the bit about the bishop was not true but the rumours were by then flying and all the radio did was to play non stop martial music. Evidently some sort of trouble had been brewing for a long time and this uprising today seemed not to be too big a surprise amongst some of the local people, although the hotel brothers seemed to be as shocked as we were. Not a word of this had reached us in Zambia, nor our travel agent who would not have sent us off into such a situation, we would like to think. That evening the electricity was cut off, which meant that the air conditioning stopped, and fires were started up in the mountains. We went up on to the flat roof of the hotel to get an over view of things and the hotel brothers, who were most concerned for our safety, insisted that we should lie down on the roof and not stand up where we could be seen, but without saying who we should be hiding from.

Suddenly, there was the unmistakable sound of a tank approaching, very slowly. Everything went very quiet as the tank went past our hotel and pulled up in front of the Archbishops Residence, almost next door. A loud, authoritative voice shouted out instructions of some sort to the people inside the building. When this drew no response, with shocking suddenness, the cannon on the tank fired a round which blasted out the large wooden double doors in the front of the residence. There was a lot of shouting and screaming and a large number of young people who had evidently barricaded themselves inside were brought out with their hands in the air, and some clearly injured, and marched off into the night. We heard later that they were locked up in the dungeons of the ancient fort in the town and kept there for several weeks in very poor conditions. There was sporadic shooting throughout the night and next day and also much of the following night, and always, non-stop martial music on the radio.

Our new hire car was commandeered by one of the combating factions and we saw it again on the Thursday morning, shot full of bullet holes, and with no wheels.

On the Friday some normality had evidently been restored as the electricity came back on again, thank goodness in that heat, and a radio announcement in English said that anyone wishing to leave the island could now use the airport which had reopened, and all scheduled flights would resume from Saturday. We still had not a clue as to who was shooting whom or what for. We just wanted to get away to somewhere peaceful. Even had we wanted to try and continue our holiday we now had no car.