Friday, May 25, 2007

congolese classmate's e-mail

On Sunday morning February 26, 2006, I took the Bus from Goma to
Butembo. After 3 hours we reached Kinianja, the first police
stattion ? Two kilimeters after Kinianja ; twelfe heavily armed
young men in their twenties erupted from the bush abs started
shooting on the bus. We all lied down ans ask the driver to stop
the bus. Three gansters got into the bus, shooting inside without
wounding anybody. We were all terrorized.The gangsters then start
asking for US dollars, mobilephones, watches, golden rings, and all
objects of value. They collected money, mobilephones, watches, etc.
They then asked us to move out of the bus, what we did quickly.
Once we were outside the bus, they continue to shoot to terrorize
us more. Two of the gansters got into the bus with two big knives
ans started opening the bags. All my field notes and books were
thrown on the bus. Passagers clothes were allover the place in the
bus. The gangsters were attracted by my new bag I bought ib New
York for my fieldwork. They asked one of the passager to open it,
they went through everything in the bag from clothes to shoes ;
etc. Unfortunately for them, they were no money to be found, only
some clothes.They empted the bag and throw away the clothes. They
wanted to take the bag. At that very momnet, the phone of one of
them rang. Apparently he was told to stop the operation because he
asked his friends to leave immediately. They continued to shoot and
ordered us to lay down. When we were sure that they have gone, we
stoop up quickly and picked up from the ground whatever we could,
and got into the bus and left this place. Once on the bus, i found
my fieldnotes ; my passport and other offical document laying on
the floor with clothes, shoes and otherthing from other passegersù
bags. While the bus was moving, I picked up my passports and
gathered my fieldnotes, flash disks and my books.
From this adventure, I lost my mobilephone, my watch, my wallet with
350 dollars inside, my Congolese ID, my US- Columbia ID, Insurance
card, and my credit card and all the busness cards I keep inside :
I managed to get some clothes, but not all of them because they
were on the ground floor outside the bus.
We were 50 passegers on this bus, on a very unsafe road without
military escort. Last Wednesday, 6 people were killed on the same
road, probably by the same group of armed gansters. We were lucky
that none of us were killed. Most of the passegers lost their
money, telephones, watches and clothes,
According to people on the bus, those gansters are members of the
NGO for self-defense created by Governor SERUFULI of North Kivu for
the defense of the Rutshuru territory. According to some confidence
on the bus, during the five last months security did improve on
this road because the commander of fifth brigade use to put his men
to escort buses and other cars. But ; the Governor did not like his
methods and he was forced out with the complicity of the Defense
Minister, Mr ONUSUMBA. Since the fifth brigade was replaced by the
second brigade, insecurity has resumed on this road. Security in
Goma and the suroundings will be a very big challenge the day
before and during the elections. And after the elections, fort
people have to be carrefully controlled : SERUFULI, KUNDABATWARE,
BIZIMAKARA and General AMISi alias Tango fort.

Why did I decide to use the bus to get back to Butembo, the place of
my fieldwork ?

Two weeks ago, I went to Kinshasa to assess the security situation
in relation to the new rebellion in Ritshuru with general
Kundabatware. I went there also to meet with UNDP people who might
be interested in the outcomes of my research. The last reason for
my trip to Kinshasa was to publish in Congo-Afrique, a local
magazine, some conclusions of my fieldwork.
After many negotiation with MONUC° people, Nick managed to get for
me an autorisation to from Beni to Kinshasa on MONUC plane. When I
concluded from conversations in Kinshasa that the so-called
rebellion will not move further north, I decided to return to
Butembo : But, MONUC administrator Dolapo Kuteyi ; would not accept
for any reason to let me bord MONUC planes. My research, according
to him, has nothing to do with MONUC mission in the Congo. I also
saw through his attitude vis-a-vis my coming from Columbia, the
classic anti US sentiments of many UN administratirs. Most
importantly, I also noticed the anti African elite sentiments of
many UN workers in Africa, blacks or whites.
I eventually got a seat on Humaniratian Air Service flight to Goma
on Friday 24. I was supposed to fligh to Beni with HAS on Monday
27, bute the plane has to go to Kampala for check up. So, the
flight to Beni was cancelled and to get back to Butembo, I was left
with 2 choices : taking the Congolese fliying coffin called
CETRAKA, an old antonov piloted by always drunk Russian crew – it
is forbeden for Humanitarian workers because of the lack of sefety
– or taking the Bus from Goma to Butembo in an unsafe road. I did
decide to take the bus. It was a wrong decision which nearly brings
me to death .

° MONUC means United Nations mission in the Congo. It employs 23000
people of which 17000 are military personnel. It is run by a US
veteran, Ambassador Lacy Swing. He really want Congo to get to
democratic election and play its role in central and southern
Africa. But, he is surounded by many UN workers whose goals are
merely financial. I talked with many of them who are planning to
buy houses or apartments after their stay in the Congo. The
consequence of this attitude is that MONUC people remain very
ignorent of internal really of the Congo. Militaries are said to be
self contained contingents, understand synically that the only
contacts they have with local population are sexual encounters
with young or very young Congolese. Last year Oprah did run a show
on MONUC people and under age girls in the Congo. South African
contingent and Uruguayans will not deny this allegation. Now with
Indians and Pakistanees, it is quiet different. They have no
contact at all with local population. I really think that it is a
I would like to ask autority at Columbia University, if possible, to
make an agreement with the UN about fliying student on fieldwork in
unsafe region like Noth Kivu in the Congo. Some SIPÄ student are
interested in Congo and would like to spend some time here ; I ;
myself I am bounded because of my PH.D. project to spend lot of
time in the Congo. It will make sens that Columbia which has send
many of its former students in MONUC to make a formal agreement
with the UN to accept students on field work to bord UN planes. I
have seen many European journalists or photographs ; or even
researchers ; travelling on MONUC planes, why shouldnùt we ?

No comments: