04 July 2012

Congo: Land of rape and rebels

As it turns out, large swathes of Masisi territory in North Kivu actually look a bit like a Microsoft Windows desktop. 

The interesting thing about such potentially dangerous places is that though the news reports can make them sound a bit terrifying, you don't actually really feel threatened in any way about 99% of the time. There is just a vague awareness that things could easily get nasty quite quickly, but the chances of that really happening are probably pretty slim.

This is of course speaking from the relative safety of being white and travelling everywhere with a very professional and security-conscious international NGO. Lots of people we spoke to in the villages complained that (roving!) bandits come and steal everything whenever they get any assistance. We did come across a couple of very friendly men with guns, wearing clearly not official national army fatigues, whilst carrying out interviews in a village. Who very politely asked if we were giving out cash, and if so whether we might prefer to give some to them than be shot. Pretty sure they were joking, at least about the shooting part. Very good natured, and certainly nobody got shot.

Finally, the cheese is great, but I didn't see anyone drinking Um Bongo. Did I miss anything?


MJ said...

What's missing = trees. Landscapes immediately struck me as heavily denuded. Apart from this being a general environmental bad, this will have two specific negative impacts on local people. (1) Lack of woodfuel for cooking => dependence on buying charcoal brought from further away (which thus extends the area that is deforested, vicious outward spiral of destruction). (2) Soil erosion will reduce agricultural productivity. Environmental catastrophe unfortunately is likely to lead to further instability and violence, ref. root of Darfur conflict as being partly about access to water.

Chris Sheach said...

The cheese in Masisi is great. I remember colleagues in Kigali asking me to pick up some cheese for them in Goma. I thought they were crazy, but wow. I stopped at a little shack on the edge of a cliff east of Mweso to find a creamery with shelves of wheels of excellent cheese. One of several pleasant memories of Kivu. I wish I could take away the not-so-pleasant ones.

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