Field Trip pt 1: first stop

Stefan, our RRM (Rapid Response Mechanism), and a few people from his team
were going to the field this weekend to do some follow-up visits.
Additionally, there was a photojournalist working for DFID (the British Dept
for Int'l Devt) who wanted to get some photos of internally displaced
persons (IDPs in aid jargon). Despite our Field Coordinator's initial
reservations, Stefan was able to get permission for Peter and I to go along
with them. (Peter is one of the two Columbia University researchers here for
two months working on a survey of our Community Driven Reconstruction (CDR)
program).

The original plan was to go up to Bunyakiri — a few hours northwest of
Bukavu — because there are a few thousand IDPs up there and some have quite
recently fled their villages in the hills as a result of the Kimia II
military operation. (Kimia II is an operation by the Congolese army: FARDC
and the UN Mission: MONUC to go after the FDLR: Front Democratique pour la
Liberation de Rwanda.) So Saturday morning at 6:30 or so we head to the
office where we meet up with Roger, Jacques and Bavon. On our way out, we stopped at L'Orchide to pick up Susan, the photojournalist, and Stefan gave Susan, Peter and I a security briefing
(none of which, thankfully, we needed to utilize).

The first part of the road was astonishingly smooth — due to the currently
in progress work of a Chinese firm that is building the road. It was a
completely different experience than the night a couple of weeks ago when I
arrived in Bukavu. But soon enough we were on dirt track and thankful for
our sturdy Toyota Landcruiser. Our route took us through a national park
where one can go and see gorillas (hmm, well, provided it is peaceful
enough, at the moment IRC will not allow any of the staff to go there),
which went up and over the summit of the mountain range and, incidentally,
the continental shelf of Africa. (So that, on one side, the water flows
eastward toward the lakes and the Indian ocean and on the other side, the
water flows westward towards the Atlantic ocean.)

We came to a village where we had heard they had been attacked at the
beginning of the week, so we stopped there and talked to some people. (See
the photos) At first glance, it just seemed like a roadside village, but
then I noticed something odd. It was a Saturday morning and the place was
virtually deserted. The little shops were all closed and boarded up. There
was one woman selling yams and a few children around, but that was about it.
Jacques and Roger started asking around and a few young men came forward to
talk about what happened. Last weekend, FDLR troops had come into the
village, broken into places, looted the shops, and then kidnapped a few
people to carry the booty back to their camp. The pattern of behavior was
not that unusual, but what was new and significant was that the FDLR was
coming right down to the main road. For many months now, they have stayed up
in the hills and only looted from villages up there. But now that MONUC and
FARDC were moving into the hills, they FDLR felt comfortable coming down to
the road where the FARDC used to be stationed. And they are right. The
people from this village called the FARDC Saturday, after the Friday night
attack, but no one showed up until Tuesday. . .

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About Seth Longacre

primal health coach, vision fast guide, itinerant discalced Episcopal Deacon, barefoot runner, photographer, spiritual director, yoga teacher, minimalist, pilgrim
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