Last full day in DRC
Trip Start Sep 27, 2008
13Trip End Oct 22, 2008
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Usually on the drive in from the airport, I ask about local conditions, potential security issues, specific issues that are on people's minds and so forth. Kinshasa is calm I was told, there were no particular safety issues. What's on many people's minds here is the US Presidential election. I had seen an African at the airport wearing an Obama ball cap and I figured almost everyone here would be favoring him. Not so, I was told. "Some are for Obama" Jacob told me, "but many are for McCain." When I asked why, he said "because he is Tutsi."
Since Obama's father is from Kenya, and Tutsis are found in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Burundi, I asked for clarification. "Well, he's Nilotic, same as the Tutsis" Jacob said. There are two large tribal groups in eastern Africa: the Nilotic family comes from the Nile area like Sudan, Kenya, and Tanzania. The Tutsis in Rwanda would be a Nilotic tribe. Most Congolese are of the Bantu tribal family, the Hutus are supposed to be Bantu. There are stereotypical morphological differences and their languages families are quite different. So Jacob, and apparently many Congolese, is thinking of a US presidential candidate in terms of African tribal rivalries.
There is still fighting between Congolese forces and Rwandan forces (Tusti led) in eastern Congo, so most Congolese are against the Rwandans. Jacob went on "and Obama has chosen Condoleezza Rice's sister Susan to be his foreign advisor." In such a situation "Obama would take Rwanda's side and privilege the Rwandans. Actually Dr. Susan Rice, who is black, and who is in fact Barak Obama's foreign advisor is no relation to Condoleezza Rice. But apparently here they think she is, and it makes some Congolese suspicious. They seem to think she's Nilotic too.
None of this will change anything, but I found it a fascinating window into local thinking.
This morning Jacob and Justin came to the hotel about 9:00. We drove about 45 minutes to see a member named Generose, who had treated us to a meal on a previous visit. It had rained hard the during the night so the potholes, some of them stretching all the way across the road were full of water, sometimes deep enough to drown a car.
Generose had just had her appendix out and was still in some pain from the operation. She asked that I pray for her, which I was happy to do. We talked with her and some of her children for a while, and drank a soda which they locally call a sucrerie: a sweet. I took her photo before we left and we started back to the hotel.
On the way I started shooting some video, but before I got much footage, Jacob warned me "We're coming to places where there are police - they will take your camera." The general insecurity has become so bad that the government has stationed soldiers and police officers all over to try to restore some sense of order and safety. But it makes photography and video shooting difficult because even if one accidently photographs or videotapes someone in uniform, they can legally confiscate the equipment.
I was back at the hotel about noon. Just after finishing a sandwich for lunch, I received a call from Mr. Mukendi, who wanted to invite me for lunch. He works in government administration (finances) and has been able to purchase a car in which we would drive to a restaurant located just across the street from the US embassy. As we walked the few steps from the front door to the car, he warned me to keep a hand on my small camera case, and I slipped my cell phone in my pants pocket too to make any snatch-and-run more difficult. He said there was a great deal of theft all through Kinshasa and at all hours, thought night was the worst.
When we arrived at the restaurant, located near a sports club for expats and wealthy locals, we parked and walked in to find a table. I had eaten, so I just had a couple of espressos while he had lunch and we talked about the history of our Church in Congo, and we discussed possible ways we could move forward from here. He asked about names he knew from the past: including our former association's lead lawyer (initials RH) who had come to Zaire (as it was then) to try to get government recognition of the Church. He had been received by Mrs. Mobutu herself in her husband's absence, in one of the dictator's houses, and soon after we received recognition.
About 4:00 we drove back to my hotel and just a few minutes after getting back to the room, the phone rang again. This time it was Mr. Bamongo. We walked out to the garden and talked for 3 hours about similar historical and organizational questions. He has served faithfully in rather trying circumstances for years. It's good that more help is arriving for them here. We finally parted; I didn't want to keep him out too late since Kinshasa gets quite dangerous at night. Mr. Mukendi had said he doesn't go out at all after dark if he can help it.
Mr. Mukendi has offered to pick me up early tomorrow and drive me to the airport. It's important in Kinshasa to leave plenty of extra time because all sorts of things can happen on the road out there and even in the airport itself. He told me "our airports are not like yours" to which I smiled and said that I had noticed....
Tomorrow if all goes as planned I will fly to Nairobi where I will have to spend the night before going on the Bujumbura the next day.