A Travellerspoint blog

“The soldiers took my bike.”

sunny 39 °C

Richard and crew finally made it home last night; despite offering our generator and fuel and money for treatment and medicine, it appears the hospital was reluctant to encourage others through the doors outside normal working hours. I guess that answers my questions about other patients......Fin, he was treated, missing some teeth but feeling better, and they made it there and back in 4 days which for here is unheard of efficiency. I am pretty impressed frankly.

Usual round of meetings this week and one thing that kept cropping up was the ‘commandeering and taxing’ of bicycles by soldiers. The title quote was given to me by an 11 year old boy who had pushed, dragged and sweated his way along 16km of sandy track into Dongo from his village, carrying more than 70kilos of vegetables to sell in the market. He was dragged out of school as fighting approached his home, and ran carrying his maths school book and his 13 month old sister with his mother to safety in another town. His father never joined them and he is the chief bread-winner for his family of five. He makes 2 trips a week and makes about 5,000 Congolese Francs in profit each time. But the ‘taxes’ at roadblocks cost him 500CF each time he goes past, and that’s if he gets lucky and the soldiers don’t demand his bike to help transport their materials on deployments, like this morning, taking him days out of his way. It would be all too easy to take this at face value; but these soldiers are deployed hundreds of miles from home without basic equipment, some have not seen their wives and children in 5 years, and go for months without being paid their meagre salaries. There is a lot of grey area between right and wrong.

In fact it’s not just bicycles. Yesterday I was asked to provide transport in our vehicles to a group who found themselves under the midday sun and more than 50km from town. Their initial approach was quite insistent but 30 seconds into my detailed explanation of the explosives contained in Mobile 3 and they deferred to my conclusion that it was not safe for them.

Two weeks ago a demining expert was killed whilst working in a mine-field in Southern Sudan. I haven’t previously said anything to anyone about this, I don’t want to sound insincere – I didn’t know him, and I have only been here 5 minutes - but members of my team had worked with him and this afternoon some of them carried out the demolition of some incredibly dangerous stuff. They take huge risks, much more than anyone else who works out here, and I think I probably did not fully appreciate it until today when I left my technical manager standing over a live rocket preparing to pick it up with his hands and move it into a 3ft hole to minimise damage to nearby buildings and risk to the local population, while I merrily sauntered off to the FP singing songs with a few local toddlers in tow. Gained a little perspective on lizard attacks to say the least.

Posted by hobbit1 07:44 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo

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