The Congo River is the source of green in middle Africa. Sure, there are other rivers, but if you look at a map of Africa that shows where the jungle is and where the deserts are, the Congo River defines where the big green patch is in the middle of Africa. Most people call it jungle. From the bits I have walked in that jungle, it is green throughout: from the highest leaves on trees and vines, to the little plants and bugs, and all the other stuff that moves around under the places where you might poke a stick, but I sure am not. This place is alive. But sadly, the people and the animals have a tough life.
Perhaps symbolically, when I was sitting in one of the few restaurants here (way up the Congo River in Kindu) I watched a little ant–and by little I mean real little, because what I saw was a bread crumb magically moving itself away from me. Then I saw the speck underneath. So too did a salamander, who ate both the bread crumb and the ant.
One way to look at this place is to connect it to the Amazon and to those entities who live by breathing through two lungs. The Earth is one of those entities. The way I see it is the Amazon is the largest river in the world and the Congo is the second. The rainforest in the Amazon is said by many (except for recently deceased ants) to be the lungs of the Earth, or at least one lung. Seems to me the Earth’s other lung is the Congo basin. Breathe deeply, because this place is working hard to create oxygen.
I always like giving the good news first (and maybe there is more–actually there is more, but you have to put up with some bad news first). If you try to scroll past the bad news, then you will be penalized three points.
The bad news is really a mix of bad history and bad news, and some good news. By that I mean: this place has been devastated by war, war crimes, pillage and perhaps most importantly, a lack of interest from western countries (who originally colonized this place and used it as the starting point for the slave trade)–that is the bad history. Then, there are the continuing problems with poverty, poaching, continuing crime, including war crimes–that is the bad news. And an extra aside that needs to be added to the bad news category is the continuing interest from all outside countries in the great mineral wealth that sits below the vibrant lung of this Earth. But there are people from this country and from outside who are working towards change–that is the good news.
My primary emotion is curiosity, with a subtext of sadness for how much everyone puts up with. Today I walked along the river: by the goat market, the lumber drop, the charcoal sellers, the cassava leaf vendors and the place where the dugout canoes arrive and leave (to make their trip across the Congo). It is a place of enterprise, where children, women and men and everyone of an age between all those is striving to make a scratch of a living. They do not make much. One sight that made me sad was watching a young boy take a small goat and lash it to the back carrier of his bicycle. The goats legs were strapped to the several posts as the animal bleated in protest. Once lashed, the boy, bicycle and goat moved up the hill, with the goat protesting each bump in the road. Point to note is the boy would have been in school in many other countries.
These are the day to day problems that are evident every time you open your eyes here. Sometimes you have to say something, other times, it has to be accepted as the way of life in hard times. Except when it come to crimes. Then, the system is supposed to step in and help the victims. That is my job here.
This website is not to talk about my job, or the difficulties in moving it forward. I will just say there are many problems that stand in the way of pushing forward with a system of justice. In short, I would say that every person and every international agency and every government player involved in that process is both a help and a hindrance. I know that I am both.
The people here show, much of the time, (don’t forget the history and the fact that people can get disillusioned) the intensity of the little ant. Sadly, there are salamanders all around. Thus, we can only but help them carry their bread crumbs and guard them so that they can make it safely home without a salamander stealing both the crumb and their life.
So, this is me, signing off and continuing on salamander guard duty.
And don’t forget that everybody loves somebody sometime.
J of Kindu
P.S. The above message does not intend in any way to vilify salamanders, who are in fact also very helpful and productive members of this society–especially if they are in your room and on guard for cockroaches. Please see my earlier references to Geckos, who do the same thankless task in Central America. Tough work, but some amphibian has to do it.