21 years ago I entered what was then Zaire at the Zongo border station with my pushbike. I didn’t know what to expect, except that the rumor said it was one of the most demanding countries of Africa. It was very poor and run by a blood thirsty dictator, Mubutu Sese Seko, and there were pockets of un-rest were gun touting rebels hid out. It turned out to be easily the most demanding stretch of cycling through Africa. Incredibly bad roads, hardly anything to eat except pine apple, local peanut butter and bananas and so many images along the road, that it most of the time was hard to comprehend. But, it was the best country of them all as well!
The Congolese were so friendly, wild, laughing, colourful, hustling and bustling and loud! And it was by a wide margin the most adventurous and interesting of all countries. Not one dead second. And, it still seems to be the same! Even though the mobile phone has arrived and changed a lot, it is still the heart of all which constitutes my image of the real Africa! Together with Yemen, I find it the two most interesting countries on earth right now!
But before arriving to this extra ordinary country I went, together with my extremely generous sponsors and supporters Jeff and Andrew, to the Genocide Museum in Kigali, which shows the terribly dark side of Africa. It has to be visited to get a perspective on oneself, life in general and the evil side we human all carry with us, most of the time well hidden away. The visit still haunts me. It made me shed tears; feel extremely uneasy and shocked to the bone that this actually could happen! I remember especially a quote from Eric 13:
“In my search for a hide out, I found Jerome, his legs cut off. I could not leave him in this state. I tried to lift up Jerome so that we could leave together, but the car of the commune stopped near me. It was full of machetes and other instruments of death. I lay Jerome down on the ground and ran because a man got out of the burgomaster’s car to kill me.
He finished Jerome off.
I saw this when I looked back to see if anyone had followed me. I will never forget the way Jerome’s face was filled with desperation. Whenever I think about it, I cry all day long.”
This war between the Hutus and the Tutsi is one of human kinds many genocides in history, but so recent in time that it shows we are still a bunch of ignorant and dangerous apes. What are so terrifying and haunting are the merciless killing, maiming, torture and raping of children that always occurs. To stop their enemies to reproduce, they kill their children. Like cockroaches. Fuelled by their leaders and a hating media, the hutus, this time, turned against neighbours, friends and family if they were Tutsi. Merciless killings. 800 000 got killed and the scars of this genocide is lingering everywhere in this region. The eastern part of Congo was heavily affected by refugees and killers, and still is.
Why did it happen?
As so many troubles in Africa, it is the legacy of the colonial times. It was the Belgian colonialists which started to separate the then citizens of the kingdom of Rwanda into to tribes and after awhile started to favour one of them. And this stupidity has fuelled hatred and bitterness many times since then in this little paradise called Rwanda, which used to include parts of eastern Congo.
And when it happened again, as so many other times, the West did nothing.
Am in Bukavu right now, a city scarred by all these terrible events. And a natural disaster, like an erupting volcano we want to climb, can be seen everywhere. Still, it is such a bustling place, so full of life. It is hard to understand that such terrible things just recently happened.