Blue-turbaned tea time
The Goma Film Project is diversifying quickly on the ground. This week we are working with Esther and Camille, representatives of a Southern-California based Christian NGO that are staying at Maji Matulivu. We’re doing a public service announcement for UNICEF to fight violence against women that’s going to be running about a hundred times a day on Congolese TV for the next couple of weeks. Meantime, we’re trying to hook up with the Indian MONUC batallion to accompany them on patrol here in town, and to fly over the Interhamwe mop-up operations they’re doing in the surrounding countryside in the UN press helicopter… no embedding with troops on the ground per UN policy, unfortunately. OK, I’ll admit that I have a juvenile fascination with military things, so I’m pretty excited about the prospect. And wouldn’t you know the Indian troops are disarmingly gracious with their guests– today, after a press conference at the main MONUC compound, we took tea and samosas with some blue-turbaned sikh colonels. Thank you to Horeb Bulambo for setting us up with press muffin Jennifer at MONUC.
Up in Virunga Park, seat of lord Nyiragongo, the Indian battalion is working with the Congolese 8th division to flush out any Interhamwe or Mayi-Mayi militia camps that continue to endanger the people and wildlife of the park. The problem with this is simple: what guarantees that the fleeing gunman won’t return as soon as operation Northern Nexus packs up shop tommorow? The MONUC says they can only keep the “negative forces” on the run; only the Congolese FARDC forces can occupy and secure an area subsequently. Great, but unless Kinshasa pays those troops, the whole operation will only change the national origin of the parasites that prey on civilians. Civilians are rightly wary of anyone in uniform. As far as we’ve seen every single group under arms here has committed atrocities (not excluding the sexual predators among the UN forces).
My birthday was good; no pretzel cake this year, but I did get a good drunk on with the crew at Le Chalet. Halloween at Coco Jambos was similar; there was lots of international intrigue, and I had high hopes of winning the costume contest with my “Dangerous”-era Michael Jackson– until Osama Bin Laden showed up…