Updates!! News from Bukavu… as we mentioned, we contacted a number of people in DRC: Dominique (our partner in Bukavu), Barbara and John (our relatives in Kinshasa who work at MONUSCO), Alex (the head of a large community project in Bukavu) and Jan (a U.N. Field Operations Manager in Bukavu). We also did some research on the events mentioned in the U.S. Embassy’s Emergency Warning and found out that they have taken place not recently, but over the past 2 years. For example, the kidnapping of the Red Cross members was in April 2010. The opinions we received were, in summary, the following:
From Dominique: He was not in DRC at the moment but no bad news had been reported to him from Bukavu. “I think that as elections are in preparation, some people think there would be troubles. For years the U.S. has not accepted its citizens to travel to Congo... but there are plenty of them there.”
From Barbara and John: “Essentially Eastern Congo can never be considered safe, especially in rural areas, but we’ll check with someone in the Bukavu office on the security situation and will advise you.”
From Alex: Alex kindly gave us a detailed list of stories, examples, opinions and tips for our stay in Bukavu. “In short, Congo is the same now as it was a year ago, be smart and you will be fine… Travel smart, don't go wandering about, don't be seen taking photos, and don't give them your passport. The officials often are not paid so you are their source of income, and they will make stuff up to make some money, just don't give them your passport and threaten to call the embassy… The trouble is nothing new, and it is not going away, the best thing is to be smart. If you are mostly in Bukavu you have nothing to worry about there.”
From Jan: “Bottom line is that this place is no more or less secure then it has been during my 4 years here. There are many NGO's etc. out here working and they manage to perform their jobs most of the time. There may be locations that are, from time to time, more or less secure depending on many factors. Personal opinion is that you should be able come here and do what you’re planning without any big problems.
So we’re back on track… the security warning did not have much substance behind it in the end. As Xavi says, we were already mentally prepared for “bad”, just not for “worse”. So this is all good news and the countdown continues!