Monday, May 09, 2005

Rainy Congo Day

One thing I noticed today, one of the thousands of differences that exists about living in a small town in Congo as opposed to most anywhere in America, is what happens when it rains. Life shuts down, people just retreat indoors and underneath balconies and wait it out. People have umbrellas to keep the sun off them, but they rarely use them to walk around in the rain. The smell is also different. In my home in Georgia you can always smell the scent of the rain on the concrete in the summer. Here there is no concrete, just dirt roads, and it makes a different scent. When I was in Niger, it did not rain from early September until March. My friends and I used to dream about the rain.

Here, the rainy season is over (though you would not know it looking out the window right now). They do not have “spring, summer, fall, winter” in the Congo. Like many developing countries, it is divided into two basics seasons “wet, dry.” Perhaps a step up from Niger where they have “wet, dry, cold, hunger.” You know things are bad when hunger has a season. Perhaps the Congo is considering adding “peace” and “war” seasons?

Politically, it is an interesting time here. Elections are supposed to happen on June 30, but the transitional government (created following a peace settlement in 2003) has not put forth the necessary reforms for these elections to happen, including voter registration or election laws. They blame the parliamentarians who blame the independent electoral commission who blames the government. The people just want elections, since postponing them is the way that legitimate governments become dictators in Africa (well, one of many ways, right?). But the peace agreement says they can postpone, most intelligent observers know its better to have fair elections than a thrown together sham, and for now everyone’s just pretending like they will happen. While there will probably be some protests around the issue, no major trouble is expected. That said, us Kindu folk are not taking any chances. I have a mobile radio and will have access to the UN channels. More so than that, I have a posse of very protective male friends in the ranks of the UN mission.

Because I need to get a new visa, attend a training session, and take a general break from Kindu, I will be heading to the capital (Kinshasa) for a few weeks as of May 16.


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