Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Today I took a helicopter to a village called Kasese. It's in a mining zone, which means that a lot of people turn to individual extraction of minerals rather than farming. As my colleague and I spoke with locals regarding the humanitarian situation, we heard what we always hear: things are bad, help us. And of course things are bad. But the thing that got me was not the list of greivances, but meeting in passing someone who worked with the only NGO that had operations in Kasese. The sun was beating down on us, and he was holding his daughter, who looked to be about 8 months old. Her head was resting on his chest and her botton stuck out of her pants, which had shifted as he held her. The man apologized for not being able to meet us at the NGO as his daughter was sick. Probably meningitis. Were any local meds around? my colleague asked. The man shrugged and said there weren't any right now, and he was just hoping some would come. The NGO he worked for distributes health supplies, and he might now have any to save his daughter. He didn't seem angry. It was just how things were.

That was hard to see.

It's amazing how desensitized you can become to suffering when a large portion of the kids you see are malnourished, the men ex-combattants, and the women working dawn to dusk in the fields to keep food on the table.

However, if for me this is a coping strategy, I would love to know what the excuse of the Congolese government is. Bottom line - they feel no responsbility to the people, only to themselves.


Blogger Chris said...

In that respect, i e that they don't care about their people, they are not worse than most people on this planet who only care about themselves and possibly their families. I am glad to see that you have a big heart and care about those poor people and that you had the courage going to such an ill-reputed place as Kongo.



12:37 AM  
Blogger Sahara Sarah said...

Thanks chris:)

3:58 PM  
Blogger Black River Eagle said...

For a minute I thought that you were talking about Kasese district in southwest Uganda (Pop. 500000+) but I see that you reference this place as a village. I couldn't find your Kasese on a map of the D.R.C. though. Is it near a major town or in the middle of nowhere?

The Washington Post published a very revealing article March 26th 2005 about Kasese (Uganda) and their Anglican Bishop Jackson Tembo titled "A Tainted Easter Message". Do read it if you can find the time, very appropriate for World AIDS Day 2005.

There is a Kasese mine that was mentioned in the U.N. Security Council reports on illegal mining and resource exploitation in the D.R.C. If this is the same area, there may be upwards of perhaps 100,000 people working as forced laborers and slaves in those mines.

I do believe that there are people both within and outside of the present D.R.C. transitional government that do give a damn about their people and their country. Unfortunately, these types of leaders have no real support from the "world community" and therefore former warlords, crooks, and murderers are left to run things as they see fit.

Of course I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

6:51 PM  
Blogger 007 in Africa said...

I'm glad you mentionned this Sarah. It hurts me to see people suffer as they do here, and I can't figure out --for the life of me-- why it doesn't hurt people working in the government too.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Sahara Sarah said...

This Kasese is the mine. And because there are resources there's also security issues with militia and also the Congolese military, who prey on the population to make up for the fact they often arent paid. The attraction to mining (cash!) means that a lot of the men turn to mineral exploitation as opposed to food production. The result is that you have a more cash-driven area but one with a lot of nutrition/food security issues. Last year all of the food was imported from Goma bu plane and the prices food and seed are therefore quite high (up to 5-10 times of what people pay in Kindu). When was that UN report written? I assume that forced labor was much more of an issue during the war, not to say that terms now are sunny. It definitely does attact labor from other areas, and child labor is an issue as well. I'd be curious to know where the 100,000 figure comes from: it's crazy how numbers become statistics - and they are often based on very little informtion!

6:13 PM  

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