Thursday, July 29, 2010

Violence and Venting

          I can't afford to miss details, and it's three times harder to read French when it's about death.  I copy and paste the bulletin about the 16 people killed  on two buses coming to Lubero from Beni into Google to translate.  The translation is rough, but I get the picture:

          When the first bus arrives at the scene of the ambush, a military FaRDC (FRDC) out of the bush, pointed his weapon at the driver and forced him to stop.  The driver is aware of what is happening elsewhere.  He knows that if he stops, he will be killed and all passengers.  He decides to crush the military robber and his vehicle accelerates away from the crime scene.  He managed to save all the passengers of the ambush.  Soldiers waiting in the bush as their fellow bus stops so they engage in looting, are surprised to see that the bus is passed.  They have not yet met drivers who resist them.  While they take away the corpse of their comrade from the road, another vehicle brand FUSO arrives at the site.  It belongs to Mr. Mutemoin of Beni.  A military launched a rocket at the vehicle to stop 50 meters from the lifeless body of military robber.  A story of a killer shot.  Another soldier shot in the chest of the driver, who collapsed on the field.  Other soldiers firing pell mell over the passengers on board the vehicle.  Eleven passengers died on the spot, three other passengers die at Bulongo Health Centre (35 km east of Beni).  Another passenger died at the General Hospital of Beni, on the morning of Wednesday, July 28, 2010.  THis brings the number of civilian casualties to 15, including 9 women, 5 men and a baby.  The sixteenth casualty is the victim military robber smashed by the driver of the first vehicle fell into the ambush.
          The people who witnessed the event say it was the FRDC (also known as FaRDC).  The FRDC say officially that it was NALU soldiers dressed in FRDC uniforms.  There are pictures of the victims on the Beni-Lubero website, and I sit in the Secretariat in Mulo crying by myself.  Being here and seeing the photos makes them a lot more human, a lot more real.  They're not just images of death a million miles away that have weight only in a passing moment.  They're images of a 14 year old girl with braids in her hair who could have sold me peanuts yesterday and laughed at my Kinande.  They're images of an old woman who could have let me hold her bouncing baby grandson while she was buying fruit.  The girl of about 14 gets to me the most; the braids in her hair, the stripes on her t-shirt.
           The image of her little body on a concrete floor smeared with blood makes me panicky.  I want to call Obama and say DO SOMETHING!  You can do something!  It will only get worse before it gets better.  At one point the bulletin even references an idea this may become an attempt at exterminating the entire Nande people, which would mean everyone in this area.  It's the first time I've even heard that thought and it's most likely a bit dramatic, but here you never know.  And even if it's dramatic it shows the writer's fear and fear never leads to a happy ending.
           There was a Finnish girl from Finn Church Aide in Butembo working with Maman Marie and the team last week.  It was the day after a diamond merchant was murdered in Butembo.  People were burning tires in the streets and you could feel the general sense of excited fear.  We decided to leave the COPERMA office, in the heart of Butembo, to go to the secluded Hotel Kikyo where the Finnish Liisa was staying.  While getting ready to leave, Maman Marie calls everyone inside the gates and closes the door.
    -We have to stay inside for a while, she says.  They're using bullets.
             I don't hear any cracking but I follow her inside and sit in the little office listening to Liisa try to explain the importance of keeping records.  Before Maman Marie closes the gate and pulls us inside, I talk to Liisa outside for a bit in English.  I tell her about Dusan and his prediction about the month of August and the connection to the scheduled Rwandan elections.  The total number of people killed in this specific area, Butembo or on the way to, is now at 20 in two weeks.  It's not quite August.
    -I'm going to go on vacation the whole month of August, she says.  She's a little shorter than me, blond hair, wide hips and a slight over-bite.
    -Even in Goma it's getting pretty dangerous and I don't want to get stuck having to walk from Goma to Kampala, if the airlines stop flying, she says.
    -Yeah, that makes sense.  Dusan has notified the office that if there's need for an evacuation they're supposed to get me too.  But it's all so ridiculous.  You can feel this tension, and there's already so much horror here, yet nobody's going to do anything about it.
    -It's hard to pin down.  You can't really prove any of this stuff or who did it or why, so the international community can't do anything until something substantial happens.
    -That's what's so absurd.  And infuriating.  You can see it!  I can see it, everyone here can see it coming.  It's so stupid that they have to wait until another several thousand people are killed before they might start talking about doing something.  Not even doing something, just maybe talking about it.  All in the name of politics and who's right or wrong; saving face but killing people.
         I'm talking in generalizations, in a sense, and I know it.  But I'm also talking about what's real in this region, with these people and these soldiers.  I may not know much about what governments are trying to do, but I know there's nothing happening here.  I know kids are having babies because of soldiers, and dying too early because of them too.
          I read an article in Time Magazine about the UN in Congo written in 2008.  Garth Evans, the President of the International Crisis Group at the time said, "When you move to coercive peacekeeping, you're no longer neutral.  You cannot expect to be treated above and beyond the conflict.  You are part of it."
         I think, when you have a general group of people calling themselves soldiers (the distinctions don't matter at this point) who are raping teenagers and killing elderly women, why would you even want to be neutral?  The distinction between victim and extreme detriment to humanity seem pretty clear to me.  What he says is like watching someone rape your younger sister and saying, I'm going to stay neutral on this, I don't want to become part of the problem.
          I believe the saying goes, if you're not part of the solution you are part of the problem.  
          I think Dusan and the demobilizers accomplish things and they do them peacefully.  I wouldn't call it neutral, and definitely not peace-keeping, since there's no pre-existing peace to keep.  It's more like chaotic-violence-diminishment.  There's a raging fire and they're trying to dampen it where they can, without even using a fire extinguisher.  The rest of the UN, from what I've seen, seems like a lot of journalism without any articles.
          It's a complicated situation and the UN gets a lot of flak for not doing more.  At least they're trying.  What does the rest of the international community have to say for itself?  I love Obama as much as the next American, middle-class, white, liberal but I thought Clinton was decent too and he failed miserably with the genocide in Rwanda.  Miserably.  It seems like the international community must be able to see this train speeding down the tracks about to run into a massive group of people; they have the means to solw the train and yet, for some reason, politics say, wait until after they mow down those people.  Then we will have a valid reason to stop the train.  Although, by aiding the Rwandan government the U.S. government is fueling the war in Congo.  Same with Uganda.  It's all so complicated, it's exhausting to even think about.
          But it matters and that train has already mowed down 6 million people without an international government even batting an eye.  Thank you, Mrs. Clinton for that 17 million dollars.  That's a lovely sheet over the fact that you're not going to do anything.  Even if you do, it won't be until someone mails that sheet back to you soaked in blood.  What did Obama say in that speech?  The "fierce urgency of now?"
          After I can't take the photos or the bulletin anymore, I do almost nothing with my time.  I'm angry and sad, an unproductive combination for me.  I simply stomp around the Mulo compound regretting the fact that I'm not God.


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