July 28, 2008  An arrest on the streets of Kigali


Last Saturday when I was coming home from the internet café, I saw a small group of people with a collective consciousness  coming toward me in an alley.  In the middle were two young guys, early 20’s, not looking too happy.   There was a cop in maroon fatigues walking beside them.  Then I noticed that the two young dudes had their shirt tails tied to each other.  Apparently there were under arrest for some reason.  The rest of the citizens in the group were filling the task of outriders in case the two culprits tried to bolt.  It was quite a clever way of securing two chaps without the use of handcuffs.  The cop by his uniform , might only have been an auxillary, but he was getting the job done.

Tuesday July 29  Looking back on my trip which began yesterday in Kigali, Rwanda, then went through Burundi and ended back in the Congo in the town of Uvira.

I left the house in Kigali at 5:45 to walk to a place where I could catch a mototaxi downtown for my 7 am bus.  I was supposed to be there by 6:30 to check in .   Got there without breakfast but the bus stopped at 9am before Butare and I was able to buy some samosas which I ended up sharing with a hungry old guy who came up to me for a handout.     

We got to the Rwanda-Burundi border and things slowed considerably.  I waited in a line stretching across the road for 90 minutes to get my exit stamp  which took all of two minutes of an official’s time.  Then walked about 100 yards to the Burundi officals’ post.  There for $20 I was granted a transit visa quite quickly as the line had greatly subsided as people walked away from Rwanda.  I got into Bujumbura, the capital about 2:30 pm,  changed some money and took a cab for a short ride to the Friends church and offices where I met Adrian Nyiangonoo the local coordinator and Andrew Peterson who had been staying in Kigali when I first got there.  Had a quick lunch and Adrian took me to the taxi/bus stand that transports people to the Congo, about 25-30 miles away.  The buses leaving were full and Adrian tried to buy my way onto the minibus to no avail , then he discovered there were other taxi stands in the main courtyard.  We were able to buy a ticket on a Toyota Corolla station wagon of indeterminate vintage and eight passengers got in along with chickens then people and chickens were transferred to another  vehicle and then we waited an hour before the driver showed up to take us across.  The scene in the courtyard was filled with people coming and going.  Having great arguments, beggars, knife sharpeners, more chickens, and a host of other types going and coming. Finally we got underway but not before a rather portly woman put up some fuss about sharing the back seat with three other people. Remember this is a Corolla.  Before we got out of Burundi we were stopped twice for bribes by the Burundi police during perfunctory vehicle and papers inspections.  Our tickets were Bf 3500 about $2.50 each .  The passengers were slipping the driver about 2000 f. each to help him with the police as they strutted around acting disinterested in the whole thing.  After getting past those obstacles we drove on past some fairly chic beach clubs,  probably popular with the diplomatic corps and UN troops who were much in evidence though most were Pakistani. I don’t know if Pakistani’s are beach people.   

Before getting out of Burundi, the cab stopped again to permit people to buy bread which is preferred over Congolese bread where we were headed.     Then we continued along some very rough road to the first border outpost on the Burundian sided.  That one was easy and I walked from there across a bridge, presumably the border and the taxi picked us up and continued several miles to the Congolese border post.  The Congolese were friendly but slow and in no hurry to collect my $30 and when they did they returned one of the $5 bills saying it was no good because of a slight tear in it, so I fished out an untorn note which was accepted.  It still took 30 minutes to get my passport stamped and a receipt written.  By then my co-passengers were antsy to say the least.  We hurried on to Uvira on a terrible road, passing more UN camps on the Congo side just as there were on the Burundi side.  I think the driver was also in a hurry so he could get back to Burundi before the border closed at 7 pm.  We got onto a macadam road and there were hundreds of people on both sides , bicycles, push carts, five ton trucks overloaded with people, small children walking and running between cars.  Dusk was upon us and darkness rapidly approaching   People debarked from the taxi at various places and I had no idea where I should get off , just sort of waiting for the driver to tell me we were at the end of the line.  David Zarembka said before I left Kigali,  “Uvira is a small place, they’ll find you.”  I later found out there are 300,000 inhabitants in Uvira.  We crossed a small river and below us I saw cars in the river on on the banks being washed.  Thousands of people on the shore probably some kind of open air market.  People doing laundry and washing children.  Pigs were rooting in trash.  Large trucks filled with people hanging on by any means bumped along with their passengers seeming about to bounce off, but still managing to hang on by a few fingers as they flew in the air. 

At some point one of the passengers asked to get off and when he did,  two men walked up to the car and greeted me warmly.  I figured this was my stop.  How they knew to be there is still a mystery.  I do know that they waited most of  yesterday for me and for several hours this evening.  They had not gotten a clear message from me about my late arrival.  They told me that participants on the course had waited at the Peace Center for me to arrive until 4:00PM.  I felt very bad about this but Mannesah and Leon, who were both there seemed happy for me to be there and very forgiving.  They took me to a restaurant and I had an omelette and a Fanta and there each had a mug of milk with 3 or 4 spoons of sugar and shared a loaf of bread.  The whole loaf.   They asked me if I was ok to ride a mototaxi up to the Peace Center.  No problem for me, so we saddled up, me carrying my rucksack and one of them with my small bag.  We  went back from where I got out of the cab dodging oncoming traffic and then turned left off the main road and began climbing the Rift Valley wall up to the Center.  It was a narrow footpath that seemed to be going through peoples’ yards, cooking areas, between hedgerows, all this in the dark and I was hoping not to fall of the back of the bike from the weight of my rucksack.  It was always a balancing act when the bike accelerated.  Finally we made it up to the peace Center where someone was waiting for us, and they started the generator for lights.  These folks were so warm and receiving.  I can’t imagine anyone at home being this kind to someone two days late.  I vowed to give them one hell of a training for their patience.    My first words to the students the next morning were to ask their pardon.




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