Congo Visit 2009
In February-March 2009, I was served on a UN Technical Assessment Mission (TAM) that examined the status and future of the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC), renamed a stabilization mission (MONUSCO) in 2010. Here is a brief "picture story" of some of the sites we visited.
Arrival at dawn in Kinshasa, capital of the DRC, on a Kenya Airways flight:
Outside MONUC headquarters, I saw Peacekeeper standing guard atop an armoured personnel carrier (APC), with machine gun:
Sign at the UN mission headquarters showing the threat level in the city:
Carlog system in UN vehicle (with carlog antenna on dashboard) that allows its route and speed to be tracked. Also the vehicle cannot be started unless a pass code is first entered. The radio communication system is beneath the carlog system.
Roadside ad for the DRC president declaring: "In peace, let's reconstruct our country Joseph KABILA"
(Dans la paix, reconstruison notre pays)
Independent Electoral Commission headquarters in Kinshasa (has a hard time avoiding political pressures):
US embassy in the DRC capital, which has been "intimately" involved in DRC politics from Lumumba to Mobutu to the Kabilas (père and fils):
From my room in the Memling Hotel, here are the skyscrapers of Kinshasa with the Congo river in the background:
Flying from Kinshasa to the Eastern Congo aboard a UN-contracted aircraft:
Emergency exits on the Antonov-24, which I did not have to use (fortunately):
View of Lake Kivu shoreline:
View from the air:
Rock protrudes from deep jungle:
Arriving at airport in Bunia, capital of the Ituri province:
UN part of the Bunia Airport, including the control tower:
Housing along road next to refugee/IDP camp which was established for protection near the MONUC logistics base near the Bunia airport (old UN guard tower on left):
The refugee/IDP camp, which was once several times the current size when violence was widespread in Bunia between conflicting tribes:
The reach of the Lions Club extends even to Bunia, as advertised at a traffic circle:
The satellite communications hub for the UN's Bunia headquarters:
Map of tribal areas in Bunia (from wall in Ituri), important as UN tries to keep the peace between the tribes:
Boarding a UN helicopter to visit Dungu in Gamamba National Park, where the large Uguandan-Congolese-S.Sudanese Operation "Lightning Thunder" was underway to squash the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which has still creating havoc in the northeastern DRC and its neighbours.
Unloading the Mi-8 helicopter (contracted from Russia, as evidenced by the flag on the tail):
LTCOL Orisi Rabukawaqa, the experienced Fijian peacekeeper, was a key member of the TAM:
The Moroccan UN base with a preventive moat and protective barbed wire:
Meeting with Moroccan officers. The head of the TAM's military cluster, US Col Bryan Norman, is to my right:
Leaving the Moroccan base with Col Norman:
Meeting with DRC officers at the Dungu base where the joint hunt for the LRA was being spearheaded:
Hercules aircraft taking off on the dirt runway ...
with UN vehicles on road alongside runway .... (note: the high vent is typical of vehicles operating in such environments,
where water and sand could clog a regular exhaust pipe coming low out of the back of the vehicle)
Viewing out the helicopter window with ear muffs because of the loud engine noise:
Katherine Clarke, a MONUC official, who accompanied us on part of the trip:
Later ... landing in Goma:
A rusting plane long in retirement:
Goma airport building:
Like Kivu from MONUC headquarters:
Zodiac patrol with machine gun along Goma's waterfront:
Another patrol boat ... keeping watch as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon visits Goma (coincidentally at the same time as the TAM):
Back in Kinshasa before leaving the D.R. Congo. The signs of global culture are apparent ....
Will Smith, CNN, Japanese figures ... and commercial activity .... a cash exchange, an international press kiosk, etc.
There's hope .... Vive la paix! Vive le commerce! Vive le Congo!
(Images categories above: Kinshasa, UN aircraft; Bunia; Dungu; Helicopter views; and Goma.)