test

Congo Visit 2009

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:

test

Outside MONUC headquarters, I saw Peacekeeper standing guard atop an armoured personnel carrier (APC), with machine gun:

Guard in APC with machine gun outside MONUC headquarters

Sign at the UN mission headquarters showing the threat level in the city:

sign with threat level in Kinshasa

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.

Carlog system in mission vehicle that allows its route and speed to be tracked

Roadside ad for the DRC president declaring: “In peace, let’s reconstruct our country Joseph KABILA”
(Dans la paix, reconstruison notre pays)

advertisement for President Kabila

Independent Electoral Commission headquarters in Kinshasa (has a hard time avoiding political pressures):

Independent Electoral Commission headquarters in Kinshasa

US embassy in the DRC capital, which has been “intimately” involved in DRC politics from Lumumba to Mobutu to the Kabilas (père and fils):

US embassy in the DRC capitol

From my room in the Memling Hotel, here are the skyscrapers of Kinshasa with the Congo river in the background:

Skyscrapers of Kinshasa with the Congo in the background

Flying from Kinshasa to the Eastern Congo aboard a UN-contracted aircraft:

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):

Emergency exits on the Antonov-24, which I did not have to use (fortunately)

View of Lake Kivu shoreline:

View of Lake Kivu shoreline

View from the air:

View from the air

Rock protrudes from deep jungle:

Rock protrudes from jungle

 

Arriving at airport in Bunia, capital of the Ituri province:

Arriving at Bunia airport

UN part of the Bunia Airport, including the control tower:

UN section of the Bunia Airport, including temporary 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):

Housing near refugee/IDP camp next to MONUC logistics base (old 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:

refugee/IDP camp

The reach of the Lions Club extends even to Bunia, as advertised at a traffic circle:

Lions Club reaches to Bunia

The satellite communications hub for the UN’s Bunia headquarters:

the communications hub for the Bunia headquarters

Map of tribal areas in Bunia (from wall in Ituri), important as UN tries to keep the peace between the tribes:

map of tribal areas in Bunia as UN tries to keep the peace between them

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.

Boarding a UN helicopter to visit Dungu in Gamamba National Park, where a large Uguandan-DRC-UN operation was being undertaken to find 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):

Unloading the Mi-8 helicopter (contracted from Russia)

LTCOL Orisi Rabukawaqa, the experienced Fijian peacekeeper, was a key member of the TAM:

Orissi, the experienced Fijian peacekeeper, was a key member of the TAM

The Moroccan UN base with a preventive moat and protective barbed wire:

the Moroccan UN base with a preventive moat and barbed wire

Meeting with Moroccan officers. The head of the TAM’s military cluster, US Col Bryan Norman, is to my right:

Meeting with Moroccan officers. The head of the TAM's military cluster, Col Bryan Norman, is on my left.

Leaving the Moroccan base with Col Norman:

Parting the Moroccan base

 

Meeting with DRC officers at the Dungu base where the joint hunt for the LRA was being spearheaded:

Meeting with DRC officers at the Dungu base where the joint hunt for the LRA was spearheaded

Hercules aircraft taking off on the dirt runway …

Hercules aircraft taking off

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)

with cars on road alongside runway

Viewing out the helicopter window with ear muffs because of the loud engine noise:

Viewing out the helicopter window with ear muffs because of the load engine noise

Katherine Clarke, a MONUC official, who accompanied us on part of the trip:

An official with MONUC mission who accompanied us on part of the trip

 

Later … landing in Goma:

Landing in Goma

A rusting plane long in retirement:

A rusting plane long in retirement

Goma airport building:

Goma airport building

Like Kivu from MONUC headquarters:

Like Kivu from MONUC headquarters

Zodiac patrol with machine gun along Goma’s waterfront:

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):

Another patrol boat ... keeping watch as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon visits Goma:

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.

Back in Kinshasa before leaving, the signs of the global culture are there: Will Smith, ESPN, CNN, 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.)