It was a rather short day today which only changed about 4 times between the schedule and how things turned out in the end. But Faradje was always on the schedule. The season of burning is just beginning and the sky is already smoky up to 10,000 feet. This makes visibility very bad and makes for hot and bumpy flying. I like rainy season much better myself. At least there is 50 mile visibility down underneath the clouds.
After Isiro I was to go to Doko, but our passenger actually wanted to go to Faradje and hadn’t known we were going there, so I was able to go direct. Now our route was a bit more over Garamba Park, which I always like. I am still looking for the last 4 Northern White Rhinos thought to be living in the wild, but they haven’t been seen since around Christmas 2007 so there is not much hope of their survival. With the LRA operating in the area and poaching very rife their chances are poor at best. But I live in hope and it would be a great coup to find them.
Here are excerpts from a safety report for Faradje today. It was translated from French on Google Translate so it’s a bit funny sounding.
There were two attacks Sunday, 12.12.2010 at 6:00 am to Gberie, 55 km from Faradje.
LRA attacked a FARDC position (with 4 members) and there was 1 killed and 2 wounded. One of the injured has already been transferred to the hospital MONUSCO, and the other is still in hospital Faradje. LRA stole eight boxes of bullets (gun bullets around 1600). Among the population LRA stole items from homes of people and 3 bikes, and they took 3 men.
This information is already balanced for all humanitarian partners, has been confirmed either by MONUSCO and the Administrator of the Territory.
The same day, Sunday, 12.12.2010 in the afternoon the village of OMBALAGA (35 km SE of Gberie) was attacked by more than 60 elements (it’s not sure it is the LRA may also be the SPLA).
Two houses were burned, there was 1 killed, an unknown number of casualties (one is now injured man to hospital Faradje and others injured in the health center Djabir)
The movement of population is in the process to continue, so the number of displaced people probably will be higher. People are afraid and they are moving. . Some have lost everything (houses burned), others family members, others are in foster care being in very poor conditions(more than 20 people per house).
We fly for the humanitarian organizations working with these people. Today we are flying Samaritans Purse and I was updated on the situation by Aaron as we flew. Everyone is very tense because of a massacre in Faradje only 2 Christmases ago and another somewhere else last year. It seems this has become a common occurrence every Christmas so having them show up now is a bad sign.
As I returned to Bunia there was another Caravan coming in at the same time. He was given clearance to land first and, on landing, blew a tire. I circled for a while before I finally talked the tower into letting me land from the other end. There was plenty of room as we land on shorter airstrips all day long. But it did take some talking and other aircraft arguing my point. I went down to the plane after landing and helped them change the tire so it could get off the runway and other planes could land. Planes were circling for quite a while and one of our MAF planes from Uganda landed at a strip across Lake Albert and waited for an hour. We finally got it off. An interesting twist to the day.