As we passed by the third checkpoint in less than 5 minutes men came up to the car and forming sign of shooting rifles said in Swahili “They have killed a man on the road up ahead. Don’t go.” They have a shabby notebook with a couple of names in it and say that if we pay them they will call someone and we will be protected. Our driver, Maki, is not fooled and after he comes back from paying the road tax he drives off unconcerned. The dirt road switched back and forth and with the tall grass, every corner looking like a picture perfect place to set up an ambush, and I couldn’t help feeling like I was on the stagecoach and masked men or indians might be around the next corner or looking down on us from some of those big boulder on top of the hills.
Attempting to keep up on the security situation in our area and ascertain if the time has come to move people back to our base in Nyankunde, I arranged for John Woodberry and I to ride along with the Medair vehicle that was delivering medicines up to their clinics in the nearby Geti area. When we got to Bogoro where the road splits and the left goes down to Lake Albert and the right goes up in the mountains to Geti, the soldier at that block said a man had been shot a short distance down the road to the lake earlier today but our road, to the right, was “calm”. Only last Saturday 5 young men from Bunia had been killed on that same road and the town had been in an uproar. This new shooting will not help tensions in town.
There was heavy presence of government troops for the next few kilometers and then…nothing. We rounded a corner and under some trees there was another outpost, but this one was militia men. Actually, very young men. The difference was obvious, but they waved us by as if all was just the same. It was easy to feel apprehensive with all the guns around, but it was soon apparent that they were quite relaxed. We stopped and made deliveries of meds, visited workers, questioned people and heard stories of intrigue, the politics and business of war.
On the way out, when we got back into cellphone range, I got a message from security that 5 people had been shot dead on the road south of Nyankunde today and 2 more people had been killed on the road to the lake very close to where we were. A very interesting day. And the next day would see another man shot. It is quite difficult to understand what is really going on.