It has been an interesting week. I wish I could tell you all of it, but it’s just not possible. Cher and I had gone to Uganda to do a big maintenance operation on the Caravan. We had the tail feathers off, the landing gear, the engine and engine mounts, the wings, and the whole interior out of the fuselage. It was really torn to pieces. Probably not the best of timing for this to come due because the rebel group, M23, down in North Kivu province was working its way toward Goma, the provincial capital. I know, Congo only gets little strips across the bottom of your TV News channel while other stories are actually on the bigger bit with the picture. But it is a real war going on here with tanks and helicopters shooting rockets and all. Anyway, M23 finally took Goma.
For those of you following the blog, my sister Lu, who lives and works in Rumangabo, the Virunga National Parks headquarters, has been evacuated out to Goma for a while because of fighting and the M23 presence in the park. When Goma fell to M23 she had to make tracks across the border to Gisenyi, which was only a couple hundred meters away in Rwanda. The towns run together almost as one and the airports are parallel to each other so that occasionally, on smoky days, I have thought I was lined up to land at Goma but was closer to Gisenyi.
There is a lot to that story, which is far from over, and you should follow it online, but it also had it’s fallout on us in Bunia. It is perceived that the UN did not do enough to help in the battle for Goma, and so in cities all over Congo people rioted. In Bunia, the UN’s HQ right in town was attacked with buildings and vehicles stoned, vehicles and other things burnt and the offices and even homes of UN workers and NGOs looted. As a result, it seems there are now 5 shot dead and 11 wounded from the rioting. It was pretty terrible.
Our families were evacuated out under some quite exciting and stressful circumstances.
I went back in to Bunia to help with evacuations and to be on the ground to evaluate the security situation daily as well as keep flying. There were quite lot of the NGO’s people stuck in one of the UN bases where they had fled for security who were very anxious to get out, and we organized MAF-Uganda to get many of them out. Like I say, it was a bad time to have our plane torn apart for maintenance. But we were able to help.
I had a bit of excitement on Thursday when I inadvertently came upon a firefight. Maybe 50 meters away shooting broke out right in front of me. The guards at both our office and a MAF house I had just left right across the street, witnessed the scene and were pretty impressed with my driving skills. They said they’d been very scared for me and hadn’t known a vehicle could go so fast in reverse. I circled around town a long way out of my way to get home from the other direction. One of the motorcycle taxi men on the way said, “You must go home!” I told him I was trying to get there but the shooting was in my way. I think he actually meant I should leave the country, thinking I was UN related. Right now, it is not good to be considered either UN or complicit with the UN. The church people have really stood up for many of the mission workers. For the time being all MAF wives and children are being hosted by friends and co-workers in Uganda.
Feel free to pray for us here. We need a lot of wisdom in times like this.