Monday, January twentieth.
Twelve agencies were represented at the NGO (Non-Governmental Organization meeting. For the first time we heard there had been an attack at Ruhengari, about sixty Interahamwe soldiers involved. Three volunteers were killed outright. This is quite a distance from us but a bit disconcerting particularly since one of the areas we are working is adjacent. Access to the mountain gorillas is now denied because there appears to be a lot of rebel activity near Parc National Des Vocan where they reside.
We are now a part of the wider NGO community. A number of people I am meeting have known others that I knew from two years ago. Cyidian from World Food Program is now in prison. Frances, from Sudan, was transferred and is now in Ethiopia. Karl and Ussist from Swiss Relief are around but not in this area. Alfred is the stabilizing person. He is known by everyone. I introduced several of our people to him and they were as impressed with him and his stories as I have been.
Yesterday five huge lorries brought in another 200 returning refugees. They are healthy but not much else can be said for them. They are in tatters. UNHCR gives them a blanket and two weeks of rations. It is a miracle they have survived.
Driving into Karengare, which was the central place of our work two years previously, I was greeted with warm hugs including the mayor of the town. A seamstress who I had gotten to know, insisted I step inside her small work shop and sip genuine Banana Beer. A cooperative our team had assisted was still functioning. It was terrific to see. Many mentioned they were so grateful for our work. One man, speaking for others, said he could not express how they all felt but all remembered the food for work projects we had done which a kept body and soul together for so many. We got back late, after dark. I always try to be at our destination before sunset. To do otherwise could easily mean we might get shot.
Tuesday, January twenty-first.
We discovered this morning a UNHCR eight-ton truck had driven off the road into Lake Kivu. It immediately sank, drowning two. The water is thirty feet within two feet of the shore line. I had taught two locals how to drive on these mountain, gravel, multi-curved roads previously.
People are swimming and fishing. Anyone found on the water two years previously was shot on sight. The Catholic Guest House behind the Kibuye Church where 6,000 people lost their lives is now functioning again. Slowly things are returning to some sense of normalcy. Yesterday, I stopped at the Rwamatamu Bureau de Communal to check on work we did in the past. As I am standing there, I realize there are about 40 young men and boys locked in an office. They are just a few of the many thousands arrested upon their return from Zaire. All male adults between the ages of 17-45 are suspect. The vast majority of returnees are women, children, and older men and women.
One young lady by the name of Matilda was directed by the police to come down and identify the killers of her parents. She refused saying, “I cannot recognize and I have forgiven them.” It is a witch hunt. There are offices in each district related to the national tribunal now in progress. The local office has hundreds of files. The goal is to execute at least two thousand. Many have already died in prison. At the local security meeting we were assured that all was calm and under control in Kibuye Prefecture. No one really knows.
We have it made here. We live in a house with power. There is no running water but are working on it. We are running gutters, having water flow into a drum which will gravity flow into the house. Ruchie prepared warm water for my bath this evening.
She makes excellent meals served on china. She does our wash. We are fortunate to have her. Life is not bad here…relatively speaking. I cannot believe I just wrote that. Dave went swimming in Lake Kivu this evening. The guest house is only about one hundred yards from the water. He reported the water temperature at about 75 degrees. Eat your heart out Michigan.
We visited the local Burgermeistre (Mayor) and are in the process of taking orders for and making plans for the delivery of hoes. We are the only NGO doing anything with food security. We only supply the metal. It is eight inches across and twelve inches long with a meal loop hole into which a four-foot wooden stick is fitted. It is heavy and swung over one’s head when making a farm. It is an essential tool for anyone hoping to be self-sufficient in food production. It’s market price is equivalent of five working days of common labor, pretty much out of the reach of most returnees.