Monkey Business

Monkey Business

 

Punia can be very schizophrenic – moments of incredible beauty moving in a heartbeat to shock and desperation.  But even with this, Punia has a daily life, a mundaneness, an existence, that we rarely hear about Congo, Heart of Darkness, where the Four Horsemen live and breathe and stamp onto the pages we read.

Testing the new bicycles out around town provided a good snapshot of the daily emotional ups and downs – one minute, a drunk trying to get money from the visitors, backed up by a hostile group of suspicious residents – round the next corner, a friendly chat with a passer-by in front of the local school, to the strains of the energetic Sunday morning gospel songs floating across the road.  Apart from a few institutional buildings and a central boulevards of single room brick and mortar shops, Punia’s entire population lives in simple mud huts, with dry brown palm leaf rooves.   There is usually no running water, so water is collected in yellow-jerry cans or large pots from the local water source.  Although some properties have access to limited electricity from a nearby hydroelectric source, cooking is done on a fire, and the family’s main possessions are a collection of well-used plastic washing bowls and metal cooking pots.

Agriculture has not really reached the heart of Congo in a major way – surprisingly, many families grow very little, and many of the staple foods are bought in from outside, with the outlying villagers travelling for days to procure simple supplies in the central market, and supplementing their purchases with whatever can be hunted and picked from the forest.   One day, riding through the forest, our motorbike came to a screeching halt as two children came running out the jungle, bearing a dead monkey strung on a stick between them.  Motard Olele, our nighttime singer, had spied dinner.  He entered into heated negotiations, and eventually reached into his pocket.  His hand emerged with two shotgun cartridges, and before the questions formed on my lips, he handed them over to the boys, untied the carcass from the stick, and proceeded to lash it to the handlebars.  The boys ran off into the jungle, bickering over the shotgun cartridges, and Olele wore a scowl.

“Ca va Olele, qu’est que c’est passé”, I ventured in my lolloping bush French.

“Ils ont gagné. Maintenant ils peuvent tuer deux singes” – “They screwed me.  Now they can kill two monkeys”. This was clearly a set of contract negotiations for which my logistical training had not prepared me.  “I suppose there were two of them”, I shrugged.  Unconsoled, Olele drowned his sorrows in a loud turn on the throttle, and we leapt onward to the next medical supervision, dead monkey bouncing nonchalantly from the handlebars.

Le Tour de Congo

Le Tour de Congo

 

Some weeks previously, a shipment of heavy, unlabelled cardboard boxes arrived at the airstrip, Christmas come early for the logistician, penknife at the ready, boy scout scarf hiding the smile.  Newspaper wrapping strewn all around the mechanics’ palm-leaf shelter, we gleefully ascertained that it was a shipment of 11 bicycles, to assist the clinic nurses in transporting the monthly medical deliveries and seeing to their patients, the newest in the steady flow of worn frames pounding the roads to and from Punia, carrying anything from palm oil, bananas, and maize to beer, planks, beds or generators.

The bikes had arrived completely unbuilt, down to the loose spokes and ball bearings, and, after weeks of procrastination, it fell to myself and Djavu, the wiry motorbike driver who was just recovering from a big fall from one of the log bridges.   Djavu, as with all the other drivers, known as motards, typically rode with a passenger, a nurse on their way to clinic supervisions, and as much luggage as could be strapped on with old inner tubes.  Most days of the month, the drivers would be in the field, usually with one trip of a week or two at a time – our furthest clinic took nearly four days to reach by motorbike and foot.   Major rivers must be crossed by pushing the motorbike onto dugout canoes, and the frequent minor crossings over slippery and rotten logs, that often took considerable efforts in mobilizing village labour to replace.  The deep mud tracks, being the only routes connecting this villages, are rutted and worn – after the rains, you can sit in ruts up to the waist, with the wheels spinning out, fighting to keep momentum in the knowledge that pushing the bikes will be even more fruitless.  Some of the hills are bouldered staircases up the side of rocky outcrops, whilst some of the flat stretches are sandy traps for the  inexperienced rider.  Djavu and his colleagues, entirely self-taught by the sound of the engine and the feel of the weight beneath them, are the most skilled off-road riders I have seen.  They concentrate intensely on the path in front of them for long days, fuelled by maize flour and the occasional banana.

The motards also tended to be the jokers in the pack.  I spent many long evenings in the field with nothing to do under the stars but listen to their stories.  Young Olele would sing songs, all from memory; whilst portly Rashaz would take the opportunity to help himself to more ugali.  Kabaga and Yusufu were the dubious double act, with their gangster vests, hip hop caps, and muscly physique, and passed the evening trying to one-up each other on the greatest ever motorbike ride, the biggest fall, the best mechanical fix, the best beer, and always greeting the claims of the other with an incredulous put-down.  Skinny Djavu, the fastest man on a pacy football pitch, one of the only Congolese I knew who would always try to ride a bicycle to the top of a hill, and the best driver with the most real stories, just grinned into the fire with his humble smile.

Djavu had earned money in his younger days in Kisangani much as I had as a student in Cambridge – resurrecting forgotten bicycles.  However, squatting in a sprawl of bicycle parts on our wasting colonial veranda, with the sky reddening behind the palm trees, I quickly discovered that he had been forced to be much more resourceful than me – what I had needed a specialist tool for, he taught me how to do with the careful placement of an old screwdriver or a deft flick of the wrist.  With no jig or frame, he showed me how to thread spokes and build wheels – truing wheels requires a lot of concentration and practice, but mainly, I began to understand, the wisdom of a patient man like Djavu.

Punia International Airport

Punia International Airport

 

Just like Kindu, Punia’s airstrip is a lifeline, albeit one accessible only to those who can pay the fares – for everyone else, goods are pushed one week through the jungle from Kisangani, on the back of heavily laden bicycles pushed by muscly young ‘tolekistes’.

Over a barely passable mud ridge, Punia International Airport is a red strip hewn out of the jungle.  A few flights each week alight here, shared between our own supplies of medicines, fuel and vehicle parts; and between the merchants loading cassiterite (tin ore) for the return journey.  Cassiterite is the main economy in Punia – mined on the surface in large temporary camps in the forests.  The camps are entirely informal, villages of bamboo and rags, populated by unemployed travellers, whose payment is per kilogram from the merchants in town, amounting to an average of less than $4 per day.    From the frequency of flights going out of the two airstrips in the district, I estimate that 3,000 tons of cassiterite leave Punia annually, containing approximately 70% tin at a market price of $15-20,000 per ton, or an estimated $140,000 per day.

I sense the locals are entirely unaware of the global tin market, but there is an unfocussed sense of disgruntlement – mining is very unpopular, and Punia’s residents are highly xenophobic – assuming that all foreigners, Congolese or expatriate, health workers or engineers alike, have arrived to mine and profiteer.  Sometimes people throw stones at the bicycles arriving at the airstrip laden with cassiterite, and the two most recent incidents of public unrest in Punia were outside the small rooms of the mining companies, protesting abut territorial and operational rights for a site 25km out of town.

At the airport, the merchants want to use the return journeys of our medical flights to load cassiterite – on the first such occasion, they shouted, crowded and intimidated in trying to force the goods onto the plane.  Practically, it made sense to use the empty planes – but I knew how hard it was to persuade locals into the health centres, and, in this context, any association with mining would spell failure for our projects.

Once the rules of the game were established, we spent many hours in the VIP lounge with the miners and local dignitaries, wiling away the unknown time waiting for a cargo – sometimes radio and telephone communications were so limited that we wouldn’t know when a plane was arriving, or even at which airstrip.  Once, for two consecutive days, we moved several tons of medicines and construction material to the airstrip, destined for Kasese, an even more remote outpost than Punia, only to discover that the flight had been bumped, replaced by violent thunderstorms and torrential downpours.   It was some recompense to our tired eyes that the airport was an architectural monument – the VIP lounge had been designed in the same shared space as the departure lounge, arrivals hall, and passport control.  This main concourse, under half the shade offered by the jungle canopy, consisted of two broken bamboo benches and a small table.

Customs turned out to be the infant reception committee who chase the plane down the runway as it takes off again.   Immigration is more real, a small hut in town, containing a broken pencil guarded proudly by a character who gives expert lectures on his own self-importance, although, since we were his only immigrants, we eventually persuaded himself, and his pencil, to join the VIP lounge festivities each week.

The airstrip began to grow on me – at night, as with Kindu, it was a quiet place to run into the sunset without half the village chasing, while by day it spoke Punia’s commercial and political story in its long waits, fraught encounters and lucky escapes – I had once watched as an overloaded Russian Antonov grazed the trees at the end of the runway.  And even Punia’s gateway to the outside world, the vortex in the jungle, seemed to want to close – once, we left the airstrip for one month without any shipments, and the vegetation was already a metre high.

I enjoyed flying even more – especially in the early morning, when the long light breaks over the horizon, and the forest beneath is taking its daily breath, exhaling gentle wisps of steam that sit below the sky.   And comedy Fred, our Congolese-American bush pilot, was a local hero – he knew how to land on the road at the next base, he had been involved in several rescue operations for planes (a lamentably common occurrence, more than once down to adventurous young pilots hitting cables along the river), and he was usually surrounded by a fan club of admiring local mamas at each stop.  Unlike some pilots in Congo, unwanted overspill from the Russian forces or mercenaries from South Africa, he also had a religious devotion to engine maintenance and loading regulations – Fred only ever got angry if he felt a box was inaccurately weighed or misplaced in his cargo hold.

Once, having cleared the trees at the end of the runway, I found myself alone on the twin-engine plane with Fred and his co-pilot.  Fred beckoned me forward, and offered me the controls.  It was like steering a ship – a delayed reaction, and even finer movements.  After I felt confident keeping the plane on the level and bearing, I started to look at the instrumentation, and asked about an ominous rage of green on the radar screen.  Fred made me turn towards it, and left me to control the plane as it dropped and bucked through the cloud.  Relieved to regain the skyline at the other side, I was suddenly very interested in emergency procedures.  I asked Fred what happens if he lost an engine.  Promptly, Fred turned off one of the engines, and, with his hands calmly folded in his lap beneath the dual controls, expected me level the plane.  I resolved not to ask any further questions – but, drained in body and mind as I handed over to Fred above the peaceful waters of Lake Kivu, I pondered that we might all learn a lot quicker for the bravery of such teaching methods.

Broccoli Battles

Broccoli Battles

 

My new existence is in Punia, several hundred miles into the centre of Congo and Conrad’s famed ‘heart of darkness’.  To Goma, an hour’s flight, with no gaps in the broccoli fields below.  Three roads lead out of Punia, all only passable by motorbike after meeting the first of many rivers to cross by dugout canoe.  To the East, Goma, Uganda and Rwanda lie four days’ ride away. Two days to the South, Kindu is the last outpost of the railway to Lumumbashi and Zambia, a single-track line on which the UN recently lost a train, with no communications to ascertain where it had broken down in the forest.   To the North, it is another two days down the winding red tracks to the wide boulevards of Kisangani, last staging point on the river before the rapids arrest any further passage.  If history had written another story, Punia could have been a trading town on a great North-South corridor from Kisangani to Zambia and onwards, but instead it is an awkward scar, an island in a jungle the size of Western Europe.

I met a French Engineer working on the roads in the centre – a murram road has been creeping south from Kisangani – but maintenance is unlikely  – the distances are vast, the villagers sparse, and the jungle hungry.  Within 18 months, he advised, a brand new road would be back to a motorbike track – Congo has a very short memory for such development.   I sensed that these crucial lifelines, the empty mud staircases that wind between the river valleys, with their infinite miles of close jungle walls, would become a very familiar friend over the coming months.

I quickly discovered that we are the major employer in Punia, at the moment employing 30 from a mud-hut town of 20,000 people.  On principle, we aim to work closely in partnership with the local health ministry.  I quickly learned that the local leader here obstructs whatever he can.  He owns one of two cars in town – the other is owned by the hospital boss, who regularly crashes it.  With the local health authorities, We were here to help run 28 health centres – providing monthly supplies of medicines and medical equipment; training for the nurses and doctors; and construction and rehabilitation projects. By any global standards, healthcare is a cornerstone of progress – and, in Punia, the level is as low as it gets – although the locals don’t lose sleep over it.  I don’t even need statistics to notice it – my staff fall ill far more commonly than I am used to, and the death of family members becomes a frequent occurrence. The hospital has empty wards, filthy latrines, and a lot of doctors doing nothing.  The field clinics are typically mud huts, with a few bamboo beds, seeing 10-15 patients per day for populations of several thousand, admitting some overnight, fussing little over death and running the roulette of whether medicines are available or not.  A nurse had recently been caught performing unnecessary surgeries to earn money – at our intervention, the villagers protested, having no idea that the surgeries were unnecessary. Resting from these early rounds, I sat on the veranda as the sun set over the bamboo fence.  The strains of Michael Jackson’s ‘It don’t matter if you’re black or white’ floated across the garden, and I wondered how badly the words fitted in Congo.  Then, marching in protest, we are invaded by an army of safari ants.   This is no small issue – the ants are so thick that they change the garden to a deep brown carpet, and one step in this sea will cover the unknowing victim with a swarm of biting soldiers.  Our trim and well-tailored visiting doctor from Brazzaville put on her own silent disco, arms and legs flailing, face contorted in uncomprehending yelps, and I finally understood the phrase ‘ants in the pants’.  They can be warded off with paraffin, and, just as the strains of ‘Earth Song’ bizarrely swam out over the veranda, it was all hands to the pump, rushing madly around painting a protective fence of paraffin and petrol to prevent the marauding army from conquering the house.  Covered in sticky sweat and fuel, with the dammed river turning off towards the jungle, I collapsed in bed, pleased to add the safari ants, to my roll of Punia battle honours, thus far extending to a face-sized moth and an avocado of a hornet.

Into the Heart

Into the Heart

 

This month, I write from our remotest field site, in Pangi, central Congo, final destination in a journey to trace the aid industry from source to sea, from one of Europe’s greatest cities to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  It has been a slow journey – six months in London working on supply spreadsheets and donning T-shirts to persuade the well-heeled folks away from their hard-earned pennies; to Goma where the boxed medicines transit through vast warehouses; through sleepy Kindu where the convoys return battered and tired from their long adventures to the jungle clinics.   From Kindu, the journey to Pangi is a two-day motorbike ride – across the wide River Congo in a dugout canoe, and over 17 small bridges of rusting metal or rotting tree trunks, often too slippery to ride and barely wide enough to walk.

Our function is to cajole the community into providing some construction materials for their new clinic.  There are a number of reasons for this – first, it would be time-consuming, dangerous and expensive to transport sand and wood from Kindu, when these materials are locally available in abundance.  Secondly, if the community has no involvement in their new health centre, no knowledge of its function or vested interest in its upkeep, then it will become an over-engineered goat shed – ensuring that the construction becomes a collective community project is a useful strategy in ensuring that the health centre takes its place at the heart of a community.  And communities might be forgiven for being inactive and skeptical – the Belgians took, Mobutu neglected, aid agencies will leave when their funding stops, and the UN drives through in heavy convoys and breaks their  bridges – the villages need to fight for their school or health centre themselves if it is to function for them.

Here, the community were responsive – the lack of activity prior to our trip had been a simple lack of communication, where they simply didn’t know what type of sand we wanted or what size of planks would be hewn from the surrounding forest.  Evolving from playful few minutes spent with the chief’s young son, it was the women who proved far more active in organizing activities, who went to find their husbands with saws and spades, and who returned with a delegation of workers to find and transport the materials.

Pangi itself is an odd little town – out base is housed in a dilapidated house on a rolling colonial hillside, an tranquil open space nested in the jungle, with the children climbing the palm trees and playing football. Over the way are the offices of the security services, a two storey house with graffiti and boarded up windows, not dissimilar to the squats I used to see on the way to Cambridge station.   Our team at Pangi is a breath of fresh air – they are relatively young and energetic, and work with initiative and enthusiasm. In Pangi they live a tough life, many of them away from family and friends, and they are concerned for the continuity and capacity of the project, which is constantly limited by inadequate support and communications.

One evening, as usual, we sat on the steps looking at sun setting through the bamboo, when we heard a huge explosion from about a kilometre away. Pangi is relatively peaceful now, too far away from anywhere to be of interest to the warmongers, and after talking with our guards, it transpired that this was the work of the Congolese Bomb Disposal squad. I soon learn that these munitions experts are in fact villagers. They had found an old bomb left over from the 1996 conflict, and had decided to dispose of it: the bomb was placed in the middle of a large clump of green bamboo, doused in petrol, and burned.

On the return journey some weeks later, racing the incoming storm through the jungle, we were hailed down twice: once to be offered roasted corn by the family of one of the motorbike drivers, and once by a villager who had picked up a wallet dropped by our construction manager, and wanted to return it.   Myself, I often started to dream on the motorbike, and wondered if we could pull in the big name cyclists for a Tour de Congo.  As long as they didn’t mind riding 1950s Indian bikes and carrying some palm oil for the market, I reckoned it would work.

River Congo

River Congo

 

I write this month’s update under a straw shelter in Kindu, the small town on the banks of the Congo river where there are at many different kinds of destructive ant, and where I am relieved that you can still get Primus beer, whose colourful dancing girls adorn the Sunday best suits of the churchgoers.  Here, you can walk the streets at night, and even the soldiers seem to have a smile instead of a scowl.

Kindu is the logistical hub for our 145 health centres in Maniema province, central Congo.    The work is long, and there are simply not enough hours in the day – we are a handful working with a multi-million dollar budget, supporting clinics that are sometimes days away through the jungle. The tired fleet of 20 motorbikes and 7 landcruisers, constantly battered by the daily journeys into the jungle, needs a regular supply of parts and mechanical inventiveness.   In addition, there is a warehouse and monthly distribution schedule of 300 medical line items to be managed, with the procurement for the medicines, vehicle parts, construction supplies down to pencils and toilet paper, and a team of warehouse keepers, guards, nurses, mechanics and drivers to be managed.  I notice a stark reduction, in comparison to Goma, in the experience and ability of these teams.   Systems to make sense out of the chaos, to track materials and supplies and plans, are desperately needed, and the implementation of which is in constant battle against the firefighting tasks of the day.

But I do not work alone – indeed, there are some quick learners here, and I discover that time spent working with and training staff has quick rewards here.  My weekly meetings turn into an entertaining line-up of misfits and eccentrics – so much so that my standards of normality for Congolese worker bees are quickly readdressed.  There is the willowy, drunk fleet manager, swaying in the wind, who has no concept of planning and organization for the management of a large fleet, but who does have an uncanny knack for sucking through blocked fuel hoses.  His partner-in-crime, seeking to usurp him from his lofty throne, tries to steal vehicle parts or fuel to sell, often with the most comically see-through stories.  Standing in his way is the surly warehouse manager who guards his store like the Bastille. The two items  that most often pass through, and are most often stolen, are fuel and cement. Ironically, he is chronically allergic to both of them.  At the head of the team, commanding a simple intellectual respect from his children, is the professorial figure of the head logistician, man of meticulous academic nature, scrupulous honesty, and the longest working day of all.

The only other force with the power to unite the professor’s squabbling children, is the expatriate engineer in charge of construction activities.  Rudolfo is a an die-hard Chilean communist who bears a passing resemblance to Father Christmas, and spent two years in jail under Pinochet.  He shouts, swears, accuses everyone of corruption, and calls all his interns ‘Maria’.  He took in a young Congolese who approached him in the streets of Kinshasa, housed him and funded him through university, and watched him become an advisor to the President.  All of the staff fancied their chances as Rudulfo impressionists, uniting the mechanics’ yard in uncontrollable waves of laughter, and immortalizing his rants in Kindu folklore.

Rudolfo believed strongly in young people – in investing time, money and energy in their training, and expects them to do the same for others.  He spent three days in front of a flip chart teaching me the principles of construction in the bush – but he seemed unable to extend that trust to the national staff.  He remained convinced that foul play abounded at every turn, and would refuse to sign any documents for procurement, for release from the warehouse, or for anything that would see work go ahead on the ground.  I think he was tired of Congo’s way, of the game played by its own rules – I was quickly learning that the game was played by the unofficial acceptance of a five percent rule – that, for the sake of getting a good job done at all, of walking before running, a blind eye is turned to a small loss.

After the trials of the day, I sometimes go down to the airfield.  During the day, it is a lifeline for Maniema, the only access point from any of the other major towns in Congo.  Working under the midday sun to offload supplies from medicines to chickens, the muscled labourers are witty and untroubled – once a shipment is loaded, they sit high on the truck swigging home brew and shouting rude comments at passers-by, unknowing participants in a global habit.

As the activity dies down, and the runway transforms into a place of relaxation – an empty hole in the jungle, where we escape to run and play football undisturbed.   At the far end of the runway, only the sunset is visible over the leafy canopy, usually broken by clouds , which covering the sky in spectrums of different colours, and often explode in powerful lightning storms.

Logistical Rites

Logistical Rites

 

Like the armies hiding in the hills, the geography here is volatile, and respects no boundaries. Far above the jungle, gazing down upon the small villages poking out from the holes in the jungle, I lost the border as it wove in and out of the hills on its way to the misty Ruwenzori mountains. The smoke rising from the open mountaintop craters and the scars in the jungle left by the wide lava flows served as a reminder that the rock is still young.  Where land turns into lake, the long slopes slide into the water like a giant fist soothing her knuckles after a fight, respite perhaps between the eternal brawls. My avian viewpoint was from one of the many small planes that bypass Congo’s knotted forest tracks, on my way to the eastern border town of Butembo, 1600m up in highlight, where even the mosquitoes leave you alone.  Butembo is a bustling and colourful town, on the main trade route between Uganda and Kisangani in Central Congo, where everyone wears a high-vis jacket. On 60km of winding murram track from the airstrip there were travelers at every turn, bicycles being pushed up hills and freewheeled down loaded with bananas, sugar cane or palm oil.  Butembo seems cleaner and prouder than downtrodden and world-weary Goma, and the lack of military presence was an immediate relief.

The base in Butembo proved to be a hive of activity, with lorries toing and froing for construction in 10 different clinics.  The much-adored office kitten, for reasons written in the folklore of office humour, was called Mobutu – it was a refreshing thought that this was one dictator who was scared of me.

Behind Mobutu’s litter tray in the corner of the base lay a tired relic of past adventures, a battered Landcruiser with grass taking seed on the bonnet.  Pondering on how this camel might have acquired its dents and humps, I received a call from Goma, that other world six hours to the south: ‘You know that broken flowerpot of a car in Butembo – we’ve got a chance to fix it, send it to us today’.   A flat bed truck, barely larger than the landcruiser, materialized, and I threw myself into a frantic chase around town, from agricultural merchants to the barbed wire and blue helmets of the UN forces.  We quickly discovered that Butembo has no winches, no lifting platforms, no cranes, no block and tackle – nothing in fact to aid the transfer of large vehicle onto the truck bed.  Sneaking shame-faced back into the office past the mechanic who had already repaired the punctures, remounted the wheels, and started on the brakes, we sat in consultation with Mobutu.

An hour later, we returned with the glint of a beautiful plan in our eyes, and a pair of thick red hardwood planks upon our shoulders.  We would tow the landcruiser up the hill, and carefully roll it into the bed of the waiting truck. By mid-afternoon and several brake failures later, I was simply thankful only that we had avoided sending several tons of landcruiser through the market.   Back on the main street in front of the office, and a large crowd was gathering, mainly of people with their own foolproof method of getting the car into the truck, but jostling with a generous proportion of local comedians attracted by the rotten smell of imminent collapse.  Half an hour later, the air thick with diesel fumes, planks cracked and logs in disarray, crowds dispersed for fear of crushing, communication and comedians drowned by the revving on an engine on its limit, our car rolled into the bed of the truck with a disconcerting thud.  Also lacking brakes, the truck leapt forward five metres with its new cargo, and a resounding cheer erupted from Butembo’s populace.  A far cry from last year, when I had sat in my university exam halls trying to coax a malfunctioning heap of remembrances on African history onto a very empty sheet of paper.

Back in Goma, and I learned that on the strength of such sound fleet management experience, I would be sent to Maniema, one of the central provinces on the Congo river, to find similar solutions for the ailing motorbikes and failing transport network.  Clearly showing a bit too much enthusiasm about the prospect, one of my kinder colleagues takes me aside to warn me that the base for which I am destined is accessible only after crossing the wide river by dugout canoe and riding two days and 17 collapsed bridges by motorbike.

In the meantime, I take a quiet weekend trip to Rwanda, listening to the waves lap on the shore of Lake Kivu, and the music that alternates between the happy chanting of schoolchildren and the loud rhythms of Congolese hip hop.  There is a blue-headed lizard playing games with its partner on the tree next to me, and a farmer is silhouetted on the hillside as he digs around the water pump.   It is a far cry from Rwanda’s turmoil of fifteen years ago, where I hear from an ex-Canadian Mountie, who spent ten years arresting and interrogating the perpetrators of the genocide, that one man he interviewed rode to work every day on a minibus driven by the man who killed his family.   Although, I hear from Butembo that construction has been put on hold, the health centres rendered inaccessible as the rebels take control of one of the villages en route, torching 200 homes.  It seems so gratuitous, unnecessary – I know that I am a long way from understanding how such flames are lit here.