Democratic Republic of Contrasts
We KAIROS delegates went our separate ways on Saturday, June 29, and no doubt, like me, everyone is reflecting on what we saw and experienced during our 12-day trip. For me, the word “contrasts” applies.
Contrast the wide, newly paved, four-lane highway leading from the airport into the centre of Kinshasa that was built for the Francophonie summit last year, with the pot-holed main street of Bukavu, provincial capital of the province of South Kivu. In Bukavu, the only really good road leads up a hill near the busy port section where, in the rainy season, were it not for the asphalt, there would be nothing but slippery mud. Elsewhere, dirt roads are commonplace.
South Kivu is a land where fertile fields can produce at least two crops a year, but where families fear to live in the countryside because of continuing insecurity. As a result, we saw overcrowded areas on the edges of Bukavu where people are forced to live in a state of uncertainty with little promise of finding employment.
Along the crowded street walked well-dressed men and women, men in suits and ties, women in colourful dresses side-by-side with those carrying produce on their heads to sell, hoping to earn a few francs to ensure another day’s survival.
Middle-class homes stood next to one-room shelters. We could pass by four-star hotels that offered every luxury, but where the laundry was done by hand by someone grateful to have found a paying job.
Everywhere there were cheerful, smiling people in a context of great misery.
Amelia Torrie has worked in education for 30 years. Since retirement, she has volunteered for a number of community organizations. Currently, she is president of the board of Trinity United Church in Bobcaygeon, Ontario. On the KAIROS delegation to DRC, she is representing the United Church of Canada.