D. R. of Congo: Miracle-peddlars, musical hippos and scary lightbulbs

Probably the most consistently interesting Congolese blog is kept by Cédric Kalonji [Fr], whose photographs and commentary bear humorous but often sorrowful witness to the struggles of ordinary life in Kinshasa, the country's heavily populated, run-down capital.

Returning from a recent visit to Europe, Cédric found himself wondering whether the remarkable ability of the Congolese to adapt to hardship might in fact be part of the problem, in troubling times:

Au lieu de se révolter, au lieu de refuser ce qui est anormal, nous cherchons des solutions de dépannage et nous allons tous les jours de plus en plus loin. …Je me demande si le Congo renaîtra un jour de ses cendres. Maintenant il faut faire attention quand on aborde certains sujets. Trop ouvrir sa bouche sur certaines vérités devient dangereux. On risque sa vie.

Instead of revolting, instead of refusing to accept what isn't normal, we go further every day to find makeshift solutions. …I ask myself if Congo will one day be reborn from its ashes. Nowadays one has to be careful about raising certain topics. Saying too much about certain truths is becoming dangerous. One risks one's life.

Perhaps conscious of his growing readership (following an article about him in Le Monde [Fr]), Cédric worries about how he should portray his country:

J’avoue que j’expose le plus souvent de choses qui ne vont pas dans mon pays mais sur ce Blog, je ne fais que parler de ce que je vis personnellement au jour le jour selon mon humeur du jour ou du moment. Je ne vais pas fouiner pour trouver ce qui ne va pas et je ne vais pas vers l’information. Tout ce que j’écris, je le vis moi-même.

I admit that I give more coverage to things that aren’t going well in my country, but on this blog, I only speak of what I see personally from day-to-day, according to my mood at the time. I’m not going to nose around to look for problems and I won't seek information. Everything that I write about, I've seen for myself.

As a case in point, Cédric recently recognised the face of a friend from primary school on a poster promoting ‘a great crusade of evangelism and miraculous recovery’. He notes that his friend inherited the church and the business from his father.

Commenting on this in Congo Connect [Fr], Hélène, a Congolese woman living in Canada, was outraged:

Franchement! Où est passé le discernement chez le peuple congolais ? Pourquoi continue-t-il à croire en ces nombreux escrocs qui se font passer pour des pasteurs et prophètes. Au lieu de prôner l’esprit de l’autosuffisance, ils dépouillent les poches des pauvres gens en échange ils leur promettent des miracles, le travail, le mariage, la richesse, le voyage en Europe…

Really! What has happened to the judgement of the Congolese? Why do they continue to believe in these numerous con-artists that pretend to be priests and prophets? Instead of preaching the spirit of self-sufficiency, they empty the pockets of the poor in exchange for promises of miracles, jobs, marriage, wealth, trips to Europe…

‘One of Africa's most beautiful voices’
Photo courtesy of Atamato (WildlifeDirect)

The indomitable team of Congo Rangers continue to report on their conservation efforts in eastern D R Congo. Atamato reveals how he has named the pods of hippos that he watches after Congo’s greatest musicians. Paulin has posted a series of pictures on his blog, Gorilla Protection, illustrating the threat posed to the forest by charcoal burning. And Ash Vosper shares his diary of a remarkable river journey by motorised pirogue (dugout) through remote areas in search of wild Bonobos:

During the night we came to within a few kilometers of Katopa. They heard the outboard motor coming up river and fled into the forest. How odd! Anyway we came on in the morning and all is calm now. When we arrived and they realized we were “safe” the women broke into song. Apparently they were singing “papa has arrived, the famine is over”. Expectations are a bit high, I’d say.

Like all the villages, they hunt bushmeat and hardly fish at all. And, like in Obenge, traders arrive with goods and depart with bushmeat. I’ve seen one transaction already today!

Lots of hunting dogs here and lots of children. I always forget, in these isolated places there are hardly any old people. People die young.

Have to add this: Just turned on the generator and all the children ran away. They looked really scared. They are still nervous about the lightbulb that came on. Katopa has been isolated for a long time!

We'll finish this tour d’horizon with three contrasting sets of photographs: On Kivu Express [Fr], a Québécois architect called Pierre shows us the beautiful but difficult mountain route between Bukavu, on Lake Kivu, and Uvira, on Lake Tanganika. Back in the big city of Kinshasa, Danny Masson [Fr] is overcome by a colourful opera production and Du Cabiau à Kinshasa documents the banners which announce everything from…

…le dernier “bla-bla” des Nations Unies, le retour au pays d’une idole locale, un rallye de guérisons-miracles ou le nouveau prix du Coca-Cola… quelques mètres de tissu, un peintre, un acrobate et le tour est joué!

…the latest waffle from the UN, the triumphant return of a local idol, a miracle-healing rally or the new price of Coca-Cola… a few metres of cloth, a painter, an acrobat and Bob’s your uncle!


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