D.R. of Congo: Fifth fatal crash in under a year, food prices the real disaster

News agencies are reporting that 75 were killed when a cargo plane crashed in Goma shortly after takeoff on Tuesday. An overloaded cabin may have been the cause. It's the fifth fatal plane crash since June 2007.

Last October, Du Cabiau à Kinshasa, responding to a plane crash in a poor district of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, wrote, ominously: “This crash was not the first…it will not be the last” (Fr).

Sadly, these words have proved prophetic. In the wake of this latest disaster, Cabiau reflects on how a plane crash can bring attention to the DRC, generally ignored by Western media, even though it's reeling from one of the greatest human disasters in a century.

C'est bien connu, un arbre (…ou un avion) qui tombe fait plus de bruit qu'une forêt qui pourrit. Et en matière de douleurs oubliées, la RDC a déjà donné. Le pays vient de connaître le conflit le plus meurtrier depuis la seconde guerre mondiale sans émouvoir outre mesure les médias occidentaux. Un avion qui tombe suscite l'émoi et l'intérêt journalistique. Comme les moines tibétains, c'est un symbole fort qui touche les gens. Alors les voix se lèvent et l'opinion s'indigne… un peu.

It is well-known that a tree (…or an airplane) that falls makes a louder sound than a rotting forest. And in terms of forget sufferings, the DRC has already delivered. This country has just gone through the deadliest conflict since World War II, without really moving the Western media. An airplane that falls from the sky provokes emotion and journalistic interest. Like the Tibetan monks, it's a strong symbol that touches people. So voices are raised and the public becomes indignant…just a little.

Je ne conteste pas la pertinence de certaines causes médiatiques. Mais je constate seulement qu'il y a deux poids, deux mesures. L'Afrique souffre en silence de ses trous noirs (dixit BHL qui pour une fois avait raison). Ces concentrations de misère et de douleur auxquelles personne ou presque ne s'intéresse. Les victimes somaliennes ou congolaises ne bénéficiceront jamais du feu des médias… pas l'ombre d'une caméra. Ils faut croire que ces dizaines de milliers de femmes violées, ces centaines de villages pillés et ces populations terrorisées méritent moins de considération. Je n'arrive pas à comprendre pourquoi.

I'm not contesting the appropriateness of some of the media's motives. I am only saying that there are two measures, two standards. Africa suffers in its black holes of silence (dixit BHL is right for once). This concentration of pain and misery which no one or almost no one cares about. Somali or Congolese victims never benefit from the bright light of the media…not a hint of a single camera. The tens of thousands of women who have been raped, the hundreds of villages pillaged, their populations terrorized, merit less consideration. I don't understand why.

Skyrocketing food prices: the real (less photogenic) disaster in the making

Aujourd'hui, le nouveau drame vient de la flambée des prix. Des millions de personnes voient la famine fondre sur elles. Mais il faut attendre des émeutes pour que les consiences se réveillent… un peu. Ce matin, je lisais dans la presse locale : “En moins d’une semaine, les prix des produits de première nécessité ont quasi doublé sur le marché kinois. Les mamans déboussolées ne savent plus à quel saint se vouer”…La mesure de farine de manioc est soudainement passée de 100 à 150 fc, celle de maïs de 150 à 200 fc. Le sucre a augmenté de 25% en quelques jours et les haricots de 50%.

Today, a new drama comes with the rise of food prices. Millions of people watch as famine descends on them. But they must wait until there are riots before people wake up…a little. This morning, I read in the local press: “In less than one week, the price of staple foods have nearly doubled in Kinshasa. Bewildered mothers don't know to which saint they ought to pray”…[the price of] cassava flour is more than 100-150 Congolese francs, corn flour is 150-200 francs. [The price of] sugar has risen 25% in a few days, beans 50%.

C'est moins impressionnant que la chute d'un Antonov et pourtant les conséquences risquent d'être bien plus catastrophiques. A croire que Jean Ziegler [sic] a prêché dans le désert…

This is less impressive than an Antonov [airplane] falling from the sky, and yet the consequences will likely be far more catastrophic. It as if Jean Ziegler [UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food] were preaching in the desert


  • There was the vanity Fair article last year celebrating the daredevil airlines, antique planes and pilots in the Congo. As necessary as aircraft are for travel in the vast country, the authorities need to institute standards, upgrade airstrips and enforce a ban on unsafe planes.

  • Artwork Censored in China

    SF Bay area artist Nancy Worthington’s artwork, “Gateway To Hope” has been censored from the international women’s exhibit, Her Presence in Colours VIII–Beijing 2008, taking place in April 2008 at the China National Art Gallery. On March 25, 2008, Ms. Worthington received a phone call and e-mail from the Conservatory of Fine Arts (exhibition coordinators in Malaysia) telling her that “Gateway To Hope” was being censored by the China National Censorship Board because of its political context. (Although works by other artists, which contained political content such as opposition to the Iraqi war and Palestinian-Israeli conflict, were left in the show.)

    Nancy Worthington’s artwork was accepted in October 2007 into the exhibition organized by the International Women Artists – China (INWAA-China) and the Beijing Women Artists Association. Nancy Worthington was one of 8 artists representing the United States in this exhibition. Artists were asked to submit an artwork that “reflects an issue that is related to the theme: Dream of Peace.” Ms. Worthington created “Gateway To Hope” specifically for the theme of world peace, and the image was posted on the Her Presence in Colours website (www.art-her.com) in January 2008, in the USA artists’ list. “Gateway To Hope” has now been replaced by “Elvis Solid Gold”–which has nothing to do with the exhibition theme.

    For more information: go to Nancy Worthington’s website at: http://www.domjoy.com and click on site news.

  • BRE

    Actually, there has been quite a bit of coverage in the Western media over the past few years about the plight of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, so the charge by Cabiau that people in North America or Europe are unaware of what is happening in the DRC is way off the mark. I can’t vouch for the Belgian press and media coverage of the Congo(s), but I would presume that they too are on top of certain events there.

    Passenger air service in the DRC has been abysmal for decades, and again the international press and media have covered these stories adequately. The only truly reliable air service within the country is provided by a handful of private companies and entrepreneurial bush pilots flying small, short-range propeller-driven aircraft. Of course one can hitch a ride on an old Antonov plane piloted by some of Viktor Bout’s boys and other enterprising ex-Soviet flyboys operating in the country. These flights are primarily for the transport of cargo (illicit gold, cassiterite, small arms, and diamonds) so passengers stand a good chance of getting bumped-off the flight (in mid-air) if things get a little hot on takeoff.

    As far as boarding a McDonnell Douglas DC9-51 aeroplane in the Congo: the DC-9 series of jet aircraft was one of the great success stories in aviation, with over 2400 units manufactured up to the last aircraft delivery in 1982. There are still plenty of DC-9’s in service today around the world, all over 30 years old, and they do require regular expert maintenance in order to takeoff, stay airborne, and land safely. This most likely is the reason for the the Goma crash of April 15th, poor periodic maintenance and no spare parts to replace broken systems.

    The airline operator Hewa Bora Airways has been blacklisted (banned) from operating in European airspace since October 2006. As a matter of fact, “All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight of the Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC) are banned.”

  • […] Du Cabiau à Kinshasa, ruminated on a more silent, less telegenic disaster facing the country: the doubling of food prices in the same […]

  • […] piuttosto su un disastro più sottile, meno telegenico che il Paese doveva affrontare: il raddoppio dei prezzi alimentari nella stessa […]

  • […] حتی در ان لحظه ای که یک هواپیمای باربری در 15 اوریل در کینشاسا سقوط کرد و 75 نفر کشته شدند بلاگر کنکویی در کینشاسا ،دو کبیو،به یک فاجعه ای که ان کشور با ان اشنایی داشت فکر می کرد. فاجعه ای که رسانه ها کتر به آن توجه دارند و “خفیفتر” از سقوط هواپیما بوده: دو برابر شدن قیمت مواد غذایی در مدت یک هفته.   […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.