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In my last post, I rhetorically asked how much more could the people take. The response was clear. Very little. Civilians have now responded by effectively shutting down all activity in both Beni and Butembo.

https://www.africanews.com/2021/04/08/strike-over-civilian-massacres-brings-dr-congo-s-east-to-a-halt/

A key demand of the protesters is the expulsion of UN (MONUSCO) personnel from Congo due to their utter ineffectiveness. People have complained that the soldiers won’t go 50 meters from their bases. This blog has long noted the disrepute the Congolese hold for the UN, including here and here and here.

Scenes such as the following video are commonplace now. My assumption is that the the Islamist ADF are the perpetrators of this slaughter and the Congo army is there just for the clean up while the crowd chants their displeasure in the background. I continue to use Rumble as YouTube would not permit the uploading of this video.

Gunshots presumably fired in the air by the army were used to clear the streets in Beni in this video:

The magnitude of the civilian uprising in Butembo can be seen in this video:

Protesters in Butembo want to see MONUSCO gone!

The violence continues in eastern Congo with a growing savagery. Another dozen people were killed today, on top of dozens last week. Decapitation and the mutilation of innocents has been commonplace.

The region from Oicha in the north down to Butembo in the south was recently brought to a virtual standstill as citizens protested the unending violence. People have had enough and can take little more. Angry youths placed barricades across some streets, which were later removed by police. Shops were closed, schools failed to open and streets were deserted as people protested.

There are still 18,000 UN “peacekeepers” in Congo, but people question what they are doing. According to the Economist, “All helmet and no mettle”. That would be a polite description related to their failure to control the violence.

There had been a call for more African peacekeepers, but that hasn’t transpired. The UN mission continues to be a job creation technique for developing world soldiers who don’t want to be there.

The Congo army has long shown itself to be incapable of dealing with the terrorists. The UN is better equipped but lacks the motivation to take any risks. There is very little reason for hope at the moment.

I have received horrific photos of death and mutilation, a hallmark of the Islamist terrorists. I debate with myself the wisdom of posting them as the regular media would never display them for valid reasons. I think they need to be shown. This isn’t a children’s blog. These photos have been sent to me because Congolese want these pictures shown. They want the world to understand the ongoing terror in their lives. And I assure you that I haven’t picked the worst pictures.

I truly admire entrepreneurs in Congo. It has to be tough! Most of the world takes so many things for granted. Life in eastern Congo simply isn’t quite so easy. The lack of physical security, electricity, running water, banking are only a few examples of challenges facing entrepreneurs (and everyone else too!)

Masika Tsongo Denise has been running Savon Gloria, a soap manufacturing and distribution business for years. She employs a lot of people. For Congo to lift itself up and not be dependent on foreign aid, this is the kind of business that needs to succeed. Congo needs to be self sufficient where ever practical to avoid the need to import such items. Manufacturing commonly used items needed by everyone makes a lot of sense.

While there are many compassionate needs that we respond to, at BensInCongo where possible we want to support ventures that allow local Congolese to provide for themselves. The sewing project at the school for orphans is providing revenue from their sewing in addition to provide training. The chicken, duck and goat projects naturally replicate wealth in the form of more chicken, ducks and goats. Our support for the entrepreneurs in the Butembo market is directly funding the orphan Dieula. Some projects haven’t been as successful as others, but no one said being an entrepreneur was easy.

Masika wanted to expand her business and James Kataliko was able to connect us. Seeing that her goals and business were aligned with us, we reached an agreement on a multi-year microloan. With the proceeds of the loan, Masika purchased a new generator plus some additional operational items. The extruded soap shown below will go through wire saws to properly size them for sale in the market. You can see the new generator being pressed into use in the video below.

Back in 2016, we highlighted a four year girl with no arms and only one leg. We directed some funds to her back then and James Kataliko has provided some further funds since then. https://bensincongo.com/2016/10/01/samiela/

Through the good work of Heal Africa, Samiela has been provided with a prosthesis to enable her to walk. A shout out to Dr. Kasereka “Jo” Lusi, an orthopedic surgeon who travelled from Goma to Butembo and to the Catholic hospital in Butembo who attended to Samiela. Dr Lusi was a co-founder of Heal Africa (Health, Education, Action and Leadership) which grew to be the largest teaching hospital in Goma.

The following video from 2016 demonstrates her incredible spunk as a four year old.

Dr Jo Lusi of Heal Africa

It has been a year since our daughter Michelle left Beijing due to COVID-19, only to be locked down in our Canadian home on her arrival here. This winter, Michelle picked up where she left off last year by shovelling the snow from the driveway of our neighbour Gwen. (Yes, husband Mike sometimes helped too.) We had struck a deal last year with Gwen that she would pay us for the shovelling while we would forward the funds to Congo. https://bensincongo.com/2020/03/07/snow-shovelling-for-kalondo/

Recently, Saasita told us about a woman named Kahindo Vusuvuseka Marguerite who was in hospital at Musienene just south of Butembo. Marguerite is a native of Kalondo. She was widowed and was still traumatized after the recent death of her husband. Now she was getting ready to deliver her fourth child, knowing that her prospects as a widow in Congo were bleak. Saasita was there to help out.

We suggested that a good use of the funds being supplied by Gwen for snow shovelling would be to support Marguerite. Gwen agreed, Saasita agreed and it was quickly arranged to send USD $200 to Saasita for delivery to Marguerite.

Marguerite gave birth to a healthy baby girl and has decided to name the baby Gwen in honour of her benefactress. Thank-you Michelle and Gwen for making this happen!

The Italian Ambassador to the DRC, Luca Attanasio has been murdered while on a fact finding mission on behalf of the UN World Food Programme. His Congolese driver and another Italian were also killed. Their unescorted convoy of seven people in two cars was attacked 15 km north of Goma.

There are questions being raised about the lack of an escort. The convoy was originally kidnapped and all passengers were taken into Virunga National Park, a dense forest notorious for hiding rebels. During a rescue effort by a patrol of park rangers, the ambassador, driver and bodyguard were shot.

Early reports indicate that the FDLR may be responsible, seeking to profit from a paid ransom. This is a Rwandan Hutu group known to be in the area that has caused trouble in Congo since the Rwandan genocide.

In January 1993, French Ambassador Philippe Bernard was killed during riots in Kinshasa sparked by troops opposing former President Mobutu Sese Seke.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-56151600#:~:text=Italy’s%20ambassador%20to%20the%20Democratic,near%20Goma%2C%20a%20statement%20said.

The following photos were received directly from Kijiji Cha Amani.org.

https://www.kijijichaamani.org/rumour/XmHCtf/the-convoy-of-pam-carrying-the-italian-ambassador-has-been

The Kivu Security Tracker (KST) has published a report on the new mapping of armed groups in eastern DRC. In total, they have identified 122 different armed groups, and they have published a description of each of them. The KST is a joint project of the Congo Research Group and Human Rights Watch.

https://kivusecurity.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/reports/39/2021%20KST%20report%20EN.pdf

In recent years, Drs. Philip and Nancy Wood have been alternating between time in Toronto and time in Bunia. You can likely guess which season of the year they plan to be out of Canada, but this year their departure from Toronto was delayed due to COVID-19.

These absolute saints have dedicated their entire lives to helping Africans through their advanced medical training, Philip from Cambridge University and Nancy from University of Toronto. They have fled from civil war in Liberia and sheltered people from tribal slaughter in the unrest during the Nyankunde Massacre. The Toronto Star completed an article on them in 2012 and they are still going strong. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2012/08/20/congo_a_40year_mission_for_toronto_doctor_couple.html

Philip and Nancy created the following video on their recent return to Bunia. Brenda and I stayed with the Woods in 2008 and 2011, while helping them with projects at the hospital. (We first met in Beni in 2006.) This 3.5 minute video is a remarkable refresher of many familiar sites. The lab has new microscopes. My biggest takeaway from the video is the increase in cars in Bunia, even requiring a traffic cop! Downtown Bunia looks to be much more bustling, and the roads are paved! It was always notable how Uganda had cars while Congo had scooters or small motorcycles, but that has now changed.

The following photos were taken in 2008 for a comparison to the video. The first photo is the main street of Bunia looking from the CME lab near the MONUSCO HQ and looking towards the market area. The area still had UN soldiers on guard duty behind barbed wire. Barbed wire and soldiers were everywhere. Today, I understand the barbed wire to be gone yet there are still > 16,000 UN soldiers in Congo. It appears to still be an ongoing employment subsidy project of the UN to finance developing world soldiers.

Saasita has selflessly supported fellow Congolese for many years. She makes our support for the Kalondo health clinic and multiple projects possible here and here and here and here and here and here , promoted healthy hygiene practices in the face of Ebola and COVID-19 and has been involved with many other projects we haven’t posted about. The world needs more Saasitas.

Saasita was recently faced with a serious medical issue that required immediate surgery. We were privileged to provide her with the needed funding so she could access the medical treatment she needed.

Thankfully, she is making a strong recovery. She messaged: Hello dad, I don’t know how to thank you anymore, you saved my life. Today I am in good health, since the day we made the intervention the problem has disappeared. I am strong now despite the convalescence .

Road construction between eastern Congo and various access points in Uganda is set to commence next week. The economic importance of these roads will be significant for both countries.

According to the bilateral agreement with DRC, Uganda will contribute 20% of the total cost of the project estimated at USD $334.5 million, as a measure to boost trade between the two countries.

The roads being built include; Budiba Bridge across River Semuliki with Rwebisengo-Budiba-Bunia Access Road (78Km), Mpondwe/Kasindi-Beni Road (77km), Nebbi-Goli-Bunia Road (197km), Goma-Rutshuru-Bunagana Road (100km) and Bukavu-Goma-Butembo-Beni-Bunia Corridor (758km).

Bens In Congo first reported on this project between DRC and Uganda in November 2019. https://bensincongo.com/2019/11/17/important-road-agreement-signed/ In October 2020, a similar deal in principle was struck to also advance road construction linking South Sudan with DRC and Uganda. There aren’t many roads labeled as “good” in these 2015 maps! (Click to enlarge)

The following video was recorded in 2011 as we travelled south from Bunia to Butembo. As part of a massive deal to obtain Congo resources, China agreed to pave selected roads in the country. The video demonstrates a beautiful Chinese road as you approach Beni from the north (obviously a “good” road per the map). Beni to Butembo is one of the most scenic roads in the world but it has to be travelled at < 25 km per hour (at the most!).

This link is an excellent resource for detail on DRC roads. From this link, you can easily access excellent information for various infrastructure in DRC and other developing nations. https://dlca.logcluster.org/display/public/DLCA/2.3+Democratic+Republic+of+Congo+Road+Network

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