Tag Archives: MONUC

Kindu Paradise

I’ve now been in Maniema Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for two months of a six month humanitarian logistics placement with Medical Emergency Relief International (Merlin). Most of the past two months has been spent in the small city (large town?) of Kindu. Kindu is on the Congo River (though at this point in its epic journey toward the Atlantic Ocean, it’s known as the Lualaba), with a small part of the city on the east bank of the river and the vast majority spread along and away from the west side of the river:

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On the way from the MONUC-controlled airport into Kindu, visitors are greeted by a big sign that says in French, “The revolutionary city of Kindu welcomes you”

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Here’s a map of the eastern part of DRC with Maniema Province in white and Kindu in the middle:

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Kindu’s roads are mostly dirt roads which aren’t in terrific condition, but they’re far better than the ridiculously bad roads in expat-saturated / NGO-saturated Goma. This is looking toward our home just after the car in the distance, on the left hidden behind some trees:

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Looking north along the main drag in “downtown” Kindu:

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Looking south along the main drag, with the MONUC headquarters on the right and the Catholic cathedral in the distance:

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When I first arrived in Kindu, it was still rainy season so rainstorms and lightning were pretty much daily occurrences. At our house, we have a paillotte (think gazebo with straw roof), which offers relatively good protection against the downpours:

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We collect rainwater in a 1000 Litre plastic tank, because the city water doesn’t always work so we need a backup supply. Of course it doesn’t work very well with the lid closed, so a minute after this photo, I opened it:

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There are also cats which appear cute in this photo but in reality are very annoying and catch no rats:

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And there are loads of toads:

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Our office is behind the MONUC headquarters:

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There are also palm trees at the office and a moon in the background:

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As I mentioned at the start of the post, Kindu straddles the Congo River. To cross, the vast majority of people take pirogues. A pirogue is a sort of canoe made by hollowing out a tree trunk. Most are human-powered, with long paddles that seem like oversized spears. Some have Honda outboard motors and charge a bit more for the crossing. They range in size from a capacity of one boatman and zero passengers up to a hundred passengers. Sadly, the biggest pirogue capsized a couple weeks ago, drowning the majority of the passengers on board the overloaded vessel.

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There are two watering holes where the few expats in Kindu, and some upper class Congolese, go for the occasional afternoon beer looking out over the water: Le Palmier which has been flooded since March by the high river…

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…and Vero Beach which is only partly underwater and offers some nice sunset views out over the river:

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April 28th was my birthday, so a fellow intern named Steve made me a Pringles cake (Pringles are a real luxury in Kindu!) and gave me a coconut which was deeelicious!

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Although a Google search for Kindu brings up a few negative reviews, and Tim Butcher wrote rather dismissively of his 2004 visit to the city in his poorly written travel diary Blood river, in fact Kindu in 2010 is a quiet but pleasant city. Some might even call it paradise:

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Flying from Goma to Kindu, DRC

After a few days spent in Goma in mid-March, my flight was arranged and I was able to fly on March 23rd to Kindu, in Maniema Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo on a small UNHAS (UN Humanitarian Air Service) flight. The bureaucracy involved in flying with UNHAS is a bit much, but considering any one-way ticket costs only USD 100, it’s hard to complain.

The day before, I had spent the entire afternoon sitting in the somewhat bleak Goma airport waiting area until someone eventually announced the bad news that the flight was cancelled and rescheduled for the next morning. Come next morning, they weren’t sure if we would fly as there was a storm raging in Kindu and landing would be tough. Luckily we were able to take off a bit late and arrived after an hour and a half in one piece in Kindu, after some rather intense turbulence and driving rain during the flight.

This is the little 15 seat plane that would carry us a few hundred kilometres to Kindu:

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As our small plane taxied along the runway, this larger plane sat lifeless, its belly pressed against the sharp lava rocks from the 2002 volcanic eruption that swept through Goma.

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Goma from the air:

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Some of the nice scenery flying between Goma and Kindu:

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The Congo River (at this point, known locally as the Lualaba) below us:

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Kindu from above:

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A MONUC (UN Mission in the Congo) transport helicopter at the tiny Kindu airport:

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Goma during my brief visit had been relatively cool, dry, and the roads were either dirt or lava rocks. As we stepped out of the plane in Kindu, it was hot, humid, raining like crazy, and the roads were all mud. I was happy to be out of Goma, and happy to have arrived in “Kindu Paradise.”