|Most common view on computers and phones in Kin this week|
Explaining fully all that has been going in here in Kinshasa over the last week, while people in the U.S. were focused on the State of the Union address and the alleged NFL cheaters, would require more time and history than one blog allows, but here is the "short" story. President Kabila is serving his second term as president of DRC. The next election is scheduled for 2016 and the constitution specifies that a president is limited to two terms. There have been speculation and accusations for some time that supporters of President Kabila would attempt to change the constitution in order to allow him to continue on as president.
A week ago, the National Assembly (comparable to our House of Representatives) passed a bill requiring a census to be completed, and the wording of the bill tied the completion of the census to the presidential election. DRC is huge, mostly rural, and lacking infrastructure. A census could take up to three years to complete and would thus delay the elections. News of this became a catalyst in an already tense environment. With the Senate still facing a vote on the bill, Monday began with news of demonstrations, looting, and unfortunately, injuries and deaths.
Depending on the source, the number of people hurt or killed varies a great deal but there is no dispute that people have died. The government blocked text messaging and internet. A week later, we still cannot send text messages and while internet has been restored to businesses and banks, no one who uses a sim card for their internet data has access yet. MAF has satellite internet, and an unexpected ministry opportunity came up in the way of helping other missionaries get internet communication so they could continue to function and communicate with their staff during the communications blackout.
The Senate vote was delayed more than once but finally on Friday they passed the bill, AFTER modifying it so it now stipulates that the census needs to be taken but is separate from, and cannot interfere with, the election schedule. Since the Senate made changes to the version that was passed by the National Assembly, a commission has to reconcile the two versions and Parliament will have to vote again, presumably by Monday because Monday is the close of the current Parliamentary session. Even so, the changes that the Senate made to the bill have appeased the opposition and things have calmed down for now.
For those who know us and are concerned, let me try to reassure you that we are safe. The protests have largely been concentrated in just a couple of locations, neither of which are near our home or the hangar where David works. Our planes are still flying. Our neighborhood has been calm. After staying home all week just as a precaution, we finally ventured out on Friday to see friends and get groceries. Well, we tried to get groceries. Seems everyone had the same idea to take advantage of the lull and stock up. We expats love things that remind us of home, so while there were plenty of cans of weird veggies, this photo shows what the potato chip aisle looked like. The bread aisle and meat section looked the same.
For most people living here, this week has been much more than a disconcerting moment, an hour of indecision, or a few days of inconvenience. Many did not venture out for fear of being shot or arrested and these folks do not have refrigerators full of food and barrels of water. Hunkering down for a few days is a costly decision. They earn their wages and buy their food literally day to day. Many could not go to work because taxis did not run. Many this week are mourning and planning funerals. Many, including a friend of ours, have witnessed shocking brutality and violence and felt powerless to help.
Please pray for the people of Congo and for the upcoming Parliament vote. Pray that we and other missionaries here can be a light in this dark and hurting place and point the way to the Prince of Peace.
Deadly Crackdown on Protests
Congo Senate Bows to Protests
DRC Halts Internet Access and Phone Services