Thursday, February 07, 2008
Bienvenue à Kin La Belle
A few impressions from my first days in Kinshasa.
The glorious music - soukous, rumba congolese, ndombolo - that is pumping from everywhere, from buses, cars, and the little roadside bars that are always filled with a populace that most consume more litres of beer per capita during an average year that the Irish. Despite the terrible suffering they endured during the pillages of the 1990s and the brutal street fighting between the forces of President Joseph Kabila and former rebel leader turned senator Jean-Pierre Bemba, the indomitable spirit of the Kinois dances on.
The weather, sultry and steamy in this city of 8 million along the Congo River, it makes the palms droop lazily under alternately moody gray and blazing skies.
A young boy, no more than ten years old, waving an armless stump at me as my car was stuck in traffic. Not much shocks me anymore, but this shoeless child missing a limb at an intersection and begging for money did. There are several thousand abandonné like him in Kinshasa, and tens of thousands more making a living on the very margins of the economy here.
The boisterous, witty, warm spirit of the people. Reminiscent of the Haitians, the Kinois are a very friendly and welcoming lot, who enjoy the moment and the brief transitory pleasures that come from a life lived in a place where tomorrow is never assured and the winds of change blow with an unpredictable force.
Settling into a new apartment now for what promises to be a highly interesting couple of months, likombo esalité.