We are driving back from Kasongomwana and my thoughts are lost somewhere in the Congolese countryside. There is this one part of the road that is my very favourite. it is just after a particularly rough patch and you are in a sort of valley and you can see the plateau stretched out before you for miles.I always take an imaginary photograph because a real one just couldn't capture how beautiful it really is. It is a long way to and from Kasongomwana so we have a lot of time to talk about life in the Congo, and life in general for that matter. My team doesn't believe me when I say that it can be as cold as -60 in Canada and I have yet to find a way to explain marshmallows. Bosco tells me stories about his children and how his two-year old daughter likes to hide the head of her sister's doll. We laugh a lot and we talk a lot and I practice my Bemba, Zela and Swahili. I confuse the Zela word for fever with the Bemba word for soldier and of course we laugh some more. We could be in any country, anywhere in the world having the same conversation. It seems like normal, every-day life. It is sometimes easy to forget that we are in a country that is just coming out of a very long war. It is easy to take some things for granted, like peace for example.
I am abruptly reminded of this as we arrive at the hospital and we see two Congolese soldiers with Kalashnikovs wandering through the halls. Soldiers are not so unusual in the Congo, but they are not allowed in the hospital with guns. I soon learn that there are many more Congolese soldiers in Kilwa as well as the MONUC, which explains the sound of the helicopter we heard when we arrived. The Armies are here to protect a prisoner. The man they are protecting was a Congolese Army General who ordered the massacre of 200
civilians in Kilwa during the war. He is here as part of the legal process, to hear a sort of "témoignage" from the people who survived, so they can tell the stories of the people who did not. He is being protected because there are a lot of angry people who believe that justice means an "eye for an eye," but a wise man named Mahatma Ghandi once said, "An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind." But then again, maybe "an eye for an eye" is reasonable when someone has killed your entire family. I would like to
believe that the presence of this man in Kilwa is evidence of a new kind of justice in the Congo, one that is rooted in democracy and due process. The tension here has nothing to do with us, but our security rules have been tightened and we must now go everywhere by car. It is a safety precaution that is somewhat necessary when soldiers are promenading through the hospital with their guns.
I realize that I cannot begin to comprehend what it is like to live through a war. I am not sure what it takes for a person to be able to order the deaths of two hundred civilians. I want to believe that it cannot be easy
for this man to see the faces of the people who survived, and the graves of the people who didn't. It is so difficult for me to try to understand war, why it happens, how people can do such terrible things to each other, how people can forgive the terrible things that were done to them and the people they love. I do think that forgiveness takes tremendous courage, and I also think that the people of Congo are very brave. I haven't figured it all out yet, but I will keep searching for the answers along the road to Kasongomwana, just after a particularly rough patch where there is a sort of valley and you can see the plateau stretched out before you for miles.