Walter James (SOS Femme en Danger – SOSFED): Walter graduated in 2006 from the University of Minnesota. Following college, he worked on international development in Haiti and Senegal, and studied human rights and international development in Senegal, Costa Rica, and Morocco. Walter first visited Eastern Congo as a 2009 Peace Fellow for The Advocacy Project, where he documented the work of civil society organizations such as SOS Femmes en Danger, Arche d’Alliance, and Tunza Mazingira. The following year, he graduated from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy with a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

Deep thoughts

07 May

So, I am about four months into my 12-month stint here in the Congo. It has been an interesting experience thus far. Time for some deep thoughts, reflections:

-The weather has not changed at all since January. It is still very hot, very sticky, and rains frequently. It kind of feels like living inside the gym locker of your average high school football player in August. In about a month, the dry season will arrive and Uvira will become dry and dusty instead of muggy and wet.

-Electricity is as infrequent as ever…as I write this our house has not had power for over two weeks. This is despite the fact we pay our bills regularly.

-I’m starting to enjoy going to the market and buying produce for dinner. I’m also keeping fairly vegetarian, with the occasional fish from Tanganyika to make dinner a little heartier.

-I am surprised at how much safer Uvira feels since I was here last in 2009. Of course, security continues to be a big problem in more remote areas of Sud Kivu, but considering at how open warfare and violence used to occur quite regularly in and around Uvira so recently, it’s nice to know things have calmed down a bit. This may all change as the Presidential election date draws closer, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

-As I study more about the history of the Congo/Zaire, I am amazed at how Mobutu’s legacy is still manifesting itself today in the DRC’s present troubles, even in problems that SOS FED and myself have to deal with on a daily basis. Not that we shouldn’t hold current leadership accountable, but it is incredible how such an awful leader could stay in power for so long and screw up such a large country so badly. I’ll probably write more about this later.

-I am still astounded at how big the DRC is. South Kivu seems enormous, especially when having to travel on poorly maintained roads, but it is hardly among the larger provinces of the Congo.

A road in the jungles of Fizi

A road in the jungles of Fizi

-My Kiswahili is getting better, although nowhere near what I want it to be. I’m also trying out my Kibembe more and more, with mixed results. In Kibembe, the words for “chicken” and “grandmother” sound very similar, and I had to learn this the hard way.

-Last night when I went to bed, there were distant lightning and thunder from somewhere a bit distant. I fell asleep trying to estimate the distance of the storm by counting the seconds between the flash of lightning and the rumble of thunder. However, sometime in the night the storm arrived right on top of us in a cacophony of light, sound, and pounding rain, and it woke me up. I eventually fell back asleep and dreamed of fighting off zombie lobsters in the household section of Target.

-From some of my travels through different parts of the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi, I’m fascinated at how the landscape changes and the particularities of each little corner of this part of Africa, from the onion-sellers in the small villages of northern Burundi to Kigali’s cool breezes and skyscrapers to Bujumbura’s laid-back charm to Baraka’s post-apocalyptic atmosphere to the general sleaze of Bukavu to the roadside milk-and-cheese merchants of Luberizi to the jungle chatter of insects and birds in the mud pits of Fizi to the urgent vista of the Ubwari Peninsula as viewed from the road near Baraka to the tranquil Tanganyika lakeshore in Mboko…

-No sightings of Gustave the Crocodile yet.


Posted May 7th, 2011

1 Comment

  • bruidstaart

    May 7, 2011


    Hey james, I was also in congo in january and indeed weather was not what i expected. Awesome article about your toughts. Some people just play games at your age and you are doing amazing stuff.

    Makes me happy knowing that.

    Ps: I stay now in Rwanda(will be for 3 months then move back to europe)

    cheers jenny

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