Walter James

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.

Notes from Bukavu

01 Jul
Bukavu, on the shores of Lake Kivu

Bukavu, on the shores of Lake Kivu

Ned and I recently returned from a short trip to Bukavu, trying to secure living arrangements and such for an Advocacy Project fellow that will be working there this coming month.  Bukavu is a larger city north of Uvira that sits on Lake Kivu.  There is but one good way to get from Uvira to Bukavu: taking a minibus, or agence.  The agences have colorful, distinctive names, such as Okapi, Arc-en-Ciel (rainbow), and Colombe (dove).

If you take the safer, less scenic route from Uvira to Bukavu, you travel through Rwanda for a short distance.  The differences once you cross the border into Rwanda are startling; in Rwanda, all the roads are paved and lined with cement drainage ditches.  Most of the rural towns have shiny new electrical wires running to all the houses.  Thus is the plunder of the Congo.

By the way, a visa to Rwanda is free for American citizens, but it seems that citizens of European francophone countries have to pay $60 to even get a transit visa through Rwanda.  My interactions with Rwandan border and immigration officials were cordial once they saw the American passport.  On a larger geopolitical scale…

After driving through Rwanda for about half an hour, you arrive back at the Congolese border and into Bukavu.  Once in Bukavu, the world descends into chaos.  Since it is the dry season, it is incredibly dusty, and a lot of things just do not work (electricity, roads, water).  Nonetheless, Bukavu is blessed with a mild climate from Lake Kivu.  If you squint just right, the hillside surrounding the lake looks like it belongs in Italy, and the houses look like idyllic villas.  There are also an abundance of natural gas deposits in the DRC-side of Lake Kivu.  The DRC extracts the natural gas and sells it to Rwanda; proceeds from the sale go to pad the pockets of the people in charge.  Thus, Bukavu is yet another city where you will not see the riches of the Congo.

Recommended reading: Africa’s World War by Gérard Prunier.  In his book, Prunier neatly dissects the conflict that has engulfed Central Africa since the Rwandan genocide of 1994.  Prunier’s book is very up to date (published in 2009) and gives comprehensive background information on all the countries involved in the conflict.  I find Prunier’s book to be an excellent and well-rounded resource to catch up with this conflict that the mainstream American media has largely ignored.

Posted By Walter James

Posted Jul 1st, 2009

1 Comment

  • Stacy

    July 6, 2009


    Thanks for the book suggestion, Walter! I might try to get it when I get back to the States. Hope you’re great. Keep up the amazing work. –Stacy

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