Well it wouldn’t be travel to Congo if political unrest wasn’t part of the picture. I awoke this morning to the email from Indianapolis Disciple headquarters that Mbandaka had been attacked on Easter Sunday by a force of 200 rebels and a UN soldier and one other person was reported killed. NPR had already reported the rebels’ attempt to seize the Mbandaka airport. Presumably without success.
By the end of the day I was thinking about my arrival in Kinshasa in June 1969 on my way from Zambia via Lubumbashi. On arriving in “Kin” I was feeling pretty good about the fact I had entered Congo and gone through Customs in the Katanga capital without paying any “corrumption” to anyone. We had not been made aware on the plane that Kinshasa was under military lock down, streets deserted, the city of nearly 2 million quieted after over 80 students, reported as 8 by the local press, were shot and killed by the Army. Later that summer Mobutu quelled the continued grumbling of the students by conscripting the entire student body of the National University into the Congolese Army.
The dictator was at the height of his power at the time and the regime’s true character was never more publicly and more alarmingly displayed than on that day. I arrived about 1 in he morning but the desk clerk at the Mission Guest House had been alerted and was waiting with the key. “Are you willing to share a room with a Congolese?” he wanted to know. Even in my near unconscious state I did rouse myself enough to respond, “Well I guess I better if I’m going to spend the next two years working with them.“ It was the first evidence that relations between black and white were tense even in the Church in Congo that year. My entering the room woke up the President of the Disciples in Congo, Rev. Paul Elonda, my roommate.