An hour ago, I was woken by a text message: “there are troops in town. No movement outside of base until further notice.” Without knowing which troops they are or why they are here, I checked my passport and packed my toothbrush.
Half an hour ago, another text: “the FARDC (government forces) are conducting searches for weapons in the town. Stay indoors until their operation is over, hopefully at about 8am.” It’s not likely to be an evacuation today then, but I’m also not sure we’ll be able to move by 8am, so I’ve put the kettle on. It’s 7.44 now.
The internet is sporadic in our guesthouse. It works when there’s electricity – which is often only when we’ve turned the generator on – although there is ‘city’ electricity at the moment. We didn’t have any internet after about 3pm yesterday. I was waiting to get to the office this morning to send some documents, which need to be approved in Kinshasa, Dakar and then London before being sent to Melbourne by the end of the day. They may be late.
So that’s the impact of armed troops operating nearby for me. A bit mundane. The bigger impacts are the ones I’m imagining. What’s happening to the children outside? Can they get to school? Who is being searched, are they inside family homes, are the children scared? Hurt?
Or is this normal? If it’s normal, why is it normal? What’s the psychosocial effect of an ongoing military presence and insecurity on the children who aren’t recruited into the armed forces, who aren’t abused or exploited, the ones who just have to live through it? Normally at this moment, I’d go and research this but today, I’ll have to keep imagining.
It’s 8.30, and there’s still no sign of movement.