|Francis Hannaway enjoying pancakes|
in 2015 - with Fr John Kirwan
“Stay indoors over the next few weeks,” directed Fr Des, from our General Council in Maidenhead. Elections are often violent affairs in the Congo – but there was more to it than that, and the three of us knew what he was implying. In Cameroon, one of our Missionaries, from Kenya had been shot dead by the police while meeting refugees within the English speaking area. Fr Des didn’t want a repeat of this in the Congo.
Having been alone in Basankusu, I’d taken myself to Kinshasa, as a place to escape from should things get really bad.
Just before the Election Day, the internet and text messaging services were cut. The elections came and went. A new president was sworn in ... not necessarily the one with the most votes, but a change from the last one. I decided that things were quiet enough to make my return to Basankusu – I was bored in Kinshasa.
It was possible that the opposition would start violent demonstrations – and even more likely that the departing president would brutally put down any such uprising.
However, the country had had enough of that over the years. The majority of people feel no connection to a government that doesn’t actually govern; they just want to get on with their lives.
I arrived back in Basankusu to singing, dancing and a cold beer! After four years with Mill Hill Missionaries, I’m now working directly for Basankusu Diocese. I was pleased to see only ten children at our malnutrition centre. In May, this will rise to seventy.
in Basankusu in 2015
The isolation of having no internet, or text messages, made me think about other things that we take for granted in England. In Basankusu we consider small things to be great developments. Now we can buy chocolate spread and mayonnaise. Even four years ago, when darkness fell every evening, people lit their homes with small oil lamps – if there was no moon the streets would be in compete darkness. Thanks to innovators such as our Chinese trader, Huang, people have modest electric lights, run from solar panels. One politician, standing in the election, even left eight solar powered street lamps in Basankusu. Satellite television has now appeared in at least fifty households in a town of 40,000 people.
The internet returned after six weeks. My shaky contact with the outside world restored, there was only one more sign of development needed – pancakes on Shrove Tuesday!