Thursday, February 02, 2006

Getting to Kigali

I had a modern experience as I flew over the forest between Kisangani and Goma, listening to the speakers at the Aegis forum on the Responsibility to Protect, which had taken place a few days earlier in London.

Talk of the town in Goma was the renegade general Nkunda, and recent moves by the Congolese armed forces to dislodge him from Rutshuru. I arrived the same day as the Defence Minister, his entourage, an Antonov full of UN relief supplies, a businessman's private jet, and (on foot) hundreds of newly displaced people, joining an internally-displaced population estimated at 1.5 million.

Crossing the border was very straightforward, and my fellow-passengers' friendliness more than made up for the lack of knee room. I was soon hypnotised by the view of misty, well-tilled hills.

Yesterday was a public holiday - the government-decreed 'Heroes Day' - in Rwanda, and large crowds were gathered for special events in every town.

I was happy to find Poppy in Kigali, and we barely had time for a fruit juice before I found myself a bystander at a Bahai group meeting with 3-way translations. At supper with some young Rwandan doctors and a journalist, lively conversation ranged from HIV treatment to history curriculae.

We've started, then.

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