From the frozen wastes of Cambridge, Massachusetts comes a haunting, mournful cry. Yes, Noel, I will link to you. And on a subject close to your heart, I think. But first I must fly to Nairobi, and Lubumbashi, and then back again.
Meanwhile, on a couple of points Noel raises in his post:
- You are right to be surprised that the railroad from Mabadi works at all. For several years during the war, it didn't. I have no idea how Kinshasa managed with no access to the outside world except by air. Lots of towns in the African interior are in that situation, but a city of six million? It must have been... difficult.
- The secret police are an inheritance from Mobutu's day. Today they are scary; back then they were very very very scary. They weren't very efficient at creating a police state, because not much in Congo is efficient, but they were quite good at keeping people terrified.
- The oil thing is its own strange and complicated topic.
Here's a very brief version: it's clear that, at a minimum, Angola is elbowing up hard against Congo's maritime borders. The Angolans are definitely handing out franchises that are allowing oil companies' rigs to suck oil and national gas out from under Congo's exclusive offshore economic zone. (Yeah, drinking their milkshake. Might as well say it.) The Congolese have been exploiting these fields too, since the 1970s, but less aggressively than the Angolans.
The two countries are currently at odds; Angola expelled a bunch of illegal Congolese earlier this year, and Congo responded by expelling some Angolans. However, their relationship is more complex than simple antagonism. The current Congolese government is in power in part because the Angolans supported Kabila Senior during the last war. So there are deep-running connections there, maybe. I've been here six days; I don't pretend to begin to understand this stuff.
Congo does have onshore oil fields, and it looks like there's going to be some drillin' up in the northeast one of these days -- the new fields in Uganda, under the lake, probably have counterparts across the border. Of course, northeast Congo is not exactly snuggles and flowers at the moment. Check back in a year or two.
Kinshasa does have good beer. Breweries, like banks, seem to come through wars just fine.