“Out of Africa” 2. Burundi.
Like Rwanda, Burundi is a small but heavy populated country inhabited by two tribes, the Hutu and the Tutsi. In Rwanda, the Hutu majority killed off the ruling Tutsi minority in 1962 and governed the country until 1994. In 1972, the minority Tutsi regime in Burundi was challenged by a Hutu rebellion, which also had genocidal proportions, but the regime held power, although it was disrupted by several coups afterward. When I joined the World Bank in 1972, I was tasked to develop the Bank’s non-existing lending program in both countries and we had succeeded relatively well when I changed jobs in 1979. In 1994, the tribal conflicts resumed in Rwanda when Tutsi refugees from Uganda took power again after a horrific genocide in which up to a million people lost their lives. It started when the Rwandese president’s plane in which also traveled the Burundi President was shot down while landing at Kigali airport. Everything we had achieved was destroyed in Rwanda’s civil war. In Burundi, it was not much better. Rwanda stabilized in 2003, but Burundi remained plagued by repeated rebellions. Most horrific was the rebel’s and the Burundi army’s use of children between the ages of 10-16 in direct combat. The UN and the African Union had to intervene. Working on most of Africa was tough.
This picture shows me with the driver of the Peugeot 404 at the border post between Rwanda and Burundi in 1975. My Director, whom I accompanied on this trip took the picture.
The old colonial Paguidas Hotel where I stayed. Greek-owned. A Greek restaurant next to the hotel served fatty Greek dishes and meager chicken without meat. At night, ‘single male guests’ were surprised by knocking on their door, hearing a soft female voice saying, “c’est moi.” I suspected they were led to our rooms by the receptionist, who probably got a cut if the ladies found a willing customer. Complaining did not help: hungry families needed to eat and jobs were scarce. Later, they built a modern Meridien Hotel across. But the ‘nightly custom’ of whispers and knocks remained.
First visit of a World Bank Vice President (leaning over on the picture) to Burundi, which I had arranged to ‘put Burundi on the map.’ It succeeded: he approved proceeding with the proposed strategy and project operations. I am the one with the camera hanging from my arm. We were wearing sweaters as the temperature in Burundi (800 meters above sea-level) can be pretty cool. The picture was taken by someone who did not have color film in his camera. We were watching a spectacular drum and dance group performance Burundi was famous for.
I caught one of these fabulous dancers up in the air. Despite all fighting, tribal hatred and misery, the Burundi people showed a remarkable resilience.
Lake Tanganyika near Bujumbura town. Fishermen, mostly Hutus or Twa, a pygmy minority tribe, gathering on shore near their boats to fish sardines, which they dry onshore and sell at the market. A protein-rich fish Barundi people enjoy. At night they use torches to attract the fish which offers a fascinating view of dancing lights seen from the top of the hills on the outskirts of Bujumbura town. Read about it in ‘The Tutsi Queen’ https://amzn.to/2Ny1Ll6. On Kindle, only 99cts.
Lake Tanganyika by day. Across is the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kivu area, from which Hutu rebels invaded Burundi to unseat the Tutsi regime. The lake is inhabited by hippos and crocodiles. Expats used it for sailing. An expat club was located at the lake, not far from Bujumbura airport. Once, a lady swimmer was attacked by a hippo in the water near the club, where people often took a swim. She lost half her bottom but survived. Coming back at night in my (borrowed!) car from the airport, where I had said farewell to a friend, I almost ran into a hippo crossing the small road. A weird sight seeing such a huge animal emerging from the grass on the right and slouching to the other side. Remarkably, it did not seem bothered by my headlights and just strolled on and disappeared. Had I run into the huge colossus, it would have been certain death.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
I don’t know if some still remember Emperor Bokassa. He possessed three Boeings 707 while the country was dead poor. McNamara, then President of the World Bank, reportedly told him he was mismanaging his country but only achieved that Bokassa got rid of one Boeing. I set foot in this place in 1987, under a new regime but still ruled like a dictatorship. I managed to put a transport sector reform project together of $140 million in which many donors participated. The World Bank agreed to do so despite a major disagreement with the French Government that had committed to financing an earth road right through the Central African rainforest, the so-called ‘4th parallel road’. Construction eventually failed because unrest broke out and the Government toppled, once more. Our ‘TSP’ took off but implementation also suffered from government failure. Some pictures follow below.
The path of the 4th parallel road straight into the jungle. Pygmees and wildlife galore, including bush elephants. I found it an environmental disaster but the French Government – the former colonial power – won.
Supervising the 4th parallel road construction. The French engineer behind me found this job the dream of his life: constructing a road through a completely fresh terrain and on top of that a jungle. In the background a bulldozer hard at work, destroying beautiful tropical trees. But the precious wood got sold pretty good.
Trying to swing with the lianas of a tropical tree like Tarzan.
A waterfall near the forest.
Crossing the Oubangi River separating the Central African Republic from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A favored escape route for bandits and overthrown rulers.
Next time: Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon.
Travel to Africa and learn what distances mean. Starting with the continent’s size, it’s mind-boggling.
I begin with this map because few people realize how big Africa is. Just flying north-south over the Sahara takes a good 3 hours!
Most known for safaris and wildlife, the continent was marked by the famous TARZAN pictures with all types of animals crowding the screen, and movies like The African Queen and Out of Africa. Though on our business trips we saw several wildlife parks and walked through jungles, our work led us mostly to colonial-built capitals to talk with governments and the private sector and visit development projects in towns and the vast interior. While we were often struck by poverty, financial mismanagement and corruption, tribal and religious wars, health issues, women’s suffering and child abuse, we could not escape the beauty and magnificence of Africa’s scenery, and the personal warmth of the many Africans we met in so many of its 55 countries, of which 43 below the Sahara.
In this blog, we only show pictures of Africa’s beauty and some of its people, leaving the ‘political and socio-economic issues’ aside.
Let’s start with RWANDA – The first African country I traveled to. It was quite an experience: I was allowed to witness the plane’s descent to Entebbe, Uganda in the cockpit, in the early morning hours, and was thrilled when I saw the tropical landscape appearing. Only to find out at the airport that my luggage was left in London and that my connecting plane to Rwanda was delayed by a day or two because of bad weather. I still wore my sweater from cold Washington D.C. Spending 24 hours or more in my ‘hot-costume’ in a simple hotel meant enduring the first hardship of World Bank travel.
But we arrived in Kigali, finally. Rwanda is a populous place because of its fertile soils, but very poor.
Flying in over northern Rwanda is a bit like looking at the Alps from afar: mountainous with volcanoes, sometimes active with disastrous results.
The Virunga mountains in northern Rwanda near Ruhengeri resemble almost the shape of the Mont Blanc from a distance. In this area live the mountain gorillas. In 1975, I saw a few of them in the early morning hours, led by a small team organized by Dian Fossey, the American primatologist who lived there and studied these gorillas. Her work was made into the movie Gorillas in the Mist in 1988, three years after she was mysteriously murdered.
Dian Fossey – Credit Liam White-Alamy, picture borrowed from a 2015 BBC report by feature writer Melissa Hoogeboom.
The Nyiragongo volcano near Goma-Gisenyi at the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo taken in 1975. It had a two-kilometer-wide lava lake which fractured in 2002 and devastated a huge area of farmers and wildlife. Some 150 people got killed. The lava almost touched Goma. The volcano’s shape has changed as a new, lower level volcano arose near the old volcano. So, this picture is sort of a ‘relic.’ Nyira was also the name of the Rwandese Princess refugee I helped flee from Burundi later (see The Tutsi Queen in Some Women I Have Known – Kindle version: https://amzn.to/2L9U5rD).
Joy in Goma, on a “points trip” with me to Africa in 1979. World Bank professional staff were allowed to take their spouse on a business trip once they had spent 500 days (well, they said ‘nights’) away from home! Well-deserved. Dapper Joy had to take care of the 2 kids and drive through snow and ice while hubby was doing business in warm Africa.
Joy with me in Ethiopia near Addis Ababa in 1979.
Rwanda – reviewing progress of a tea-plantation project.
Rwanda – Getting stuck in a muddy earth road on our way to supervise works – 1975
Negotiating the price for help to get unstuck. My Italian teammate Melegari was good in negotiating with the villagers.
Rwanda – Construction of the Kigali-Gatuna road financed by the World Bank, which is part of the transit road to Mombasa, Kenya. I criticized the sharp angle of this part of the road which on the other side of the picture had a descent of at least 45 degrees. But the engineers shut me up because that was not ‘my business.’ The descent turned out a cemetery for African truck drivers, whose vehicles had often inadequate brake systems. But in the Bank, as a young officer, you don’t get medals for critique.
Rwanda – a local market in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
That’s it for now. Next time: Burundi, the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).
Books to read:
Kirkus Reviews recognized Francine’s perseverance and that of the miners she stands up for and gave the manuscript a resounding positive critique. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-schwartz/francine/.
Just one click takes you to a good read!
Audrey – A Cherished Memory: A personal story of how I met Audrey. Proceeds of this two-story booklet (at Amazon.com) go to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. https://amzn.to/2JOcjL4
Travel for us means diving into the storage room in the bowels of our residence to find the right suitcases for the umpteenth trip. Our problem is that we (well, you know who “we” is ) never threw out the old suitcases when “we” bought new ones. So we have a bunch.
Among the legions of suitcases, there are a few reds which are easy to single out at the baggage claim when everyone has black. And when everybody got red, we got panter skin types. Staring at us is ‘Big Brother’, for surplus shipments to ‘Third World’ locations in need. There are some more suitcase pictures, but that would be ‘repetitive.’ You get the ‘picture.’
Next, follow pictures of some places we traveled to. I regret we didn’t have cell phone cameras in those days with their enormous storage capacity. We didn’t have the same urge then to take pictures of everything happening. Now we have to collect them from photo albums. My dad went all over the world for his beer business but took mostly 8mm movies that have deteriorated. We took videos we watched on VCRs. VCRs are gone now, too, and we had to have them transferred to CD-Roms.
OK, here we go, starting from when we worked for the World Bank. That’s a bit like ‘Join the Navy and See the World.” Except that we saw ports only occasionally for work (transport was one of my fields). Mostly we saw capitals and the interior, of which our memory kept many wonderful images that are unfortunately locked up in our minds. I wish there was a mechanism that would allow us to transfer them onto photo paper, like a scanner. Who knows what the future holds.
The world we saw is very large and we may have to do it in parts, starting with Africa, then Asia – South East and Far East – the Caribbean and the Middle-East. But first some left-over honeymoon pictures of 1974.
Joy at a ‘slave hut’ on Bonaire (1974). They were built entirely of stone and hardly tall enough for a man to stand upright in (Joy is 5’7, so you can imagine). Wikipedia: “From 1816 until 1868, Bonaire remained a Dutch government plantation. In 1825, there were about 300 government-owned slaves on the island. Gradually many of the slaves were freed and became freemen with an obligation to render some services to the government. The remaining slaves were freed on 30 September 1862 under the Emancipation Regulation. A total of 607 government slaves and 151 private slaves were freed at that time.” Those were bad days and the Dutch feel very shameful about it.
Bonaire: A flock of Flamingos flying off. Of the three Dutch Leeward Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire) little Bonaire is environmentally the most fascinating and a heaven for scuba divers.
Bonaire – a coastal rock formation.
A peaceful look at Puerto Rico’s coastline at San Juan.
Joy at a castle in Toledo near Madrid (1974).
And admiring windmills in Portugal.
Visiting flamboyant Georgetown, Guyana, and
Admiring its flamboyant trees from home.
Flying to Guyana Interior.
Getting ready to see the Kaieteur Waterfall
Kaieteur Waterfall, 226 meters deep, 113 m wide, surrounded by wilderness. Most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen.
Back at work at the World Bank, with the car parked in front of the office (impossible now!). Besides, the main office building was entirely replaced years later. Picture taken by Joy.
John’s office at the World Bank, picture taken by -surprise- Joy (years later). The window looks out on the IMF across 19th Street. The files on the radiator were to protect me from the secondary smoke from inhaling/exhaling Frenchmen/women in adjacent offices. Thank God those smoking days are over!
We will be going to Africa next time.
Here we go: it’s beach time – pictures of past and present. Some pictures at the end get doubled, but I can’t beat the Wordpress system.
My mom and dad at the beach in Holland (before I was born…somewhere in the 1930s). Probably at the Zandvoort beach.
Johnny and his sister Mary in the Dutch Dunes at the North Sea (Zandvoort) summer 1941 after Germany had invaded Holland. Picture taken by their father who had to go hiding soon after.
Many years later, Johnny on honeymoon with lovely Joy at the beach in Bonaire, the Dutch Caribbean (1974)
A few years later again, son David -above – and daughter Samantha -below – at the beach in Bali, Indonesia (1982)
Sam and Dave -above – at the beach in Goya (India) and – below – at the beach in Trivandrum (most southern point of India) in 1983.
David and Sam at the beach in Hawai (1984)
John and Joy at the beach in Guyana (1986)
Samantha at the beach in Curaçao (1994).
That’s as far as our family beach pictures go: not much beach for me, as I always get burned – so I stay away from ‘sun-beaching’ but I love the Côte d’Azur, see below.
Cavalière, my preferred beach at the Côte d’Azur – quiet and away from the crowd.
Théoule-sur-mer, another quiet place for lunch.
The beach at Nice – taken early in the morning and away from the maddening crowd. But I hate walking on the gravel with my bare feet.
Nice, when it’s weekend.
Me, running away from a shark in Portland Maine (2002)
Bathing in the Dead Sea, Jordan (2010). I did so in my underwear early in the morning because I did not have my swim trunk with me. It was completely ‘salted stiff’ when I got out and sneaked back to my hotel room. I had to throw it in the trash.
Let’s end with the July 4 fireworks.