Chapter 13 : Military Assistance?
I really thought that our victory in getting the contract signed was a new start of a good life for me. Then our headquarters delayed in what they were supposed to do to get the job started. Our engineer still didn’t arrive. I had to make use of our consultant, Mr Valero to start doing the plan. It was already April 1998. Once again I was hassled by the government ministers regarding the delay. At one point, I was called up by the minister to speak on their national television about the road project. They also called up all the companies who had reputation in road construction in Kinshasa to be there. The opening of the press conference was very intimidating for me. The chair person, who was the advisor of the President, who was also one of the minister posed a question to me, meaning “When will you start the project?” Bloody Hell!! That was a question that I had no answer. Only Dato had the answer. I was just a worker. If I had said I didn’t know, then I was a fool on TV. Then I gave an answer “Well… For the next 3 months, we will do our ground works and logistic plans. Then we will start the project.” Everybody was shocked as they thought that I wouldn’t be able to answer the minister and they could possibly took over the USD 300 million project. Then the minister asked again, “Exactly when will you officially start the work?” I was silent for a while.. I was quite afraid of taking things at my own hands, and at the same time I didn’t want Dato to be in trouble if I just said I didn’t know. So, I took the risk of giving this answer “Well… we will officially start the project on 1st August 1998!!”
In early May 1998, my friend Freddy came to my office. He rarely came to my office as we used to meet outside somewhere.. Then he told me, “You better come to my house.. There is something I want to tell you” But I told him “You can tell me here..?” And he replied “Nope, I don’t want to be seen here! I’m going off now, You come later!!” That didn’t sound good to me.. I waited recklessly for the office hours to finish then off I went to his house. There.. he explained to me that he was quite attached to the French military, and he got the information that there would soon be a coup-d’etat. He expected it to happen anytime within 2 weeks. He even explained to me who would fight with who, and who sponsored the weapons and why.. blah blah blah.. The name involved is prominent until today.. and I believed that he is a greedy crook and a crime organiser. It was something to do with the gold mine. To protect myself, I will not uncover this information further here k. Freddy advised me to flee to the neighbour country before it was too late. Well, the only place I could go was to Point Noire in Congo Brassaville, coz Dato had a logging project there.
There is something about living in Africa and dealing with your workers.. you must never say that you are leaving.. you could possibly be killed. So, I gave them an excuse that I had an assignment in Point Noire and will be back in 2 weeks. Of course I didn’t want to take a chance staying in Kinshasa.. so I fled to Point Noire in Congo Brassaville. 2 days after I arrived.. the war broke up.. but guess what.. it was not in Kinshasa.. but it was in Brassaville.. the place that I was at.. Point Noire and Brassaville are quite apart.. separated by 2-3 hours flight. Logistically, I was safe at Point Noire.. Brassaville is located just accross the Congo River opposite Kinshasa. In order to go back to Kinshasa, I had to go through Brassaville if I wish to take a speed boat, otherwise I had to go through Kinshasa airport. I really felt screwed up going to Point Noire.. and I was quite irritated by the news given by Freddy.. I thought it was a total lie. I requested for the permission from the headquarters to go back to Kinshasa by flight.
I felt really tensed and decided to go out for a drink that night at Point Noire, knowing that there was a war going on at Brassaville. I did something which I shouldn’t have done!! I stupidly went to a night club alone.. There.. someone grabbed my money as I was just about to pay for my drinks. Of course I got mad! I went out of the club and saw a few military guys and a truck. I approached them and explained about my problem.. Great! They came looking for the thief.. They found him and started to speak to each other in their local language.. Then… to my surprise.. The military turned around and grabbed me instead!! They put me up their truck and took me to the millitary base nearby. First time in my life I felt really scared…. At the base, one of them took my chain and my ring. The other one took out all the money in my wallet.. while another one infront of me was writing details about me.. The scariest moment was when I heard gunshot and screams from the back.. which I beleived they were shooting people they had caught there. It occured in my mind that they would kill me too. In desperation, I whispered to the guy who was writing about my details, I asked him, “Do you want some money?” He said “Oui” meaning ‘Yes’.. Then another 2 military guys heard that, one of them was the driver.. he said “me too”.. And I said “Then take me out..follow me”
So, the three of us went out. I asked them to stop at a Hotel, coz I remembered seeing a white guy at the reception whom I hoped would help me out. I asked him to help me out by swiping my credit card as if I was staying at the hotel, but I would take cash instead. He said..”nope!!” and then he said again, “But I can swipe for 2 days stay.. you stay 1 day and I will refund you 1 day” Thank God.. What a relief.. Then I told him, “Good, please swipe for 3 days then, I stay 1 day.. you refund me 2 days” I had to do anything to get cash to pay those freaky bastards!! otherwise I would not be able to get out of trouble. At least they went off after they got 100 French Franc each.. and do you think I would stay at the hotel for that 1 day that I had paid..? Hell No!! I took a taxi.. went back to our base in Point Noire.. A lesson that I learnt.. and I should have known better.. never ask for help from the military guys in Africa.. find other ways to solve your problem..
UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUrrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhh I just wanted to get out of that shit place.. I arranged a flight back to Kinshasa.. nothing came easy of course.. I had to go through Cameroon, then only to Kinshasa..
To be continued … DjRay