Monday, December 17, 2007

Bukavu Central Prison
Our project provides psychosocial support to boys in prison and when the Clowns Without Borders were in town we invited them to perform for all the inmates. People in the prison are a mix of those who are awaiting charges and those who have already been sentenced. Some may be there for good reason; others may just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and unable to pay a bribe to get them out of trouble. The entire justice system barely functions; lawyers are beaten up by police; rapists rape with impunity. Women often bring their young children into the prison with them. The government provides almost no food for prisoners, and the majority of boys in the prison were recently found to be suffering from malnutrition, two of them severely. The food issue is a serious conundrum for aid agencies: if we provide food then the government is never likely to take over its responsibility in this domain. Most international agencies here are working more towards long term development and do not have a budget for food aid.

This person with deformed legs – he’s unable to walk – allegedly allowed his house to be used for storing weapons.

Almost everyone enjoyed the clowns’ performance; however these two were clearly uninterested!

This is the gate between the main area of the prison and the boys’ quarter. However as the prisoners themselves control what goes on inside the prison, it is unclear who controls access to this section, and the padlock has to be replaced frequently. Anyone who knows anything about child protection and prison systems knows that children under 18 should be kept separate from adults.

Sometimes aid agencies will provide items for the boys, such as these new clothes, sandals and the football in recognition of the International Day for Children’s Rights. Unfortunately assistance to the children doesn’t last long- much needed items such as mattresses, towels, and soap are snatched away from them all too quickly.

This is the main gate where we entered. The photo is taken from inside. It looks as though anyone can come and talk to the inmates through these bars; however there are soldiers on guard at the outer gate.

There’s a small yard: the covered area on the left is where the men can sit and eat – if there’s food. The area to the right seemed to be dominated by laundry.

Laundry is scrubbed on stone benches, and then the clothes are hung wherever possible to dry.

This tap was broken, and the water poured out continuously. It rains for nine months of the year here, so no one is particularly worried about water shortages. Dark clouds over the courtyard and a dark, dungeon-like interior make this prison a place I was only too happy to leave.


Paradise Driver said...

Mele Kalikimaka, Nicky

Carlton said...

Greetings. May I introduce myself. My name is Carlton Anthony Chase, and I am currently engaged in a vocational discernment, and am at present seriously considering a monastic life in the Cistercian tradition, of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. I have been a practicing filmmaker, for the past twenty years. Most recently, I was on retreat at the Abbey of the Holy Spirit, in Conyers, Georgia, and I am about to venture out, to Europe, the Levant, and possibly Africa, and when I return, I hope it is with a refined sense of purpose and calling.

Abroad, I am planning to visit Godchildren, dear friends, contacts, monasteries, shrines, and to hopefully do good deeds, volunteering with the Christian communities of the Middle East, and religious and humanitarian organizations in Central Africa (Grands Lacs). In preparation for this upcoming journey, any guidance or suggestions that you could offer me, regarding my pilgrimage and any opportunities to do volunteer work, would be of great assistance. Working with locals in over 30 countries worldwide on film projects, over the past two decades in places as varied as Yemen, Ethiopia, Hungary, and Cambodia, gave me firsthand experience in the fruits of ecumenical respect and quiet diplomacy.

In Peace, and with great respect.

God Bless!

Carlton Anthony Chase

1098 Wilmington Way
Brentwood, Tennessee
37027 U.S.A. / Etats-Unis



Anonymous said...

Hi Nicky! Just looked at your blog. One of man playing chess in one photo is Serge Muhima, our security officer from IRC, still in custody after so many months and a false trial. What a shame!