Well today there was a lot of activity – but felt a little unproductive in terms of actual filming. We ended up with just one interview (it was a good one) and were only able to catch a few minutes of the Congo Unites volunteer training going on at the Africa New Day center.
So why so unproductive and why the play on words in the post title? We spent the majority of our day today at the UN Operations here in Goma. The mission is called MONUSCO and has been an integral part of the process of moving towards peace in this region. From the beginnings of our research for this film we have always had a hope that we could somehow get in to see the UN, talk with them, even maybe embed with some of the troops, go out on patrols, maybe fly in a UN helicopter and get some great aerial shots of the vastness of DRC. Well, that was our mission today.
In order for these things to happen you have to get an appointment with the man in charge of MONUSCO operations in Eastern Congo. However, in order to get a meeting with him there are many pieces of certification and paperwork that is needed. Once the paperwork is ready, then you can meet with the head of Media Logistics and Relations. We have worked with a team of folks on the ground over the past few weeks to get as much of the paperwork done ahead of time that is possible. One more stop on the ground when we arrived in Goma at Eastern Congo’s version of the CIA and we had all of our paperwork ready. So, we got our first meeting with William, the head of Media Logistics and Relations for MONUSCO.
The team was definitely not sure what to expect at this first meeting. But I don’t think any of us thought that William would be a believer and that we would spend close to 90 minutes together getting an insiders view of the UN and specifically the MONUSCO mission from a believers point of view. William has a small group within the UN that meets regularly for bible study and prayer and that group has been praying for over a decade for peace in DRC. So, we come in and tell him that we are here to cover a peace and reconciliation conference that is being put together by several faith-based groups – he was excited. He usually works with CNN, BBC, Al Jazerra, etc. – but he was thrilled to help us. But, it won’t be easy – we have very little time and many logistical and political hoops to jump through.
So – our first stop on our tour of the inner workings of the MONUSCO political machine was with the head honcho. We had an hour interview with Abdallah Wafy, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General in charge of Rule of Law/Operations in Eastern Congo (that is a mouthful and barely fits on his business card). Meeting with Mr. Wafy was tricky because his schedule for the day was already full, actually over-booked. But our new friend William was able to get us a meeting from 12-1pm. We had been waiting around for almost two hours to find out if this meeting could happen and all of the sudden at a couple minutes before 12, we were wisked away to another part of the MONUSCO compound to interview Mr. Wafy.
(Left to Right: Our new friend William, Jock, Randy & Mr. Wafy)
Again, the team was not sure what to expect, and this time, things didn’t look promising. We arrive in Mr. Wafy’s office and were told where he would sit, how the UN flag needed to be draped behind him, that he would only do the interview in english (instead of his preference, french) if he had all of the questions ahead of time – AND – during the 15 minutes or so that we were setting up his office for the shoot, he was sitting at his desk with a gruff look on his face and didn’t say a word to us.
Randy, our fearless director, soon disarmed Mr. Wafy and began to tell him how wonderful his english speaking was and soon Mr. Wafy was smiling and laughing and agreed to do the interview, in english, without advance knowledge of the questions. Oh, and one other thing – we only get 4 questions. Well, almost 45 minutes later and probably 22 questions into the interview, Mr. Wafy is smiling and compelling and doing a great job of explaining MONUSCO’s role in the DRC and his opinions on many of the topics that we are interested in regarding our film.
Last but not least was our need for Mr. Wafy’s blessing on our requests to head out on some MONUSCO operations. He was more than happy to “bless” our wishes and get us in touch with the right people under his command to make it all happen.
So, three meetings and 5 hours later we are set.
Randy and Jock are heading out tomorrow morning at 6am to meet up with a security force convoy to drive up to Kanyabayonga (try saying that three times really fast) for an overnight trip to meet up with a battalion of MONUSCO soldiers that have been working with a recent proposed surrender/disarmament of the FDLR rebel group that are in DRC. The team will likely get to see MONUSCO operations taking place and potentially speak with some of the commanders on the ground as well as speak to some of the FDLR rebels who have surrendered. Quite an amazing trip.
Equally amazing is the other trip that we were granted. On Tuesday of next week Randy and Jock will be headed to Malikale, this time by helicopter to get some nice aerial shots of the DRC jungle as well as spend a couple hours on the ground with an Indian battalion on the ground out on patrol in some of the neighboring villages. What an adventure.
So, while we did not film a lot today, we were able to jump through all the necessary hoops to hopefully get some of the footage that we were after.
(Congo Unites Volunteer Leader Training)
Preparations for the Future Leaders Conference are continuing and at a very high pace here. A lot of activity including training for the leaders taking place at the Africa New Day center. We were able to catch a little of that training on film and I will be back there tomorrow morning to film more training. After lunch tomorrow I will head out to Kigali, Rwanda to catch my plane back home to California. Mike Kenyon will be joining Randy and Jock to cover the second half of this trip. Mike arrives this coming Wednesday.
More to come.