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sub-Saharan Africa Topics specific to sub-Saharan Africa. (Includes all countries South of 17 degrees latitude)
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  #1  
Old 16 Jun 2004
ydv ydv is offline
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DRC entry points from the east

Hello,

Are there any alternate entry points into Eastern DR Congo other than Bukavu? I'm looking for possible overland way to access Kisangani from this direction - Rwanda/Bukavu seems to be closed at the moment.

Janusz

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  #2  
Old 27 Jun 2004
hed hed is offline
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Hello ydv,

I travelled around Africa last year on an old Yamaha. I entered the DRC from the east in about March 2003. I came through Rwanda and entered at Goma then south to Bukavu and along via Walikale/Lobuto to Kisangani. From there I took various boats and ferries to Kinshasa.

I believe that the border at Gisenyi/Rwanda is closed now. If I was you I would try the DRC and not shy away. I was told I was crazy by more people than I can count (none of whom had ever actually been there, including lots of UN staff). I have found the most useful way of getting firsthand info about the DRC is to seek out the Congolese refugees at the taxi ranks in Kampala and Kigali. They will lead you to the shortwave radio offices that are there and from where you can call any town in the DRC and get further info. Don't belive the stories the refugees tell you as most of them have not been back to the DRC for years, but they will take you to the people that know. When I was there the area further north, around Bunia/Beni was unstable and not advisable for entering the DRC. I think that has changed now, so I would try my luck there, if I was you. The french peace keepers have things under control, seem slike. Depending on the type of transport you have you might be able to get all the way to Kisangani. Beware though, I found that most of the little bridges, wooden, concrete and all are broken or sabotaged, so if you are in a car it might be difficult. Try it anyhow, I still rate my 6 weeks in the DRC as some of the most memorable times I have ever had. I crossed different rebel-held areas twice, once from RCD-Goma held territory to MLC held territory and then to government controlled territory. I found little genuine life threatening situations, but lots and lots and lots of intimidation. I am not sure how well your negotiation skills go, but french skills and the required mix of cckiness/friendliness plus cigarettes and gifts will get you to most places. Be sure to take enough cash in US Dollars in different hiding places. You will HAVE to buy bribes and once you are half way in, there is no turning back and no place to get cash, short of Kinshasa.

Have fun,

hed
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  #3  
Old 2 Jul 2004
ydv ydv is offline
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Hello,

Thank you for the valuable info. If you don't mind I would like some more questions.
I am intending to go there end of the year, starting in Kampala and going east by public transport. The DRC/Rwanda border is definitely closed at the moment because of latest Mutebusi rebel activity in Bukavu and Kabila's accusation of Rwanda support.
And here are the questions:
1. I assume the ferry Kisangani-Kinshasa will take one week. Do you have maybe more infos about it, especially frequency of departures?
2. Does crossing rebel-held areas demand extra visas/permits. I will have a normal DRC visa from Europe - maybe it would be cheaper (than 100$) to get it in Kampala?.
3. I have some 'bribing' experience from Chad, 2001. How much do they want/receive in DRC? How often it happens?
4. General costs I assume to be low, besides transport costs. Is that right?

Best regards, and thank you once again.

Janusz

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  #4  
Old 9 Jul 2004
hed hed is offline
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Hello Janusz,

I will try to anwer your questions as well as I can.

Firstly, as of one week ago, the Rwanda/DRC border at Goma/Gisenyi is open again after the meeting between Paul Kagame and Joseph Kabila in Nigeria. Having said that my feeling is that public transport from the border to Kisangani is NOT an option at the moment, even if you are very brave/dumb/clever, whatever. The road goes from Goma to Bukavu along the border and then via Walikale/Lobuto to Kisangani. There is no control of this area at all, only localised militias and even the local trading trucks and souk lorries do not travel to Kisangani anymore, it is all by air. An airticket between Goma and Kisangani will set you back between 120 and 150US$ one way. You will sit on sacks of meal and building materials and the flight will feel more like a U-boat ride than a flight. If you are unlucky they will make you buy a "sauf conduire" which is a special ticket to visit the diamnodn areas. This will cost anything up to 150$, but you may be able to get away without it. Once you are in Kisangani things should get easier. Regarding timing, 1 week is hopelessly too little, I woudl realistically count on at least 4 weeks to get to Kinshasa. It took me more than that, but the time was different as no commercial traffic was allowed at the time. This has changed now. Nevertheless, your only option will be to ride on one of the old barges, like the M/B Polo, or so. They will only leave port once they are completely full, and that can take up to 2 or 3 weeks. The trip itself is downriver, but can also take up to 3 weeks, so you could even look at 6 weeks total travel time. You may be lucky and all goes well, then my guess woudl be a minimum of 3 weeks. I know you will think I am exaggerating, but just believe me!! Ferry departure times are very irregular, at best.

Regarding your visas, I am not sure how it is at the moment regarding validity of official DRC visas (you can get this in Nairobi and the cost is 150US$, will only take a few days). The problem is that these were previously not valid in any area before reaching Mbandaka, which is two thirds of the way to Kinshasa. You therefore had to get another visa from the RCD-Goma commisssar in Kisangani, plus a letter of authorisation to carry on travelling. I would imagine that this would have changed by now.

Regarding bribing, I obviously don't condone this at all. Throughout my travels I have never had to outrightly offer an unsolicited cash bribe to get something done. I have had many many requests though and I guess the only way out then is either to refuse and turn around, or to negotiate. I think that this is a touchy thing to discuss publicly, but I believe that above all, before you even think about any of this at all, remember what impact your action (bribing) will have on travellers who come after you. I guess I am saying don't bribe at all as it WILL make the life of the next traveller passing by more difficult !! In general, the whole issue of bribing and corruption in the DRC is less bad than I expected, but I guess a lot depends on how you carry yourself and how you come across and handle the situation. Humility and humour will always get you a long way, but any gung ho stuff will immediately land you in big trouble. You will only be hassled by the military and airport officials. Once you are on the way it is fine, except for "road blocks" on the river, where everyone gets charged a nominal amount in food, cash or cigarettes. There are about 6 or 7 of these on the river.

Regarding costs, it is very expensive. You have to have at least 300 US$ to pay for a flight in and out again in case you are in trouble, possibly more, plus you will need 150US$ for the trip itself, including some safety margin, plus living expenses. Again, it is easy to get ripped off as you are on your own, so depending on wat kind of person you are, it coudl be cheaper. The point is though that once you are in, it is like a tunnel, you can only go forward or back, nothing else, so you will have to have enough money for safety. I would not attempt this trip on my own with less than US$700 to US$1000 cash in my pocket.

Regarding getting from one area to the next, controlled by different rebel groupings etc. Times have changed, the entire river is now under the control of the government and the FAC, so that solves that and makes everything simpler.

Let me know if you need more info.

Cheers,

hed
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  #5  
Old 14 Jul 2004
ydv ydv is offline
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Thank You once again,

Do you have any first-hand resources, which I could (e)mail to? I wanted to try overland option, but if even lorries do not go there it will not be the case. I thought that with UN there at least major roads are viable. My plan is to go there about December and following your advice inquire around taxi ranks.

I completely share your opinion about bribing. My question was not about bribing for geting something done. When in Chad, in each village where check-point was I had to register three times - at the police, at the douane next door and at yet another guy. Everyone demanded money, which after polite negotiations they do NOT get. Except one time, where the chief-policeman put the gun on the table shouting at me. I have paid then 1.000 CFA. I am afraid that it can happen in DRC more frequently, but am I right?

Best regards from Poland,
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