IARA North Sea Seminar edition:2 location:El Rocio, Spain date:16-20 September 2008
Butembo, a secondary city in the very east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a place full of contrasts. Although officially proclaimed city in 2002, it has a village-like appearance: there is no electricity, no general water pipes system, and there are no paved roads. Inhabitants outwardly boast about their town’s dynamism, it’s flourishing commerce and booming construction industry, but within the household itself tensions abound. On the one hand, there is dissension between the Nande ethnic group – which is dominantly present in Butembo – and what they call the ‘immigrants’ or the ‘others’. On the other hand, the Nande community itself deals with inner struggles. On top of that, the city is run exclusively by a few big traders and by the clergy, as the state is virtually absent. While the former enrich themselves and the latter act as moral crusaders, inhabitants complain about unemployment and lack of solidarity, and they mock the clergy’s dissimulation. They deplore they do not profit from the dynamic development of the city. This discontent surfaces in the numerous clandestine bars (cabarets) in town, spaces of sociability where everyone meets everyone to join weighty discussions, small talk or simply to get loaded.