A Travellerspoint blog

We are the angry mob

storm 26 °C

We are the angry mob; we read the papers every day. We like who we like, we hate who we hate but we’re also easily swayed. The Kaiser Chiefs, look them up they are an awesome band.

So why am I shamelessly plugging the Chiefs?? Well that song was running through my head recently for reasons that I am going to tell you about now……..

This is what an angry mob doesn't look like.

I have been extremely happy of late; I have been blowing stuff up again. It had been a while since I had to det up and to be honest I missed it. What’s more, the noise is amplified in the jungle which makes it even more fun. The last couple of weeks have been quite productive and we have been getting on with the business of making the world a little safer with the proper application of high explosives. Finally I have gotten out of the office, where well meaning people whose whole life revolves around paperwork tried to school me in the finer points of filling out request forms and asset registers. No more do I have to nod in understanding as someone drones on for what seems like forever on a subject which I care little about and I am not really paying attention to anyway. Finally I am out doing what I am good at, blowing stuff up. It is such a pity that I am only here for a month, I quite like working here. Still I will have to make the most of it.

Generally the items that we find are safe enough to move so we can take them with us and destroy them all in one big demolition, called a bulk demolition. These are my favourite as, let’s be quite honest here, the more explosive present in a demolition the bigger the bang. I may have been a little spoilt in Sudan as nearly all of my demolitions were of this bulk variety and going back to doing single items can be a bit of a letdown. But still it beats working for a living and I am still enjoying myself so life is good. Occasionally we will come across something that is not safe to move so we have to deal with it where it is. RPG’s are in this category for me, as is anything that is fuzed and has obviously been fired. Most explosive ordnance has safety devices built into the fuze to stop them detonating when you don’t want them to. They are usually a pin or something similar. If these safety pins are not in the fuze then it can possible function, generally not something you want to happen. This possibility can be increased if it is in the back of a ute being bumped along poor dirt roads. So being a big fan of safety first, I will destroy these items either where they are, or in a suitable site nearby if they are safe to move a short distance.

So on todays occasion we found a 60mm mortar nose down in the ground in a village. So long as nobody played with it the chances of it detonating by itself were pretty remote, however I carefully extracted it from the ground to find that it was fuzed and there were no safety pins present. Other things indicated it had been fired and as such I didn’t really want to take it with us. So I decided to destroy it where it was. The mortar was in town, but thankfully in a field that gave me enough safety distance on all sides to do the job there. It was also in an area that was easy to control access to, the last thing you need is to have someone wander through your dem site. So in order to minimise any fragmentation hazard I dug a decent sized hole, placed the mortar and disposal charge inside, covered it up and destroyed it in place. Nothing got damaged (except for the mortar of course) and everything went nice and smoothly. Then it started to unravel….

I will give you the following in a timeline so you can get an idea of how fast this moved.

1 minute after the detonation - A crowd had formed that was curious and wanted to see what we had done. The mood of this crowd was quite neutral and even thankful that we were removing the dangerous items from within their midst. They came running in from everywhere to have a look. So we packed up quickly, more so they couldn’t steal any of our stuff than for any other reason, and headed back to the car.

2 minutes after detonation - As I was approaching our car the mood started to change. Members of the crowd were starting to make loud noises about something and the general attitude of the group began to sway.

2 minutes 30 secs after detonation - The mood turned decidedly ugly. The previously happy and thankful group was being overrun by an angry mob, being spurred on by a man with a megaphone. They crowded around our cars and started yelling and hitting the vehicles.

3 minutes after detonation - A man reached in and grabbed me by the shirt front. Now I don’t appreciate people touching me at the best of times, and I appreciate even less being grabbed. So I took hold of his arm and pulled it forcefully into the car, causing him to smash his head into the door frame rather hard. I then pushed him away and started to wind up the window.

3 minutes 30 secs after detonation - Richard looked at me and said quite matter of factly “We go now” before gunning the engine and taking off, scattering people like 10 pins as he went, and grinning like a madman.

It all happened so fast it was hard to comprehend. So what turned this crowd so violently?? Well it is coming up to election time here in the DRC and the main protagonist was a local man who was running for office, the man with the megaphone. He started telling people that we hadn’t in fact destroyed the grenade like we claimed (it was actually a mortar but never let the truth get in the way) and we had only made a noise to scare everyone and get away with our prize. We were going to then sell it to the rebel army that is still holed up in the east of the country so they could start a campaign of terror on the good people of the DRC. That was all it took, a far-fetched story given by a ranting lunatic almost got us into serious trouble. The people of the DRC, it seems, do angry mobs quite well. People have been killed by such mobs for things as simple as traffic accidents that leave someone seriously injured. The police in general are either part of the mob, or do little to stop it. The favourite method of dispatch for the poor recipient it what’s called a Congolese necklace. A tyre is wedged over the victims shoulders and set alight. Not pretty at all.

The interesting part of this story is that we had to go back through this town on our way back to our campsite. I was a little reluctant about this however there was nothing to worry about. We were not greeted with any hostility on coming into town, at all. We even stopped off to get something for lunch and not a harsh word was said. There were no signs of aggression at all. It’s as if the entire thing didn’t even take place.

They may be quick to form, but the mob seems even quicker to disperse and the locals, thankfully, don’t seem to hold a grudge. I on the other hand would like to find that bastard with the megaphone. He certainly won’t be getting my vote.

Posted by Dangermouse 03:26 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo

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