It seemed that there was potential for a flare up at the barrier if people could not make it through, but the system seemed to work. We dropped our people around town and headed home; Kelly contacted the UN office to tell them we were all back and accounted for.
David and I were full of our trip and when Jerod crawled out of his little den where he designed web pages he was bombarded with our experiences. Kelly was not well. Partly, she was exhausted; David and she had been at a big project coordination meeting in Nairobi a week before, she had then had to look after us and she was overworking. Some bug that got inside of her feasted on her weakness and before dinner she lay low in her room. David and I shared a few beers on the terrace, and after a while Jerod came up to join us, we had some dinner and returned to the easy chairs to discuss the world in general.
The view at night was equally spectacular as in the daytime, but very different. The main city streets in the centre and affluent suburbs were well lit; the neon signs on the Source du Nil Hotel, a glorified knocking-shop so I was told, mingled with other lights around the main market area. To the north, the road to the airport was well lit, but the lights only came on when the road was being used. Across the lake, a series of orange lights marked out Uvira, a sort of sister city to Bujumbura some fifteen miles away, because although they lay in different countries, Uvira’s road links with Burundi were better than with distant Kinshasa, Uvira derived its power from the Bujumbura side of the lake, and there was much coming and going between the two. To the south west, where there should have just been lake, was a whole city of white lights. They sat there strangely, appearing and disappearing. Jerod explained that they were the lights used by fishermen out on the lake to attract fish. And there were thousands of them, mostly Congolese in this part of the lake.
Here, then was the arena for a most bizarre set of events which we watched from that terrace as if at a cinema. Relaxing after our adventures in Gitega, we had our feet up on the brick wall in front of us, the smell of basil wafting over us. Jerod was coming up with his usual theories and opinions on African life, David was at times trying to taunt him, other times teach him, and I put my incoherent tuppenceworth in whenever I thought I hadn’t said much for a while. I spent most of the time looking out over the scene. Which is why it is bizarre that I never saw what happened next. I must have just glanced the wrong way, or had my nose down a beer bottle. I cannot remember now.
“What the fuck was that!” shouted Jerod. Both he and David were upright, straining their eyes out towards the lake.
“That was a flash, it was definitely a flash”, said David
“That was a bomb, they are fucking bombing Uvira”
“ Are you sure?”
“God, there’s another one, it’s an air raid”
“ I didn’t see it” I said, the disappointment already present in my voice.
“Yeah, “ Said Jerod, “that was a bomb”
“It was a big orange plume, just went whoosh, rightup, “Said David trying his best to describe it too me.
“Who would do that?”
“It’ll be the Kinshasa government”
Jerod leaped up out of his chair and headed for the stairs
“I’m going to get on the radio, we might get scrambled”. Ever the drama queen Jerod, but I was afraid that this time he may have been right.
We followed him to the stairs, I kept my eyes peeled on the lake but there were no more orange plumes. As we went down the stairs, we were brought to a sudden halt when, from across the lake we heard “Boom”… a gap….”Boom Boom”. Three explosions had travelled across from Uvira and hit our ear drums. If other residents of Bujumbura had not seen it, then they all knew about it now. Jerod listened to his two way radio, no clicks or codes to get out. He phoned the local American Embassy warden, a rather strange American-abroad type, who although he had the best communications and information networks at his fingertips, never quite knew what to do with it. He knew little as to what was going on now, but after all, it was barely three minutes since the attack. We went back upstairs to watch events…if any events were to happen.