I left Butembo today, a bit earlier than planned, but not so early that I didn't gather all the data I needed. Butembo is a lovely city; it's one of the most-governed places I've ever been in the DRC (granted, the bar is low). Most things work. Stores are well-stocked. There's not a lot of crime. Not a single person asked me for money. There's still desperate poverty, and huge problems (what to do with all the former child soldiers and IDP children for whom there are no desks at school is a big one). But Butembo is peaceful and pleasant and seems to work according to a norm that refuses to give in to the insecurity that pervades the countryside just a few miles away. It's a haven.
Which is why the events of this week are all the more disturbing. Thursday night, a Butembo student was killed. Friday night, another young adult was killed in Butembo. A police officer and an FARDC soldier are held as suspects in the first murder. Radio Okapi has a full report here.
Butembo's students have reacted angrily; they were out protesting from the backs of trucks in the city on Friday. I finished up interviews Friday morning and my driver headed downtown to make some copies, but we were slowed considerably by a plume of black smoke smack in the middle of Butembo's downtown. Students set fire to piles of tires along the city's main street in protest, set up barricades, and most shops stayed closed on Saturday morning.
Friday night there was a huge, freak, dry-season thunderstorm that lasted for hours on end, and then there was an earthquake during the lull. The earthquake doesn't seem to have caused any serious damage, but the feeling that all is not right with the world predominates. Suffice it to say that there is a good bit of unease in normally-peaceful Butembo.