After being hassled to death by locals in Tanzania i had developed a habit of completely ignoring anyone who spoke to me on the streets, but since Rwanda was a new country i decided to open up and give the local people a chance again. Big mistake!
His name was kenny and i met him near my hotel. After chatting for a while he told me that he ran an orphanage and asked me if i would like to come and check it out.
I was a little skeptical but when i arrived at the orphanage i saw that it was legit with 50 something children. Kenny took me to meet a lady who he informed me was his orphanage secretary but she didn't speak any english, only rwandese so kenny translated for me. She (through kenny) told me that the orphanage was short on food and soap etc. and asked if i could help out. I said yes.
A little wary that my money would be misspent i asked kenny to come to the market with me so i could purchase the goods myself. I bought 3 footballs, 50kgs of rice, about 50 books and pens and two cartons of soap, all at a total of just over 200USD.
We had left the goods at each shop and were going to pick them up on a motorcycle later but it started to pour heavily as it did every afternoon during the wet season so kenny just said that he would pick up and deliver the stuff later and we parted ways for the day.
The next day when i went to the orphanage kenny was a bit edgy and rushed me through the photographs i had agreed to take to help him set up a website for the orphnage to attract volunteers. This is when i started to get suspicious and asked him where the footballs i had bought for the kids were. He told me that they were in storage as the kids had school exams and he didn't want to distract them until after they had finished in a couple of days. I still had suspicions that i wasn't being told the whole truth but couldn't confirm them as no one but kenny spoke english.
The next day i asked a friend at the place i was staying to come to the orphanage and ask them some questions as he spoke rwandese. When he asked the old caretaker and cook at the orphanage they said they had received none of the things that i had purchased. They also said kenny didn't run or even work at the orphange, he just bought tourists down from time to time to show them around.
I was furious! and stormed off to try and find kenny, stupidly he had shown me his room up in the hills a couple of days before, presumably to make me sorry for him because of the slum he lived in so i would give him more money. I ran up to his house, barged in and opened his room door while his neighbors stared on in fascination. I think i looked to angry for them to stop me.
He wasn't there but i found a photo of him in his room which i grabbed and proceeded to the police station. At the police station i explained what had happened to the police and we decided to try and trap kenny. I was to call him on his phone and arrange a meeting so the police could grab him (kenny at this stage didn't know that i knew he had ripped me off)
This proved unnecessary as when we went outside we saw an interesting spectacle. kenny was being dragged up the road by a group of about 10 of the orphans who had caught him after finding out that he had ripped them off of their footballs and food.
Kenny still blatantly denied stealing anything to the police even though i was shouting at him calling him a liar and a disgrace. He had also told me that he was an orphan and that his his parents had been killed in the genocide which turned out to be a complete lie.
Kenny finally admitted to reselling everything that i had bought after i told him that if he didn't stop lying i was going to make sure he spent a long time in prison. He told me and the police that he had sold everything and put the money in the bank which wasn't open till monday morning. It was late Friday afternoon at this stage and the banks had closed for the weekend so he was sent to jail and i was forced to change my plans and wait till monday to try and get my money back.
To cut a long story short on the monday when we turned up at the bank with him in handcuffs he had actually only deposited $20 of the money and had spent the rest on clothes, alcohol and a useless stuffed animal.
We also went to the orphanage as kenny had said that he had paid the secretary that wrote me the shopping list $20 commission. Of course she denied this (although i believe she was in on the scam) and then the police started beating kenny. He was curled up in a ball on the floor screaming as they kicked him. On seeing this i'm ashamed to say that i had mixed feelings and didn't know whether to be happy or horrified at the polices' treatment of him.
When the police heard that the had told me he ran the orphange, they slapped him and started to beat him more.
kenny was then taken back to the police station in handcuffs and i was supposed to go to the police station and sign a statement, but this left me in a quandary. he had already been beaten up in prison over the weekend, i had just seen him beaten up again and and he was going to get about 5 years jail if i signed the statement.
In the end i decided that he had been punished enough, besides being beaten he was paraded through town in handcuffs so everyone knew he was a criminal. i ended up skipping town without signing the statement, im not sure i made the right decision but it's what i decided at the time.
The whole fiasco did have a positive side as i did recover the footballs which i gave to the kids to their great joy. I also had some extra time while waiting for the bank over the weekend and decided to visit the congo across the border which i had wanted to do but was a bit afraid off because of the civil war they are having.
The town of goma in the congo was just a little hop across the border and I was told by locals that there had been a recent ceasefire so i decided to cross the border for the day and check out the town. Goma has had a troubled history with many murders during the civil war coupled with a volcano destroying half the town in 2002 and a disease killing thousands of people some years ago also.
Usually when you cross borders nothing much changes but this was a completely different environment from Rwanda even though it was basically one town split by a border. I don't think i've ever seen so many aid workers in one place. Every few seconds a car with monuc, UN or doctors without borders painted on its side would zoom past.
I hired a motorbike and driver to show me around the town which was filthy compared to rwanda and off we drove, weaving up the filthy streets jammed with motorbikes, people and cars.
We soon passed the UN base where behind all the barbwire fences and gun towers i could see at least 50 tanks. Moving on through the traffic we reached the area of town that had been completely destroyed by the volcano in 2002. It was a massive stretch of lava that had decimated a path trough town until the lava reached the lake. Finally i ended up the day at a 5 star hotel on the water where all the local aid workers were staying and where a cocktail cost 15USD. What a day of contrasts.
leaving goma and my scam artist behind i then headed to park nationl de volcans to track the mountain gorillas which was one of the highlights of my trip so far. With a price tag of $500 to visit the gorillas and a maximum of 1hour to spend with them i was hoping it would be worthwhile. They didn't disappoint! (check out the photos)
The politics of the group was fascinating. It was a group og 8 gorillas. 3 males and 5 females. The black back (less dominant male) was trying to poach one of the women that belonged to the silver back (dominant male) and a lot of chest beating ensued. The youngest male gorilla also tried to show his dominance by chasing us all the way back to the edge of the jungle then started to throw rocks at us as we entered the famland areas.
I have just spent the last few days chilling on a lake in uganda and visiting some game parks and am heading to the Nile to do some rafting before heading to ethiopia.
I hear that kids in ethiopia throw rocks at you if you dont give them presents so ill be well prepared for that after my gorilla experience.