Travel

Two different Congos in the center of Africa

The honorary consul from the Turkish Republic in the Republic of the Congo is Nadi Dublier; he greets us when we arrive and brings us to his home. 

Dublier is a businessman, involved in some large construction projects in the Congo Republic. His father was French, while his mother was an ethnically Syrian Circassian. Dublier lived for 30 years in Kinshasa (the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo), but for the past 12 years, he has been living in the Congo Republic. Dublier notes that it is very rare for the country to get Turkish visitors for tourism or business. He says he is helping efforts to attract more tourism, though: “For example, hunting is quite famous here. Some foreigners come to hunt animals like buffalo and antelope.” He adds that the country is quite renowned for its safari photography.

The Congo Republic lies in Central Africa, with a shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean. The surface area of this republic is 342,000 square kilometers. Its population is 4.6 million and the capital is Brazzaville. For many years, this was a French colony and the French exploited the rich resources both above and below the ground. But in 1960, the Congo Republic achieved independence, though the official language here is still French and France still enjoys a lot of influence over the local culture and economy.

Brazzaville is the largest, most populous city in the Congo Republic. We visit one of the city’s most important squares, which is home to a monument to independence. Behind the monument is the city’s train station. Brazzaville, it should be noted, takes its name from a French-Italian explorer, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza. So it would seem that the French wound up designating the name of the capital too! 

The Nabemba Tower

Brazzaville is very green. One of its important symbols nowadays is the Nabemba Tower office building, a 28-story edifice that houses the working offices for various government ministries. We cannot help noticing that the residents of the Congo Republic seem to really like being photographed. The moment people here see our cameras, they start making all sorts of motions and movements. The same makeshift “pus pus” carts that we found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are present here, with some people using single-wheeled versions.

Another note: Though the Muslim population is low here, we do see some mosques throughout the city.

The Congo Republic has a tropical climate, with abundant rain all year round. We set off on a city tour and encounter, to our surprise, a golf course! Africa is truly a land of contrasts. On the one hand you have stunning levels of poverty; on the other hand, you see a giant golf course as you are touring Brazzaville. Of course, the people actually using the golf course are white.

The Congo River runs through Brazzaville and we see people using it to wash their laundry, take baths and swim. Well, it is difficult to define it as swimming as the river runs too fast for people to actually swim, but they plunge in and get taken for a ride by this fast-running river. We also take some time to look at the views of the other side of the river, where the Democratic Republic of the Congo lies. The river is dotted by fishermen looking for good catches in these waters, casting their rods from their canoes.

When we finish our shoot in the Congo Republic, we finally return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Arriving in Kinshasa

Now we are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more specifically in its capital, Kinshasa.

In the middle of Kinshasa, there is a building featuring some notable Far Eastern architectural flourishes; this is the Chinese Embassy. In fact, the Chinese clearly grabbed one of the best sites in Kinshasa for their building. Over the past years, the Chinese have been completing important projects throughout Africa; in fact, most recently, they have picked up the rights to oversee projects in diamond mining here.

Experts believe that Turkish businessmen need to analyze and take advantage of some of the opportunities open to them in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To this end, Congo officials note that they are expecting Turkish business interests to act quickly and to consider making investments here for the future.

We are happy to see a Turkish preparatory school in Kinshasa, representing our country as well as peace and tolerance. This school is the first place in the Congo where the Turkish language has ever been taught. Many local residents are learning about Turkey for the first time ever due to this school.  

This Turkish school is called the International Şafak School, and though it started with just four students in 2006-2007, it now has around 1,000 to its name, studying in all stages of education, from preschool up to high school. We pay a visit to the Turkish language classroom here and see for ourselves the young generations of Congolese who are learning our language!

The computer laboratory at this school is quite good by local standards. It does appear that the people of Turkey have really done their best to support this enterprise. As for the leadership cadres of the Şafak school, they are clearly making no concessions when it comes to the quality of education.

Local teachers work in harmony here with Turkish teachers; there appear to be very few problems when it comes to both sides becoming accustomed to one another. Maybe it is because these are “white” people who have come not to take something away, but rather to give.

The AUBE foundation, a Turkish organization, was formed in 2005 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it has done a number of great things. Opened by Turkish entrepreneurs, this organization works on education, social and health issues. This group not only distributes meat and other foods to disadvantaged people around the time of Kurban Bayramı, but also extends valuable scholarships to students. In addition, AUBE recently made it possible for 15,000 people to receive free health screenings with the support of volunteer doctors and health professionals. 

Osman SEZER
Email: osman@thelondonpost.co.uk

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