Kampala, October 14 1999.
End of last week, I spoke twice to Saskia over the phone. Each time for over an hour.
There were some work related problems we had to straighten out.
She was our logistics officer in Bujumbura, but also the focal point for my team. It was late in the evening. Everyone else had already left the office. I had opened the window to let the fresh air flow in, bringing with it the typical tropical evening smell. Smoked a cigarette, with my feet on the table. We started talking about life in Bujumbura, what it meant to be living away from our families, work, what we wanted to do in the future. We reflected what it really meant for us, working for a relief agency and about life in general. We laughed, saying to each other how we enjoyed Africa, how it added to the quality of our lives. Saskia….
And now she is no longer with us.
Saskia was on an assessment mission with other UN officials in the south of Burundi yesterday. They stopped at a new refugee camp, and armed men were apparently there waiting for the mission. At first they were seen as Burundi military, but they were not.
As the UN workers got out of the car, shots were fired, killing several people. The attackers then put the rest of the relief workers against a wall, and stripped them off all their belongings. Then they started walking away.
All of a sudden, one of the attackers turned around and walked back to the group, still standing against the wall. Without any obvious reason, he put his gun against the head of the UNICEF representative, and shot her. He then put his gun against Saskia's head and shot her point blank too. In the confusion, the other UN workers escaped.
Saskia was a young Dutch woman, working for us since about four years. She was transfered to Burundi beginning of the year. I met her several times since then. Tall, blond, energetic, full of ideas and dedication, commitment. She was an enthusiast worker, trying to make a difference.
As I write this, 'Wapi Yo', a song from Lokua Kanza plays in the background.
'Wapi Yo' means 'where are you' in Swahili.
Wapi Yo, Saskia? This makes no sense.
Continue reading The Road to the Horizon's Ebook, jump to the Reader's Digest of The Road.