On May 19th , 2004 we arrived
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Film a Documentary for War Child Canada. The first 5 days were spent in the town
of Bukavu (the tourist capital of the Congo) interviewing ex-child soldiers of the past civil war which claimed more then
3 million peoples lives, people inprisioned in jails, UN Peace Keepers etc. We were staying in a hotel on a hill a couple
miles from the Rwandan boarder and also about 1 mile from the UN compound. At the Hotel, we met a man by the name of Chuck
Pelletier from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Chuck was an ex-Canadian soldier who had retired and now was in the Congo
as a volunteer working with the UN. Throughout the first 5 days we often saw Chuck hanging around the Hotel bar and realized
we were all staying at the same hotel. Between May 26th and May 28th Chuck became very involved in our
lives. Here are the events that took place on those days and this is why we named this album after Mr. Pelletier.
|Sebastien Lapierre, UN (MONUC).
He was key in arranging the evacuation from the UN compound to the airport.
||Igor. He was the #2 peacekeeper
who REALLY helped us organize the evacuation in the bus from the UN compound, across the frontline and to the airport.|
On Wed. May 26th Deryck
and I were scheduled to go to a hospital to interview victims of the Civil War as well as rape victims. Dave and Steve went
to interview children who had been accused of Witch Craft. Deryck and my trip got cut short as our camera person Adrien and
our Tour Manager Jeff had been pulled over by intelligence who proceeded to take away there cameras and passports. Deryck
and I went back to hotel and waited for everyone to return. As we were all sitting at the Hotel bar around 6:30 PM that night
having a couple drinks, we heard a couple gun shots in the distance. Then for about 1 hour there was nothing. So we went on
with our business. Then, around 7:30 PM, a huge amount of gunfire suddenly went off which felt like it was right behind my
head. Everyone in the hotel bar and in the joining restaurant dropped to the ground and crawled out to hide behind brick walls.
This bar was a very open concept bar and had no glass or wall in the front. Through the rest of the night there were sparatic
gunfights at the boarder. We all decided that night that it would be best if we all stayed in the same room. So the four of
us along with Jeff, Eric and Sam of War Child all piled into Sam and Eric's room to sleep for the night. Things calmed down
that night at around 11PM. Needless to say none of us really slept that night.
||Our other translator Constantine.|
|Daisy Njebenje Kanywa - our translator,
guide and very helpful Congolese.
||This is the pilot who evacuated us
in his plane from Bukavu airport: Lary Strietzel (MAF).|
On Thurs. May 27th we woke up to gunfire
which started at first light. We all then went to the lobby of the hotel to meet up with everyone else staying at the hotel.
Chuck was there already dressed in a blue helmet and blue vest but unarmed. He was the only person at our hotel with any kind
of Military experience which is why Chuck took it upon himself to take charge. There were about 40 people staying at the hotel.
Chuck gathered us all and took us down to room #7 (which was my room) and told everyone to hide out in there until he knew
what the situation was. We later got another 2 rooms open so everyone had a little more space. The fighting had now moved
to the main road that our hotel was on and got very intense on this day. Everything from Mortar rounds to Rocket propelled
grenades and shot guns were going off as close as 40 meters from our hotel. Things got so bad that at one point we were all
told by Chuck to get in our room shut off the lights and stay quiet and stay down. It was then that I knew things could get
bad. About half an hour passed when Chuck called everyone out of the 3 rooms and said that things weren't going good and the
fighting was way too close to the hotel. He informed us that the UN was coming to evacuate us from the hotel.
All 40 of us were standing outside as Chuck was numbering
us off. The Tanks that were coming could only fit 10 people to a tank so we all had to be numbered off. As we were crouched
outside getting our number a Mortar bomb exploded 10 meters from our hotel which shook the entire hotel and blasted bricks
off the roof. We then had to run up stairs to the lobby and wait for the APC's (Armored Personelle Carriers) to come. As Steve
and Jeff went up first, another Mortar hit and knocked them to the ground.
The APC's finally arrived and we were instructed by Chuck
to walk (not run) outside, one by one, down this dirt road to the APC's where there were soldiers propped out of the top covering
us. We then hopped in these bullet proof APC's safely and drove to the UN compound. When we got to the UN compound there were
hundreds of Congolese locals that were also there who had been rescued. We stayed that night outside on the grass and used
table clothes for blankets, as there was not near enough room for everyone inside. It was estimated from a UN worker (Sabastien)
that 20,000 rounds of bullets were shot that day.
|The boys. |
On Fri. May 28th we woke
up at around 6 AM. GunFire started at around 8 AM. In the morning we were told that things were looking better and that the
UN had secured the town of Bukavu. Chuck and Eric took it upon themselves to go back to the hotel in a SUV to go retrieve
our bags that we had to leave behind. About an hour after they left, one of the biggest gun fights started. A UN helicopter
kept flying around the area trying to spot where the fighting was coming from. Then all of a sudden a bomb was dropped by
the helicopter on an area a couple Miles away from us which pretty much silenced things for a while. With the fighting silenced, Eric and another UN soldier named Igor, who was second in command arranged for
a Bus to take people to the airport and get us out of the Congo. About 40 of us piled into an non-bullet proof bus and headed
across the main road which was the front lines of the fighting. We were told to put our bags up in the windows in case any
stray bullets were fired. The trip to the airport took us about an hour. We then met our pilot Larry who also risked his life
to come get us. We flew out to the much safer Entebbe, Uganda.
So, as u can see, this record "Chuck" would not be have been
possible if it weren't for people like Igor, our pilot Larry and of coarse Chuck Pelletier. We'll forever remain grateful
to these people who put their lives on the lines to save our asses.
taken from sum 41's official site