Tag Archives: Congo

Carla Drift – Nomadic existence


Carla Drift – Nomadic existence

I cannot write more about my work in the area of crimes against humanity, because I will bring other people and myself in great danger. With state secrets, secret services, authorities and powers which have added stark dark pages to history, one cannot be too careful.

In Western Europe, many people think that this dark pages are written by authorities and powers in distant countries. From South Limburg I did not have to travel far. South Limburg itself had never had many ambitions to fulfil a role in world history, maybe robber gangs like the “buck riders” [1] added a few footnotes to history. I leave further research into black pages in history by South Limburg to others.

[2]

From my village in South Limburg I did not need to travel far for a number of my investigations. With a few hours walk to the East, I arrived in Germany with crimes against humanity during the Second World War. With a few hours walking to the West, Belgium is located with Congo as black pages in history; in elementary school we only learned the abuses against fathers and sisters and massacres of innocent believers, but later more became known [3]. To the North, Holland is located with its dark history in the slave trade. Also dark pages were written during the suppression of rebellions in Indonesia [4] where a President of the Council of Ministers [5] in his early years has personally played an active role. Finally – against the wishes of Holland – Indonesia became independent after a war that was called police actions [6] in Holland. I was involved in investigation into war-crimes during this war. Furthermore I have done research on all seven continents – also in Australia with Aborigines and in North America with the world power.

[7]

After every research in the tropics, I came home exhausted and sick. Luckily I still had places at home where I could recover. In Amsterdam I had my room in the house of friends of Man and me for a long time. When I came home in South Limburg there were always happy faces – when I came and when I went again; I was always greeted as the prodigal daughter but I was too independent and bold – “vreg”; the pastor, the Mayor and the City Council noticed this pretty fast. In short, several temporary places to recover and to make preparations for new investigations with all adventures involved. Always under a disguise playing a game of hide-and-seek in order not to be unmasked with all fatal consequences involved.

About 10 years ago, I left my room in Amsterdam, because the friends of Man and I decided to live in a smaller apartment at their old age. Their beautiful house in the Centre of Amsterdam was sold. I left my room with a rucksack, a sleeping bag, a bivouac sack, lightweight camping gear and some clothes. All my books were in the University libraries – with a number of library cards easily accessible. I sold my other belongings. All in all, an enormous wealth.

Several years ago I came back from a research in the tropics – but now I was seriously ill. I did not recover fully: after small efforts I was quickly tired. I noticed in my body and soul that tropics years counted double; After some 20 years in the tropics I had reached my retirement at the age of 50 years old . With my savings and some small consultancies, I could bridge the time until my “state pension”.

After a nomadic existence of researcher with recovery periods in Amsterdam with friends and in South Limburg with family, I was now dependent on a new place to live. In South Limburg I did belong any longer in the society of the village where I grew up – I left too long ago. My father and mother were proud grandparents of the children of both my sisters. These nephews and nieces were almost independent – two were studying, one was craftsman and the youngest was still following high school. My sisters were happily married with nice partners. My friend from my childhood was well either. He came along when I was in Amsterdam for a visit to world city with all its challenges. Sometimes he visited me abroad. How welcome the home nest in South Limburg might appear, I did not belong there any more.

I was a nomad, but a nomad who needed a roof during bad weather and cold nights. Through friends I bought a caravan that was adapted for wintertime.

[8]

There was another problem: I had no driving licence and I did not want to get one. Trough acquaintances in South Limburg, I bought a small tractor. My father checked the tractor on shortcomings. I think no tractor was ever so thoroughly checked, because my father intuitively felt that this might be one of the last things he could do for me – his problem child and apple of his eye.

[9]

The village waved me goodbye when I left with tractor – caravan combination and I waved back, again only happy faces. The following post is about the treks with this tractor – caravan combination.

News

My publisher has its new website available:

www.omnia-amsterdam.nl


[1] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokkenrijders

[2] Source image:  http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokkenrijders

[3] See also: Reybrouck, David Van, “Congo – Een geschiedenis van”. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2010

[4] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atjehoorlog

[5] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hendrikus_Colijn

[6] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politionele_acties

[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aborigines_(Australi%C3%AB)

[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caravan_(aanhangwagen)

[9] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tractor

Carla Drift – Travelling


After submitting my thesis on the subject “Preventing Excesses during Change and Conflicts”, I gave a presentation on this topic two weeks later. The attendees asked critical questions about the need for defence of property. They were sceptical about the possibility of words – ultimately chats do not fill gaps caused by tensions and stress. During the examination, fundamental questions were asked about the balance between the races of developments of the material prosperity and the development of the arms industry that has produced devastating instruments including atom bombs. Luckily, I had an example available on the transition from the Bronze Age [1] into the Iron Age in Greece and Asia Minor around 1200 BC. At that time, many cities were destroyed by sacking and fire. Until recently, this destruction was attributed to drifting people – the so-called Sea People [2]. Now there is more nuanced thought about this period. It is believed that the improved military technology and population growth – by use of iron agricultural tools – made it possible to sack cities and defeat  classic armies equipped with bronze weapons and chariots.

After the exam and the diploma ceremony, there was my graduation party – a beautiful party. Everyone who was important in my life, was present. My father beamed, my mother and sisters were happy for me, childhood friends from South Limburg wished me luck, but they warned me for the dangers of the human world. They asked when I would come back home and they had taken vacancies of posts at the Municipality and the Province. My student friends asked what my plans were: a post – or a journey around the world. Also my former great love was present – the magic between us was gone. I saw him as an ordinary beautiful nice young man, who easily falls in love with women – not my type. We gave each other kisses on the cheeks and promised to keep in touch with each other. Not much came of it. Through acquaintances I occasionally heard something about his life.

After receiving my Masters, I had no interest in PhD. Then I should specialize too much during the investigation and an academic career did not attract me with its hairs-splitting including a strong competition with other scientists. Before I might accept a post, I preferred to see parts of the world. I prepared a world tour of about a year. I disposed of many of my belongings and I left the special items at my family, friends and acquaintances. I only owned the contents of my backpack: 10 kilogram or two sets of spare clothes and a little more.

Backpack with belongings [3]

I planned to go to India to first. The overland journey was too dangerous with the war going on between Iran and Iraq and uncertainty about Afghanistan.

During the elaborating of this plan, I received an invitation for a paid study trip to Central Africa. A human rights organisation wished to investigate excesses in a dictatorial governed country in Africa. Before I participated in the research, I could make a three weeks tourist journey at my own expense in parks in Kenya and Central Africa.

On this tourist travel I met many dear, nice and helpful people. Their hospitality exceeds far beyond the good hospitality in South Limburg. In this environment men still know – according to the first college philosophy by Prof. Dr. W. Luijpen – the art of half an hour work for eight hours sitting in the sun. An art that I could only acquire during short periods much later in my life. I was open and people were open. They protected me – as one of their small children – for the dangers of the environment and for dangers of robbery and worse.

Savanne in Africa [4]

In Central Africa I noticed remnants of former cities. I was reminded of the ancient cities in Asia Minor during the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Several hundred years ago, this continent had undergone a similar forced revolution by the invasion and colonization of a more advanced civilisation from Europe.

City wall in Zimbabwe [5]

All the maritime countries of Europe tried to take possession of a part of Africa to assert their influence and to acquire riches. According to an old saying, a crime is underlying each possession. This occupation was accompanied by violence against the original inhabitants and with violence between the maritime countries themselves. Around 1885, Congo still had to be divided between the high-profile countries in Europe. In 1885 during the Conference in Berlin, Congo was awarded to King Leopold II of Belgium: he made Congo his personal property and named it ‘Congo Free State’. For the original inhabitants of this part of Africa it was certainly no Free State.

From the West Coast of Africa, many original inhabitants – after being captured – were traded as slaves and deported to South- and North America. Below is a photo of their symbolic gate – called “Point of no Return” – for their forced departure with an excessive unpleasant journey to the “promised” land, where a slave existence awaited. Only much later, after many hardships and strive, they would legally receive an equal status in the United States of America. In practice, the status of many people from Africa is still not equal to people originating from the maritime countries of Europe.

Gate of Point of no return[6]

More than a century ago, Africa was divided by Europe into many parts with artificial borders. The population within these parts was not homogeneous. Coherent groups were divided over different areas. After the Second World War, Europe had no longer the power and influence to keep its colonies in Africa occupied. By negotiation or after a freedom fight, many former colonies received independency along  the former imposed artificial borders. Serious underlying tensions often existed within this new independent parts and between these parts. These tensions found their way in mutual conflicts between tribes and between the new States. A number of new States had great internal tensions to establish a new public administration. Some countries fell into dictatorship with a reign of terror in order to stay in power.

Map of Africa [7]

In Ethiopia in 1974, parts of the skeleton were found of a woman who has lived approximately 3.2 million years. She is called “Lucy” [9].

Australopithecus afarensis or a woman of 3,2 million years old named Lucy [10]

By conducting this paid study, I started a dangerous career. This first paid study focused on the causes and consequences of genocide in Central Africa. I have never been very convinced of the existence of homogeneous people. I think it is better to speak of small or large groups of people with reasonably similar habits and culture. Within these groups, the differences can be significant, but outsiders often focus on the similarities. Based upon this framing, special characteristics are attributed to this group. When tensions arise, certain characteristics are used for stigmatisation of a foreign group; the own group is glorified based upon certain other characteristics. Tensions can pass into conflicts with sometimes fatal consequences and excesses for groups or parts of the group. My study focused on the process and the consequences of this stigmatisation and on the responsibility for excesses.

For the safety of the interviewee, my co-researchers and myself I can give no details about this study.

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze_Age_collapse
[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Peoples
[3] Source image: Zie ook:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backpack
[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa
[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Zimbabwe_Closeup.jpg
[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa
[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa
[8] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(Australopithecus)
[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australopithecus_afarensis
[10] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide