Zaire Boy Scout Association story in the news
Ed Henderson (BigEdBSA@AOL.COM)
Sat, 22 Feb 1997 16:46:51 -0500
BUKAVU, Zaire (AP) - On the anniversary of their founder's
birth, Boy Scouts wielding machetes slashed down tall grass and
uprooted weeds Saturday on the grounds of a hospital for those
wounded in Zaire's civil war.
The Scouts in rebel-controlled eastern Zaire celebrated not only
the 140th anniversary of the birth of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the
British founder of scouting. They also celebrated their freedom.
For 14 years, President Mobutu Sese Seko had banned the Scout
Association and replaced it with a youth group to promote his own
repressive form of politics.
``We continued to be Scouts, but secretly,'' said troop leader
Emmanuel Missige Amani, 48. ``We couldn't wear our scarves, and we
had to meet in churches. But we kept doing good deeds.''
In 1986, Scout leaders revolted, he said, and Mobutu allowed
them to rejoin the Scout Association, the world's largest
international youth organization, with a membership of 25 million
boys and girls in 142 countries.
Scouting was introduced in Zaire by Belgium, the former colonial
ruler, in 1940.
Today, there are 5,000 Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in Bukavu, the
largest town under the control of the rebel Alliance of Democratic
Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire.
Few among them own uniforms, but most proudly wear scarves -
each with a design distinguishing troop membership. Their leaders
have no merit badges to distribute, nor manuals to guide them, nor
camping supplies. Government troops stole the Scouts' tents when
they cleared out of town in October.
But the Scouts continue to help clean up the city and make other
improvements, such as helping build housing for the homeless.
With machetes and rubber-gloved hands, more than 100 Scouts
tidied up the grounds at General Hospital, where a ninth person
died Saturday of wounds suffered in the government bombing of
Bukavu on Monday.
``I'm a Scout to serve my country,'' said Saloum Mulinda, 19.
``I do about 80 percent of my learning in school, and the other 20
percent comes from scouting. I try to do at least one good deed a
Troop leader Jean-Claude Maniebwa said building character is the
main goal in this country where morale has been badly damaged by
nearly 32 years of Mobutu's rule.
``We teach them to be good citizens, to respect one another, to
make them understand, for example, that when they hit someone
they're hurting themselves, too,'' Maniebwa said.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City