Injustice = Lost Productivity

These two are intractably linked here in Congo.  The ongoing story of W clearly illustrates the connection.

About two months ago W was arrested, allegedly for allowing or helping a prisoner at the military prison get out and go to the market to buy some food.  Yes, the prisoners aren’t fed by the prison, but by their family members or, in this case, being able to convince someone to let them out to get some food.  We’re connected to the case because W is the son of our gardener, G.  W graduated from high school a couple years ago and as there was not money to go on to university he got a job at the military prison.  He is the assistant “greffier”, a position that puts him third in line of responsibility after the Director and Greffier.  His work seems to be mostly secretarial.

On the day in question, W was not at the prison when the prisoner was let out.  Nor did he even have a key to let someone out if he should want to.  The key is held by a person below him in the prison hierarchy.  On the day in question, a prisoner was let out and went to the market to buy food where he was recognized by a soldier who inquired about why the prisoner was out.  The “escapee” was taken back to the prison, and W and the Director were arrested.

The wheels of (in)justice grind slowly here.  I forget exactly how long it was before their case was heard by the judge, maybe later August.  A lawyer is working with them and when the case was presented to the judge, it was clear to everyone that W and the Director did not have anything to do with the prisoner getting out.  But the surveillant has fled so can’t be arrested.  Along the way there have been delays because this or that person was out of town for several days to over a week so you sit and wait in jail.  Three weeks ago W’s dad was told that the judge asking for $400 to release them.  The person who told him this said you can probably negotiate it down to $200.  The Director’s family was helpful in that they recognized W’s innocence and offered to pay more than half.  G and his family scrambled to find their share and next they learned that they needed to come up with the full $400 for both men.  They raised the money and he still was not released.   Last Friday was to be a final hearing.  The Director is being transferred to Mbandaka where he’ll be tried.  Everyone agreed that W was innocent, but G was told that he needed to bring a large goat, or 30,000 francs, on Monday so that his son could go home.  Then on Monday he learned that it was not either/or, but both and it had to be 40,000 francs and a large goat.

Another aspect of the lost productivity part of the story is that the families of the prisoners have to bring food to the prisoner.  And, get this, they have to either pay the guard to bring the food in or give him some of what they brought.  The minimums they pay are 250 francs ($.27) to bring coffee in the morning and 500 francs ($.55) for the evening meal.  Many days they pay 1,000 francs.  And there is the time going and coming and waiting to get in.   This all adds up to a lot of time away from other activities for someone in the family.

G himself has spent numerous hours there waiting to see this or that official or for proceedings to start.  We haven’t counted the number of days of work he has missed entirely or only been here a couple hours, all for which we have continued to pay him.  G told me that they have sold all their chickens over the past 7 weeks.  And this was just after he had initiated a little project amongst all the workers where every 2 weeks they would each bring a chicken and give to a selected person, thereby building up their small flock.  G has sold all those chickens.

Along the way we have pondered how should we help.  Yes, we can put out more money, but we don’t just want to be deep pockets all the time either.  We’ve helped with money twice and most recently gave the additional 30,000 francs, later increased to 40,000 francs, hoping that he would be released.

The blatant injustice and corruption is appalling.  “Yes, your son is innocent, he did nothing wrong; now bring me this and we’ll set him free.  Oh, and bring me something else besides.”  Please pray for us as we walk alongside G during this time.  Pray for wisdom and discernment, for creative ideas from the Spirit for how we can support him and encourage him.  Please also pray for G and W.  Pray that W would be released and be able to return to his family.  Pray that the Spirit would convict the hearts of the corrupt officials who are involved.  Pray that the Lord would be glorified through this situation.

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One Response to “Injustice = Lost Productivity”

  1. J. David Wood says:

    So sad. We never had a comparable experience, but can certainly envision it.
    Know that you are in my prayers.

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