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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 08:29 GMT
DR Congo's gem of a city
Lubumbashi city centre
People in Lubumbashi have a better quality of life

Travelling around the Democratic Republic of Congo can sometimes be a bit predictable.

One leaves the heat, squalor and chaos of Kinshasa only to end up in a place even more run down and where the suffering of the people is even greater.

So it was a shock for me to arrive in Lubumbashi, a city without child beggars, without potholes and where there are no festering mounds of rubbish.

It barely even has any mosquitoes. In other words this place is not like the rest of Congo.

Fresh paint

It could be in Zimbabwe, or other southern African countries where pavements, freshly-painted shop fronts and well-dressed soldiers are taken for granted.

The key to the success and relative wealth of Lubumbashi is not hard to miss.

It comes in the form of a massive, twin-peaked mountain of black rubble that has been slowly extracted from the enormous Gecamines copper mine since the 1920s.

Open in new window : War survivors
DR Congo's displaced generation

Although the mine itself is only a fraction as efficient as it once was, a smart new, blue factory is now reprocessing the black rock, and has found gold, cobalt and other minerals in vast quantities.

Kabila

Lubumbashi has other sights as well.

The late President Laurent Desire Kabila
Kabila did a lot for the city

As you drive in from the airport you come across a monument to the first Congolese president to hail from these parts, Laurent Desire Kabila.

The statue, much smaller than the man himself, depicts the assassinated leader breaking his chains of oppression.

There are posters of Kabila throughout the town, where he remains a popular leader.

He repaired most of the roads, built a large new central market and set up the country's non-elected parliament here.

Unpaid

Lubumbashi is very much the power base of the government, even under Laurent Kabila's son Joseph, who is here at the moment, with several of his ministers.

Unlike other Congolese cities Lubumbashi does not feel distant from the decision makers.

Aerial view of Lubumbashi
Manicured lawns are not a common sight in Congo

Of course, it has not always gone well for Lubumbashi.

Mobutu once had the city's famous Brasimba brewery dismantled and shipped to his northern jungle palace in Gbadolite.

And even now, in the Caravia hotel, where Laurent Kabila proclaimed himself president, staff complain they have not been paid for 23 months.


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06 Dec 02 | Africa
22 Nov 02 | Africa
21 Nov 02 | Africa
15 Nov 02 | Africa
30 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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