Reporters on the Job
• A United Nations' Schedule: As President of the Ituri province of Congo, Petronille Vaweka may be the highest-ranking government official for hundreds of miles. But if she wants a ride, she's still subject to the UN's timetable. When staff writer Abraham McLaughlin flew with her on a large Russian-made UN helicopter to the town of Aru, the pilot announced that we would only have 20 minutes on the ground. He had a schedule, and no amount of arguing could dissuade him.
"When we landed, we didn't waste a minute. She leapt out of the aircraft. Soldiers hustled her into a pick-up truck," says Abe. "My photographer and I jumped into a random vehicle, hoping it was following Vaweka. It did. She practically sprinted past the honor guard, through a burnt-out building, and back into the helicopter. We made it.
"Her reliance on the UN is symptomatic of the fact that the Kinshasa government, which gets millions from Western donors, is sending little to the provinces. Much of it is lost to corruption. Vaweka says she gets only $3 per month to pay her aides. When asked how she was going to pay for reconstructing the building, she shrugged and said, 'We'll worry about that later.' "
• Car-less in Baghdad: A new law designed to relieve congestion and a gasoline shortage in Iraq's capital is complicating the logistics of reporting. On alternate days, cars with plates ending with odd or even numbers cannot drive. "Half of the time we're without a car," says reporter Jill Carroll. "Our driver rented a rickety car today. But it wasn't working well.
"Saddam Hussein enacted a similar law during the Iraq-Iran war as a move to save gas. It lasted a month. I'm hoping this one is as short-lived," says Jill.
David Clark Scott