Reporters on the Job

Listening to Radio Trottoir: Staff writer Scott Baldauf got his first clue that the situation in Democratic Republic of Congo was getting dicey on his way into an interview Wednesday. "The interview with an African official employed by an international NGO was scheduled for 2 p.m. As I entered the lobby, he swept past me carrying two rucksacks. 'No interview. I'm going to Brazzaville,' he told me. He was leaving town. It was indicative of the emerging fear of what may come as the presidential election results are made known," says Scott.

Indeed, as Scott followed him out, he could see that the Radio Trottoir ("sidewalk radio') or rumor mill was already broadcasting a warning. The streets of Kinshasa were clogged with cars leaving the capital. Within the hour, the electoral commission released a videotaped official announcement of the election results. And foreign embassies phoned employees and citizens to tell them to stay home. "I haven't heard from the US Embassy," says Scott. "But I did get a heads up from the South Africans."

Scott says he's staying in a hotel with layers of security, including guards from both political parties. "Besides, I'm at a hotel close to the river."

The river?

"Kinshasa is located on the Congo River. On the other side is Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of Congo. If things get really bad here, everyone will head for the river. I'm told that you must be a very good swimmer or hire someone with a canoe to get you across."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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