Sum 41 recently touched down in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and drummer Steve Jocz has posted an online account of their early tribulations in the war-torn African nation.
"After nearly 30 hours of traveling, we finally landed at the Bukavu National Airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo," Jocz wrote on the Web site of relief organization War Child Canada. "I have never seen an airport like that before. The roof was made of rusty sheets of scrap metal held up by bent and broken metal poles."
Sum 41 took a break from recording their next album, the follow-up to 2002's Does This Look Infected?, to visit the Congo to film the documentary "From the Front Lines," which examines human rights, the origins of the country's 6-year-old civil war, the role of child soldiers, and the conditions of refugee camps (see "Sum 41 Sum Up New LP, Explain Why They're Going To Congo").
Once the guys left the airport they were greeted by a pack of young boys wearing secondhand clothing from North America, including Tupac and USA T-shirts. Their eyes, the band learned, were yellow from either malaria or hepatitis. Soon after, the group's car was impeded by a roadblock that a group of boys had constructed out of stones. The boys — who looked to be about 7 years old — demanded money, but the band drove on.
In Bukavu, the group visited centers for former child soldiers, the local prison, and girls accused of witchcraft — a common accusation that befalls children believed to be bulletproof, invisible and/or able to fly. The United Nations estimates that roughly 60 percent of children living in shelters were forced out of their homes after being accused of practicing witchcraft. Sum 41 are also expected to visit such an orphanage while in the city, located in the province of South Kivu, near the Rwandan boarder. The band has also met with officials from the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations.
Despite the hardships he's seen, Jocz said Bukavu is a beautiful city and that he's eager to accomplish the goals they've set forth. "The town of Bukavu, although it is stricken by poverty and has been decimated by the war, still has lots of character and appears to be a really interesting place," he wrote to close the journal entry. "I'm glad we're here."