I’m going to the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of the month to report on the music scene there. Getting the necessary papers turned out to be miles more complicated than I’d imagined. The DRC embassy in London has been handing out fake visas: embassy employees, genuine ones, with the uniforms and everything, have been selling the real visas on the black market (to whom, I dread to think) and palming off photocopied forgeries on innocent people like me trying to get to DRC via the proper channels. Dozens of travellers from the UK to DRC have been turned back from Kinshasa airport for having fake papers. The problem hasn’t been reported in the mainstream press – this is the scoop right here. Anyone planning an autumn break in Kinshasa beware.
The upshot is I have to get my visa from Brussels (it was through a Belgian record label that I was invited to write the piece in the first place). I Fedexed my passport over to Belgium last week, with photos of myself, a yellow fever certificate and a Belgian DRC visa application form filled out in French. This should mean I’ll get a Belgian DRC visa, to be picked up in Brussels on the way to Kinshasa. I’m worried about what the Congolese officials are going to think when they see that the nationalities on my passport and my visa don’t match up. I’m scared I’ll end up in one of those little white rooms with men shining bright lights in my eyes shouting: ‘Just who are you, monsieur?’