...in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

Last March it rained heavily during the night and our tenth grade classroom was flooded. In the morning, before school started, we had to remove the water from the room with brooms, scrapers, and buckets. While we were busy doing this, the police whistle sounded for the salute to the flag. This whistle means that all activity and movement within the visual range of the police station, located next to our school, must cease.

This happens every morning wherever there is a police station. In the past only the military and the police were obliged to salute the flag. But as the years went by, this practice became more general. Today even civilians are regularly thrown into jail if they don't stop when the flag is being run up or down the pole. Usually we stop all our activities as soon as we hear the whistle. But this particular morning we didn't hear it because of the noise we were making with the brooms and buckets.

When the salute to the flag was over, a few policemen came to arrest the whole class, but some students were able to escape. I was in the group that got arrested. The police officers were threatening to whip us and throw us into jail. Many other students, and even passers-by, had been arrested for this in the past. So everybody was very afraid.

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...in Johannesburg, South Africa
January 1, 2001

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