Rehearsal of the Lomami National Park anthem for the 10th of December 2016.
In October 2016, a colleague from an international conservation NGO in Congo asked us, “Is it true there is a new National Park?” What? She didn’t know?
It was three months earlier, on the 19th of July 2016, that the Prime Minister of RD Congo signed the decree creating the Lomami National Park.
But how could she know? The only celebration was in the distant province of Maniema whose government played a key role in the final campaign for the National Park.
The whole nation should know. In Kinshasa on the 10th of December, even as President Joseph Kabila’s government reaches its official term, and opposition forces gather in the streets, the Governor of Maniema called for a national celebration.
It happened the only way possible: Warring factions were in one room amidst lively music, ambassadors and embassy representatives, top people from top parks, army generals, international conservation organizations, presidential counselors, senators, deputies and a handful of traditional chiefs.
The disgruntled faction did indeed explode into choreographed battle. The ceremony was briefly taken hostage…but came out singing in the end.
Here is what happened:
Their problem: Maniema Province was becoming park headquarters. Tshopo Province wanted the headquarters. And, more important, there was a land dispute between the provinces well to the east of the Park. Although it had nothing to do with LomamiNational Park, the celebration was the occasion to proclaim provincial rights in front of national authorities.
But the ceremony continued; the breech was filled, but it was now clear the two provinces would have a week of parleys after the ceremony finished.
The show goes on
The song goes on. The park is a wilderness of 8,874 sq km. No hunting, no habitation. It joins, as the 8th national park, those of previous administration (Virungas, Garamba, Kundelungu and Upemba) and the national parks born during Mobutu’s era (Salonga, Maiko, and Kahuzi Biega), Now there is a national park born during Kabila’s era: the Lomami National Park.