They are more than just poachers…..
The information below came as satellite email from John:
During the two and a half day trip from Opala to Obenge in the dugout we received a cryptic satellite message from Maurice, who was in Obenge having just gotten back from an inventory circuit:
“arme de guerre saisie, propietaire detenu” (seizure of a military weapon, owner detained)
We shared the message with the three members of the civil society, including the chef du secteur, who are traveling with us. They are the first official delegation not only to visit our project but even to come to Obenge since the civil war started more than 10 years ago.
The river from Opala to Obenge was deceptively peaceful
Maurice greeted us in Obenge that evening with the information that the weapon was with the Mere Cheftaine (village chief). The owner, the uncle of Major Ranger, was under surveillance.
We learned that this uncle had at first refused to reveal the whereabouts of the arm, but when bound and threatened with being hauled before the military unit based in Opala for interrogation, he agreed to lead the village chief and a small group of witnesses to a nearby forest site where the assault rifle was buried.
Covered with rust, the stock tunneled by termites, the clip still held four rounds. Kahindo, trained as an ICCN guard to handle firearms inspected the gun the next day and noted that it could still be made operational.
It was not empty
Against this background the chef du secteur spoke this morning, at a village reunion of the entire population , well over a hundred were present. The gathering started in the morning with singing and dancing and ended three hours later with a march through the village.
To add to the drama, Radio Okapi in a recent national broadcast carried a story about Colonel Thoms, reporting that MONUC investigations revealed that he and his gang had raped at least 135 women and girls, including 25 children.
“What if the parents of all those girls came together in one spot”, our team-leader Dino thought aloud (a father himself). “They would fill our camp. And then what if Colonel Thoms’s last three accomplices still here in Obenge were brought in front of that crowd…..”
I will have a follow up of the community meetings with more information from John in two days…..