Actually not yet. …but it seems that he is looking for it.
The bishop visited Obenge. Crispin passed his boat when he was heading downstream towards Opala. Crispin was returning the Civil Society representatives and picking up Major John who promised to clean out the last of Major Ranger’s gang, those who had been off in the forest on his last “clean-up” mission.
The photo Crispin got of the Bishop’s boat is very reminiscent of the image from the 1951 movie, African Queen, with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.
The view of the Bishop’s boat heading up-river towards Obenge
The African Queen was filmed on the Ruiki River which flows north between the Lomami and the Lualaba, dumping into the latter just south of Ubundu.
With a lot of fanfare, even if not Hollywood, the Bishop arrived in Obenge the evening of Tuesday, the 22 of April and very early in the morning of the 23rd took off with a guide and accompanying catechists into the forest. Mystery mission, of unlikely evangelical significance.
There was the appropriate pomp
Later that morning he called a town meeting where he made some comments not worth repeating about our Project TL2. He passed out salt and plastic buckets to the assembled and he met with the town leaders to tell them he was interested in a forest concession near Obenge. The town elders were non committal.
The giving of gifts
John was a half day’s hike into the forest at the Losekola Primate Camp and did not witness the visit.
Crispin was back in Obgenge on Thursday. He gathered eye witness reports, but despite his efforts to meet him personally, the Bishop was always asleep or indisposed. Crispin did however manage to talk to some of the catechists and to explain to them what we were doing. He showed our official papers.
Catechists: Why don’t you tell the Bishop what you are doing? You have not kept us informed and you are in our diocese. (comment: nor have we informed the Methodists, or the Baptists, or the Kibanguistes…. And the bishop’s base is 350 km north from Obenge as the crow flies)
John (later): Seems remarkable that the Bishop would come all the way to the southern limit of his diocese for a forest concession when the Lomami cuts through a couple hundred km of virgin forest further north.
Crispin : Let’s wait and see….it seems that he has other interests. He visited streams where it is said that the Belgian colonialists extracted diamonds and other unknown minerals.
A pertinent aside: This same Bishop of Isangi made another visit to a far corner of his forest diocese in February of this year. This time to the village of Yeikombo – west of Opala – on the road to Ikela.
He promised the village that he would build schools and hospitals. One night soon after his arrival he was caught by the PPRD (acting as local police) on a clandestine visit to a diamond mine from which a large “stone” had recently been extracted. Under interrogation, and in a very human fit of “passion”, the bishop said that with “this kind of reception” he would do nothing for the village.
And of course he hasn’t.
Back to Obenge: Major John did round up the last three of the elephant poaching gang. With little ceremony, and to the surprise of the bishop, they became “guests” on his boat back down the Lomami to Opala.
Speechless, the bishop watches the operation.
As Crispin said, “Let’s wait and see.” If there is a follow-up you will know.
A note: I am a Catholic and an adult convert at that. I could not write this without also giving testimony of some of the incredible sacrifice that catholic clergy made for their congregations during the recent Congo war. On the other hand the Catholic church is one of the most human. It has its underside.