August was a very exciting time in Kisangani even without a prison escape. We are almost certain we have found a new species of monkey in the least known of Congo’s forests – the TL2 wilderness. Maurice and Gilbert just returned from a month long mission to interview hunters . They managed to collect skins and skulls of monkeys killed for bushmeat. And they did return with a skin of the mystery “Lesula” monkey.
Maurice and Gilbert (black pants) arranging their field notes.
At our Kisangani base John was debriefing them and preparing the skins and tissue snips for my return to the States. I would take them to a lab at NYU and the Peabody Museum at Yale.
These were all carefully tagged and bagged.
Abruptly Crispin and Maga burst into our studious scene. “Major Ranger has escaped.” He escaped with one other person, Kipeleka, from the Kisangani prison.
Kisangani prison up close with a bicycle taxi going by.
Like Ranger, Kipeleka is also from Colonel Thoms MaiMai gang of elephant poachers and rapists. Our high spirits fell like lead. What good all our efforts to inform and to facilitate when only a few months after Ranger gets to prison he is free again?
Ranger (middle) in Obenge 6 months before his arrest. Maga on the right holding papers.
Crispin and Maga left. If any two of our workers had a stake in Ranger’s continued incarceration it was them…they had worked closely to get him arrested.
This photo was taken by Crispin of two bonobos Mjr Ranger killed last December. He did it “out of spite” with no intention to eat or sell them.
Crispin and Maga were back at our base the next day to say cryptically that “IT” was underway. That night Ranger was again arrested. Their contacts and foreknowledge of Ranger’s own “safety net” paid off. Through informants Crispin and Maga traced him to a “prostitute” friend; they then informed the Major Abdoul who was in charge of the case. The Prostitute’s house was surrounded after dark. Ranger and Kipeleka were sprung.
Major Abdoul at his desk in Kisangani.
How had they escaped? They paid off the director of the prison who “allowed” them free passage under cover of night. Crispin told us that General Kifwa immediately had the prison director thrown in jail.
Job well done. Major Abdoul (center) celebrates with Crispin and Maga (white shirt).
November 2010 == UPDATE == Colonel Thoms, the Maimai commander, rapist and elephant poacher, has escaped from prison.
I heard a rumor of it several days ago when I was in Kindu, but no one could say for sure. We had a radio message from Christian who is in Yawende, he said the village was in a state of panic. But no one could say for sure. Thoms and his gang committed mass rape in Yawende several years ago and informers from that village got him arrested.
Proof finally came today, as an SMS sent by John over satellite telephone. He is in the dugout coming down the remote middle-Lomami. Here is the message:
“Village Masasi on Lomami. Found Col Thoms. Escaped. At ease. Suspect complicity police or military.”
Will signal more updates when we get more information.