This is the meeting. We planned for months ahead of time. We invited 100 people, including all the local chiefs of Maniema Province within the critical “conservation zone”, but many more came. 144 came. (note: a Province is like a state in the USA and Maniema is one of three provinces we have been exploring for the TL2 project)
This is a meeting about which we ask ourselves “Was it successful beyond our expectations?” or “Was this success a mirage, soon reversed?”
How will we know if it is reversed? Simple: By the continuing flow of bonobo carcasses to market; by the continuing bicycle loads of dried red colobus, until there are no more; by the failure to observe the no- hunting season.
This is a meeting “we” planned, but who is “we”? Not just John, me and the TL2 team leaders, this includes the very competent, Stanislas, director of cabinet for Maniema’s Environment Minister. Dir.Cab. is what everyone calls him; Dear Cob is what John writes one evening after sharing a slow bottle of wine with Stanislas at our Kindu base.
“We” includes the Reverend Cosma Wilungula, head of Congolese Parks, who opened the meeting with a prayer, gave a moving speech, and closed the meeting with another prayer. “We” means the governor, the vice-governor, and the environmental minister. “We” means Salumu, the TL2 Maniema base manager, who welcomed participants as they arrived by bicycle and dugout.
This meeting is a success if the “we” who are supporters of a bonobo forest along the Lomami becomes a bigger and bigger “we” as the word moves back through the villages and chiefdoms.
What is the word?
1. No more hunting of protected species : bonobos, elephants, red colobus monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, …
2. No hunting in all of Maniema province during six months that will start in June 2009 and will be repeated each year.
3. No hunting ever, in a part of forest along the Lomami River that will become a protected area.
This meeting’s first indication of success came as one chief after another stood up and said “I do”,each in their local language, “I do support a protected area”.
Esu tokwimidia leseii liso lé lokonda toomba nama. (Kilanga)
Tomomie waje lodia yeso wachunge nyima. (Kingengele)
Tuimenye base ko beka kesanga ke kokombelela nyama lii mokonda wito. (Kisongola)
Then the chief from Ambwe closed his forest to all hunting for a year. And I have just heard that the same happened in a collective of the Bangengele.
And what we know is that now is a critical time to stay engaged, to monitor to encourage….