How can the sacrifice of today’s heroes guarantee “the tomorrows” for Congo’s forests, wild savannas and the Parks meant to protect them? This was the unspoken challenge at the Abraham Conservation Award Ceremony in Kinshasa on the 29th of March 2010.
We gathered to honor 8 park guards who lost their lives in Congo’s Parks in attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), in clashes with military poachers or ambushed by rebels. May their deaths not have been in vain.
We also celebrated the bravery of park guards wounded while fighting for their park and the courage of local chiefs who brought their citizens together to support the wilderness of traditional lands. We also paid tribute to villagers who united against Maimai poachers in a remote area where “law” and “gun” are synonymous.
The speakers included (from left) the DCM of the American embassy, Nancy Abraham, the Minister of the Environment, the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the UN in DR Congo, and the head of the Congolese park institute.
How can we assure that the initiatives of these heroes are carried forward? How can we assure that they are effective?
The ceremony celebrated the courage and dedication of 19 Congolese:
Late warden Mayumba Pela of Garamba National Park – Killed by the LRA
Late park guard Atolobako Vukoyo of Garamba NP – Killed by the LRA
Late park guard Takipi Mamvotama of Garamba NP– Killed by the LRA
Chief warden Iyomi Iyatshi – Wounded fighting the LRA
Park guard Atakuru Surandi – Wounded fighting the LRA
Park guard Langosti Pipili – Wounded fighting the LRA
Late park guard Atikpo Mutombi of the Okapi Reserve – Killed in a clash with poachers
Late park guard Kambale Vilavu of Virunga National Park– Killed in a Maimai ambush.
Late park guard Udongo Okelo of Virunga National Park – Poisoned by poachers
Late park guard Kanyangara Muhima of Virunga National Park – Killed when ambushed by poachers
Traditional Chief (groupement) Muombi Lubula of Kahuzi Biega National Park – Ran community patrols when ICCN could not enter his region of park.
Chief (groupement) Oscar Biringanine Marhegane of Kahuzi Biega NP – Arrested twice for denouncing military and political authorities who exploited the park.
Traditional Chief (chefferie) Mwami Mopipi Mukulumanya of Kahuzi Biega NP – Led his rebellious population away from uncontrolled resource exploitation and back to support the Park.
Late park guard Asukulu M’meme of Itombwe Reserve – Killed by unidentified armed men when on mission to investigate the killing of a gorilla.
Traditional Chief (chefferie) Konji Wa Kyalwe of Upemba National Park – Protected elephants on his land despite elephant-human conflict.
Traditional Chief (chefferie) Matchozi Ulimwengu of the TL2 landscape – Campaigned tirelessly against bonobo poaching and for the formation of a protected area on her land.
Guillaume Kapere Mulangi of the TL2 landscape – Denounced and disarmed Maimai poachers despite no presence of armed officials to support the effort. He worked with the support of two others:
Engesombe Bayombe of the TL2 landscape and
Alacho Kahenga of the TL2 landscape.
Thank you, Guy Rondeau, for the photography of the ceremony!