Bofenda’s Field Diary from Along the Lomami
Major Guy and Maurice started their trip to the Lomami because of a death threat; a cross was traced in the dirt at the entrance to our field camp at Obenge.
Along with Obenge, we have a second base just north of the future Lomami National Park, at the small village of Yawende (see map below). It was only later we learned that the same outlaw- evangelists who tried to frighten Ephem at Obenge had also threatened Bofenda and Gilbert who are stationed at Yawende.
After arriving in Opala, Major Guy recruited a small group of military from the local contingent. They discussed the mission and split paths: four military headed west, overland towards Yawende, while Major Guy, Maurice and a local government authority took our dugout south, up the Lomami to Obenge.
Below is Bofenda’s account from Yawende (see map), starting more than a month before the arrival of Major Guy’s expedition. This is a translation from his field journal:
23 February 2011: Mister Jack, disciple of Moses, the ‘god of Opala’ , arrived in Yawende. Jack is saying many bad things about our project. Don’t know why.
1 March 2011: Am back from an elephant survey. Gilbert and I are building our camp. Another disciple of Prophet Moses, Djefula, has joined Mister Jack. They tried to excite the population against us – no success. They say Yawende is the second center of Moses’s cult religion – after Yakoko.
3 March 2011: A man coming from the forest tells us that Jack left for other villages to excite people against us.
13 March 2011: Gilbert and I have returned from an inventory mission in the future park. The chief here in Yawende says Jack is in the village of Masisi. We met with several village chiefs to figure out how we can control other disciples of Moses. They are also stealing from the population.
28 March 2011: Jack is back here in Yawende. He came with an automatic rifle and a 12 caliber shotgun. He sang all night saying that behind him were 700 Maimai men.
29 March 2011: Jack is making announcements in front of Prophet Moses’s church saying that our TL2 project must leave Yawende by April 2nd otherwise he will slaughter all members of TL2.
At 15h15 four military arrive from Opala looking for the « outlaws » who threatened TL2 in Obenge. They arrested 2 members of Moses’s church, one with a 12 caliber shotgun. The AK47 rifle is somewhere hidden in the forest and Jack escaped.
30 March 2011: The military entered the forest to look for the war-rifle and the escaped outlaws.
31 March 2011: The military found the outlaws in the village of Ndulu (see map below). Pitchou, one of the outlaws, fired as soon as he was told to put down the rifle. A military returned fire immediately. They arrested Mr Black Horse. Pitchou died of bullet wounds.
2 April 2011: The military march back through Yawende and continue directly to Opala with their prisoners.
Later, in the afternoon, Jack comes back into Yawende. The population arrests him.
A day later, Bofenda’s final journal entry announces that the community of Masasi also arrested a man:
3 April 2011: The people of Masasi arrest Dido Esende, one of the escaped outlaws who raped another man’s wife.
When arrested and frisked, letters were found on the prisoners. A letter written by the Prophet Moses to Colonel Thoms – “we must unite”. Letters written by Colonel Thoms to the chief and elders of Obenge – “The forest is ours, its animals are ours, beware anyone who opposes us.” (Thoms was and is the most dangerous of elephant poachers). Letters from the Prophet to Jack and Black Horse – “Unite the people, we will be one holy force”.
The prisoners and the evidence were all taken to the military court in Kisangani. A week later Major Guy and Maurice returned to Yakoko to ask the Prophet Moses what his part was in threats, rape and thievery committed by the outlaw band of Maimai.
The prophet admitted that they were part of his “flock” but he denied that the letters were his. “Many kinds of people follow me.” He could not take responsibility for their actions, but nor would he write a letter denouncing what had been said and done in his name.
What lessons are there in this??
Two of the outlaws were arrested by the local population. Does that suggest that the only real security in DRCongo is do-it-yourself security? If so, it is not only in DRCongo, but much of central Africa .
What does it mean for a central government when the main security at the village level is do-it-yourself?
In fact just a week ago we got a thuraya message from our Obenge base that the chief of the village had just arrested an elephant poacher. Does that mean that conservation is also do-it-yourself?
Below is a scenario of do-it-yourself healthcare from Yawende:
Here is do-it-yourself healthcare in combination with do-it-yourself security/conservation:
The local traditional healer calls on the forest to cure a sick man and bring wellness to the community of Yawende. All symbols — including Christian symbols — are legitimate. May the forest long have the ability to cure.