Our last tambiko took place in the village of Masiri, a 6km walk inland from the port village of Lowa on the Congo-Lualaba River. This was a ceremony of the Mituku peoples and the Lengola peoples. Their ancestors know this forest. Basic tenet: the understanding of the dead is deeper than the experience of the living. The question put before the ancestors: … a national park? Their word came through the ceremony.
This was the last tambiko consultation before pushing the park proposal from the village up into the highest offices of the provinces – two provinces are involved: Orientale and Maniema. At this last ceremony, along the Congo River, key people came from both provinces and all ethnic groups.
A small fishing dugout comes up to our much larger dugout to sell fish for our overnight bivouac on the banks of the Congo. Two days in motorized dugout whether coming from Kisangani or Kindu.
Included was a technical group from the cabinets of both governors, the cabinets of both environmental ministers, and the land tenure bureaus. They met to hash out details, harmonize approaches and finalize a text for national park creation.
Our reunion on the banks of the Congo River was at the old (now decrepit) catholic mission of Lowa. After a day of discussion and rewriting, we were called to the village of Masiri by elders from both Lengola and Mituku ethnic groups.
From Masiri we were called into the forest, another two kilometers to a cleared site for the tambiko. There were confusing barriers along the way….
The whole procession of us waited, uncertain how to proceed at four different barriers. Political figures and “foreign” chiefs, alike, were all made to understand that the local people made the rules.
After we finally arrived, the tambiko became several hours of intoxicating singing and dancing.
Every traditional authority had a chance to speak, harangue, dance and admonish…
But it was the goat that spoke for the ancestor
Apparently the goat turned the right way at the right moment as it was led through the clearing. The park was approved.
It was a couple weeks later that we met in Kisangani. The traditional ceremonies were over. They had been held by all the peoples living around the perimeter of the Park, who have ancestral forest within the Park: the Ngengele, the Langa, the Mbole, the Mituku and the Lengola. Now we were taking their agreement along with our information to present to the governor of Orientale Province – would he sign?? He did – with much fanfare. And now the governor of Maniema has signed as well.
Yesterday, the file was on the desk of the national environmental minister. He will move it to the president. As soon as I hear whether or not DR Congo gets a new Lomami National Park – it will be posted here.