Last Saturday (April 12th), Morgan (alias Paul Sadala) with more than forty of his men, all armed, came out of the forest and presented themselves to the local authorities at Badengaido, a small village 50 km west of the headquarters of the Okapi Reserve, Epulu.
This was unexpected. The previous Monday, military authorities from Mambasa came to Badengaido. With a local intermediary they actually went into the gold mining camp, Muchacha, to talk with Morgan; their goal being to find a compromise that would allow Morgan to leave the forest. The delegation left on Wednesday and went to the district capital of Bunia to report and get further instructions from the government.
History: Morgan has terrorized the Ituri Forest since June 2012 when he attacked the main station of the Okapi Reserve (RFO), killing 7 people, including burning two people alive, shot dead all 14 captive okapi, raped an unknown number and carried off more than 20 women and girls into the forest.
He has been responsible for massive elephant poaching and has terrorized gold mines along the southern part of the Okapi Reserve.
In past clashes with security forces some of Morgan’s men have been killed, others wounded, but on Saturday Morgan appeared strong and hearty. He and his gang were expecting a deal; they were not defeated.
Morgan and his men presented themselves to the chief of the Bombo collectivity, who took them in. It was not until late that night, a delegation from Mambasa led by Major Enock, and sent by General Fall, arrived in Badengaido, to work out the process of bringing Morgan to Bunia.
On Sunday (April 13th), Morgan was not ready to leave Badengaido. He had decided to switch from forest terrorist to something else, but only on his own terms. He expected to be inducted into the Congolese army, FARDC, as a General. The negotiations must have been delicate. According to people at Bandengaido, Morgan insisted on the presence of General Fall, himself, as a guarantee of his security and his rank. General Fall left Bunia, and spent Sunday night in Epulu.
Morgan started towards Epulu in a vehicle that Major Enock told him would be his as general in the Congolese army. Morgan brought with him some of his men, still armed. They arrived in Molokai at about 12 noon on Monday. There they stopped. He would only continue once he talked with the General. General Fall continued to Molokai. It was clear Morgan had doubts; he wanted to be sure the military understood and agreed to his conditions.
For General Fall, the essential was to get Morgan to Bunia. Never had the authorities been so close to ending this criminal rampage; almost two years the Ituri Forest was hostage.
General Fall found Morgan sitting under a tree in the village of Molokai. The two of them started to discuss. Morgan was having second thoughts. He said he had to return to the forest to get his “wives” and children. As the discussion continued without progress, Morgan, General Fall and a few of their men moved off to discuss more privately. It was at this point that things went wrong.
Observers say that Morgan stamped his feet on the ground in apparent fury and then started to run. A military tackled him to the ground; it was in this brawl that someone drew a gun and fired on Morgan’s legs. Gunfire erupted and was continuous for 10 minutes. At the end there were several injured soldiers, one of whom later died of his injuries in Mambasa. There were also several maimai killed. One person reports five bodies on the ground.
When the convoy taking Morgan’s body towards Mambasa passed through Epulu his body was hidden in the back of a pick-up truck by a mass of military boots, legs, and living prisoners. Only his inert legs jutted out the back.
The above from a contact in the Ituri.
Below from a friend at Monusco this morning (16 April):
Morgan’s corpse is now in Bunia. The circumstances of his death are not officially revealed, but the information I have is from a Monusco (UN) staff person in Bunia. He was on the spot when Morgan came to render himself to FARDC. Morgan had 42 members of his gang behind him ready to disarm. He asked to join the army because he was unable to fight them anymore. He could not get ammunition and weapons from the hands of those who earlier supported his exploitation of gold. He told those that came to escort him that he had to return to his people to convince them to come out from the forest. Actually it was an attempt to get away again but he did not succeed. There was a fight between his men and FARDC. Six of them died on the spot and 2 FARDC were seriously injured. At the same time Morgan was targeted and shot several times. They brought him from Komando to Bunia by Monusco helicopter and put him in hospital but he did not survive.
Another update from the Ituri:
After the shoot-out in Molokai on Monday, Morgan’s remaining men, still armed, attacked an Okapi Reserve Patrol Post in revenge (Tuesday April 15th at 14hrs) wounding one park guard. Those at Badengaido returned to the forest, pillaging a gold camp, Machacha, on the way.
My take on it:
The death of Morgan is great news. May it allow the whole Okapi Reserve to be reclaimed for Conservation. And may it be the beginning of order elsewhere in the forest.
But the news is sobering: On Monday, 14th April, Morgan was killed; on Tuesday afternoon, 15th April, Emmanuel Demerode the chief warden of the Virungas National Park was shot thrice in a murder attempt (he is stable in a hospital in Goma); on Tuesday evening, 15th April, at 19hrs, John in the TL2 was in our dugout moving up the Lomami when the bandit Thoms and his men fired on the whole crew from both banks. No one was hurt.
But the story is not over…..