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ITURI STORY. Before this War – Part 2

A view from Nyankunde mountain
Looking northeast over the ridge from Nyankunde mountain.

It was more than four months later when I saw John again. He left the forest camps to find me on the far eastern savanna where Peace Corps posted me as a secondary school science and English teacher. He followed the single road along the edge of the forest to where it turned abruptly east, continuing as though tracing a contour line on the grass-covered ridge above the swathe of gallery forests that clothed the Shari River valley. He road atop a truck through the tall Themeda-grass savanna, it seemed empty of people compared to the farmed hills around Bukavu. John passed herds of reddish long-horned Hema cattle, and here and there a grass-dome Hema home with spotless swept clay yard. He climbed off the truck where a single track left the main road. He started to hike, pack on his back, when a missionary pick-up stopped in its cloud of dust. “Going to Nyankunde?” The missionary hospital/village was just 15 km further on.

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ITURI STORY. Before this War – Part 1

Afarama camp
We built Afarama camp in 1986 for a radio collar study of Okapi in the Ituri Forest. We continued to use Afarama for various studies through the 1990s.

***What follows is the first post in a series of posts that together are a Memoir: Our life in the Ituri Forest, but also what came before us in the Ituri and a bit of what followed.***

In 1996 the unrest in Zaïre escalated to rebellion. I was in the forest, the Ituri Forest, when I became aware of the fighting. The battles 400 km away seemed remote; however, from the perspective of my husband, John, who was back in the United States, the Ituri was not far from the bloody routs. John had access to America’s surfeit of stark news. If there had been any way to send a message, he would have urged me to leave immediately.

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Morgan is Dead! What follows for Congo’s Forests?

Photo of Morgan in the Ituri
Morgan (with gun) and some of his men in a gold camp in the Ituri in 2013.

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.

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Village theatre in Congo’s Outback

Talking with villagers in remote villages around the new Lomami Park-to-be can only be done one way: face-to-face. There just isn’t any other way – no other means of communication. This February, we tried something new near the park’s eastern border, in Maniema province, about 70 km northeast of the city of Kindu where Project TL2 has one of its bases. Our experiment was to try theatre as a way to engage people with ideas about conservation and the park.

leopard emerges
The village audience was quickly engaged.

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