These are criminals up the Lomami

They are more than just poachers…..

The village chief with the recovered weapon

The information below came as satellite email from John:

During the two and a half day trip from Opala to Obenge in the dugout we received a cryptic satellite message from Maurice, who was in Obenge having just gotten back from an inventory circuit:

“arme de guerre saisie, propietaire detenu” (seizure of a military weapon, owner detained)

We shared the message with the three members of the civil society, including the chef du secteur, who are traveling with us. They are the first official delegation not only to visit our project but even to come to Obenge since the civil war started more than 10 years ago.
The Lomami river still going strong after 600kms, awesome
The river from Opala to Obenge was deceptively peaceful

Maurice greeted us in Obenge that evening with the information that the weapon was with the Mere Cheftaine (village chief). The owner, the uncle of Major Ranger, was under surveillance.

We learned that this uncle had at first refused to reveal the whereabouts of the arm, but when bound and threatened with being hauled before the military unit based in Opala for interrogation, he agreed to lead the village chief and a small group of witnesses to a nearby forest site where the assault rifle was buried.

Covered with rust, the stock tunneled by termites, the clip still held four rounds. Kahindo, trained as an ICCN guard to handle firearms inspected the gun the next day and noted that it could still be made operational.
It was not empty

Against this background the chef du secteur spoke this morning, at a village reunion of the entire population , well over a hundred were present. The gathering started in the morning with singing and dancing and ended three hours later with a march through the village.

A number of revelations became public : three members of Major Ranger’s and Colonel Thoms‘s gang were identified as still being in Obenge. ’

To add to the drama, Radio Okapi in a recent national broadcast carried a story about Colonel Thoms, reporting that MONUC investigations revealed that he and his gang had raped at least 135 women and girls, including 25 children.

“What if the parents of all those girls came together in one spot”, our team-leader Dino thought aloud (a father himself). “They would fill our camp. And then what if Colonel Thoms’s last three accomplices still here in Obenge were brought in front of that crowd…..”

I will have a follow up of the community meetings with more information from John in two days…..


  1. Posted 2008-04-22 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Firing squad or meet the parents of these victims…I opt for the latter.Good to know this weapon is out of commission as well. Recently read a story about a poacher, who then fell victim to a very hungry crocodile…God forgive me, but that is my idea of justice.

  2. Lucia Cristiana, Brasil
    Posted 2008-04-22 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you Theresa.

  3. Wanda Harris, Atlanta
    Posted 2008-04-23 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    yes—yes I agree.

  4. Terese Hart
    Posted 2008-04-23 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I do believe that justice is finally coming to the TL2 but it comes along with the dredging up of some pretty horrific “realities of life” that people just accepted…figuring there was no choice. Makes my blood run cold.

  5. Greg Davies
    Posted 2008-04-23 at 9:45 am | Permalink


    Recently discovered the Lomami website. It is excellent! Please keep up the outstanding work despite the difficult odds.

    Incidentally, although not bonobo related, could we perhaps have some news on how the Itombwe expeditions went?

    Kim Gjerstad in his now defunct blog gave us a tantalizing glimpse, but it would be great to read something more substantial on that critical part of the D.R.C. and what John and the others found.

    All strength to your arm,

    Greg Davies

    Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

  6. Terese Hart
    Posted 2008-04-23 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Yes Greg, certainly. You will not be surprised to know that there is a REPORT almost ready on the last census in Itombwe. I will call John’s attention to your note as further impetus to move this out.
    There are two sources of possible funding for Itombwe (it will need a good bit). One is Banro a big Candadian gold company mining along Itombwe’s and Luama Kivu’s SW border (if you send your email I will send a map). They have not YET been convinced they have any responsibility here — they need to be.
    The second source, and more likely I think, although not immediate, is the road reconstruction of RN5 on the eastern side. Western money supports this (World Bank, DFID…) and they will have an environmental component.

  7. Posted 2008-04-23 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I hear the lions in the Maasai Mara are hungry. This criminal sounds like a tasty meal.

    Terese, perhaps we can mount a little campaign to bring the Canadian mining company’s attention to their responsibilities?


  8. Terese Hart
    Posted 2008-04-23 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Itombwe is a wonderful place. Absolutely incredible. With high altitude forests and alpine ridges and gallery forests AND gorillas. Just to the south and at lower altitude but looking up to Itombwe is the Luama Reserve…virtually unprotected but still with elephants and magnificent. When I was there in November there were orchids (several species) and lilies blooming on the Savanna (tons of them).
    Of the two people above the first is their man in bukavu and the second their man in Kinshasa. Don’t have contacts for Canada unfortunately.
    Also send me your email at my email: and I will send you a map of their operations with respect to protected areas.

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