Escape from Congo’s Colonial Fortress Prison

August was a very exciting time in Kisangani even without a prison escape.   We are almost certain we have found a new species of monkey in the least known of Congo’s forests – the TL2 wilderness. Maurice and Gilbert  just returned from a month long mission to interview hunters .  They managed to collect skins and skulls of monkeys killed for bushmeat.  And they did return with a skin of the mystery “Lesula” monkey.

Maurice and Gilbert

Maurice and Gilbert (black pants) arranging their field notes.

At our Kisangani base John was debriefing them and preparing the skins and tissue snips for my return to the States.  I would take them to a lab at NYU and the Peabody Museum at Yale.

primate skins

These were all carefully tagged and bagged.

Abruptly Crispin and Maga burst into our studious scene.  “Major Ranger has escaped.”  He escaped with one other person, Kipeleka,  from the Kisangani prison.

Kisangani prison

Kisangani prison up close with a bicycle taxi going by.

Like Ranger, Kipeleka is also from Colonel Thoms MaiMai gang of elephant poachers and rapists.  Our high spirits fell like lead.  What good all our efforts to inform and to facilitate when only a few months after Ranger gets to prison he is free again?

Major Ranger, elephant poacher.

Ranger (middle) in Obenge 6 months before his arrest. Maga on the right holding papers.

Crispin and Maga left.  If any two of our workers had a stake in Ranger’s continued incarceration it was them…they had worked closely to get him arrested.

bonobos killed by Major Ranger

This photo was taken by Crispin of two bonobos Mjr Ranger killed last December. He did it “out of spite” with no intention to eat or sell them.

Crispin and Maga were back at our base the next day to say cryptically that “IT” was underway.  That night Ranger was again arrested.  Their contacts and foreknowledge of Ranger’s own “safety net” paid off.  Through informants Crispin and Maga traced him to  a “prostitute” friend; they then informed the Major Abdoul who was in charge of the case.  The Prostitute’s house was surrounded after dark.  Ranger and Kipeleka were sprung.

Major Abdoul in his office

Major Abdoul at his desk in Kisangani.

How had they escaped?  They paid off the director of the prison who “allowed” them free passage under cover of night.  Crispin told us that General Kifwa  immediately had the prison director thrown in jail.

the three conspirators

Job well done. Major Abdoul (center) celebrates with Crispin and Maga (white shirt).

November 2010 == UPDATE == Colonel Thoms, the Maimai commander, rapist and elephant poacher, has escaped from prison.

I heard a rumor of it several days ago when I was in Kindu, but no one could say for sure.  We had a radio message from Christian who is in Yawende, he said the village was in a state of panic. But no one could say for sure. Thoms and his gang committed mass rape in Yawende several years ago and informers from that village got him arrested.

Proof finally came today, as an SMS sent by John over satellite telephone.  He is in the dugout coming down the remote middle-Lomami.   Here is the message:

“Village Masasi on Lomami. Found Col Thoms.  Escaped. At ease. Suspect complicity police or military.”

Will signal more updates when we get more information.


  1. Posted 2008-09-10 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Great news that the Ranger was again arrested. I hope this time he does not manage such an easy escape.

    The only thing that comes to mind with the website/blog is latest comments – it’s always something I check when coming back to a blog.

  2. Posted 2008-09-10 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to everyone for helping to get Ranger arrested again. My heart stopped a little when I read the e-mail alert that he’d escaped prison.

    Suggestions? Recent comments, as Will suggested; a longer field for names in the Post a Comment box, and where do we donate?


  3. john hart
    Posted 2008-09-10 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Will and Sheryl. The comments are so interesting.

    Here in Goma, the town is in a tizzy with congolese army (FARDC) mobilizing to move into the field against Laurent Nkunda, with some of his militia based in the Virunga Volcanoes, homeland of the Mtn Gorillas…But today luck was not with FARDC, they have lost a number of postions. No one is certain what is happening in the gorilla sector.

    Meanwhile, we have had to do incredible”acrobatics” to get ourselves on the plane to Kindu on Friday….Including getting a woman from her bed in the hospital to intervene for us at the only airlines making the trip.

    More on that story on the blog …to come…
    John Hart

  4. /home/customer/www/ on line 203
    comment c3 byuser comment-author- c-y2008 c-m09 c-d11 c-h00">
    Posted 2008-09-10 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Terese added the latest comments in the right sash… hurray!

  5. Tom
    Posted 2008-09-11 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    RSS feed for latest blogs entries is what I am missing.

  6. Terese
    Posted 2008-09-11 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    ok, comments now in right sash — but RSS feed still missing. Thanks Tom.

  7. Tom
    Posted 2008-09-11 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I realized meanwhile that it’s there, only not mentioned on the page itself. I found it just by looking at the end of address bar in Firefox. It shows the RSS symbol, which I clicked, and now I have the feed. In fact, it showed a menu of two feeds, one for blogs, the other for comments. So all is well. It would be nice to also have it mentioned on the page too, though.

  8. rebekah hart
    Posted 2008-09-12 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I am thoroughly impressed by Crispin and Maga.

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