Willy Ali Lutenga

Environmental Law Advisor

Willy was born in 1983, in Salamabila in Maniema Province.

After finishing secondary school in Kindu, he studied to become a lawyer at the Faculty of Law at Kisangani University. He chose the Economic and Social Law Department, which incorporated environmental law. A course about international environmental law inspired him – this was the material he wanted to thoroughly master.

When he finished university in 2010, he worked as a researcher for TROPENBOS in Kisangani. But after this work, he returned to Kindu, where he struggled to find a job in his profession. For a while, he worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross as a logistician. But eventually was able to return to his profession as a lawyer and by working with the Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN), he got more specialized in environmental law.

Among lawyer colleagues (Will is the second from left)

In 2014, Leon Salumu of the TL2 Project contacted Willy. He asked Willy’s support to prosecute poaching cases. At that time, local communities in the TL2 landscape, and lawyers and magistrates in Kindu didn’t know much about laws regulating hunting including completely protected species that people continued to hunt with no consequences. Willy and Leon collaborated to raise awareness in the law community.  Then after extensive outreach in the community, he helped Leon train undercover investigators, whose roles were to find the law-breakers in the markets, among hunters, in villages, and everywhere in the landscape.

It was around this time that the revision of the Conservation Law came out, in 2014. This was very helpful; the judges started to see that in the past they let many environmental infractions go without any punishment. Willy brought many environmental criminels to the judge, and some of them were seriously condemned. This work had a major impact on poaching; the number of infractions decreased rapidly. Of course, poaching didn’t disappear altogether. But people engaged in poaching secretly, and it became harder and harder for them. You certainly could no longer just walk into the market and see bonobo and elephant meat for sale.

His responsibilities in the project with protected species continue. With Leon, they had different cases of infractions involving bonobo meat, elephant meat and ivory, and pangolin meat and scales. In 2016, after the creation of the Lomami National Park, he also started to advise on the creation of Local Community Forest Concessions (CFCL in its French abbreviation). The first step was raising awareness among the communities about the concept of CFCL. Willy works in collaboration with the outreach team of the TL2 Project (SCoCo). 

Willy (on the left in yellow jacket) on a meeting about CFCL with village chiefs

His favorite part of his work is to discuss conservation with communities, and he is also very pleased when he sees that fewer and fewer people break conservation law as a result of his work. It is unusual for a lawyer to walk long distances in the bush, but for Willy that is not a problem. He has walked the long paths many times: the savannas and forests between Katopa and Chombe kilima, between Oluo and Benekamba, and between Bafundo and Kakongo. He actually likes to walk, which is a good thing if one chooses the domain of environment. He likes to help the communities to adapt to new opportunities, to help them to develop in a sustainable way, so that people make sure that the following generations will be able to live well, too.

Willy (on the right) with the site chief of ICCN (in the middle) and field coordinator of TL2 Project (on the left) on a field mission

The most challenging part of his work is to get village people to understand the importance of conservation. If a lawyer works in the city, there are workshops, discussions, meetings; it is easy, people are already informed about many things. But in the remote villages it is completely different, and we have to learn to approach subjects differently. It can be dangerous sometimes. Isolated villagers can be easily manipulated by people with bad intentions who try to take advantage on them. 

In the future, Willy wants to continue in the domain of nature conservation, and to get more experience especially in the sustainable management of natural resources.

He had five brothers and a sister, but unfortunately, he lost his sister and one brother. His parents also died. Several of his family members are merchants, and one of his smaller brothers is an agronomist. Willy has a wife, and they have four children. He wants to limit himself to four. Three sons, and one little daughter born in 2018. They all live in Kindu.