In February, Mai-Mai militia were active in various villages around Kyondo and were disturbing local socioeconomic life. They visited Camp Ngai and Burusi patrol posts and created a state of panic among rangers (who are still disarmed). I had informal contact with their leaders and managed to convince them not to do any harm to the rangers as they are there just to save the few remaining gorillas of Tshiaberimu. It is just difficult to rely on their good will as their intentions are quite unpredictable.
In an emergency contingency plan to deal with the situation, I held meetings with the team of rangers, various local leaders and extension workers of PEVi/Kacheche based in Butembo. This plan concerns basically the security of rangers, improving collaboration with local leaders, and communication with various partners and stakeholders. Activities related to the monitoring of gorillas and maintenance of forest trails will continue. We decided to reduce patrols in encroached areas to avoid confrontation with local people which may attract the militia and expose the rangers to high risk. I paid the rangers bonuses for 3 months and provided more food so that they have all their necessities for more than a month. But there is still a lot to do, as I have to change my entire working plan because of the new situation.
The future of Mt. Tshiaberimu depends on both a good long-term conservation commitment in terms of rangers' presence and activities, and a community-based approach to alleviate poverty, the burden of the people who are living on the brink of chaos (nonexistent government and inefficient administration, which is completely helpless and unable to support social and development initiatives ...). In the 2001 project plan for Mt. Tshiaberimu, emphasis was put on socioeconomic and development initiatives: working with grassroots associations, identifing problems to be solved together and developing community capacities to address their priorities and explore practical and achievable solutions. Schools were identified as a special target for action.Vital Katembo Mushengezi
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