Patrick Kipalu, Ms
|Patrick Kipalu, center in blue hat.|
Master Candidate, Global Environmental Politics
From 2001 to 2006 I have been the coordinator of the "Mangroves Conservation Project" of an NGO called "Observatoire Congolais pour la Protection de l’Environment, OCPE" in the Marin Park of Mangroves (MPM) in the Bas-Congo province/DR Congo.
The OCPE’s headquarter was in Kinshasa, the hometown of most of the team project members, but the field work was taking place in the MPM approximately 600 miles away. The project was about making a bio-taxonomic list of all animals and vegetables of the park and develop socio-economic activities such as micro-credit to improve the living conditions of local communities with the ultimate aim of improving natural resources management in the park.
The work were requesting us to travel in the mangroves during days using boats to reach different villages in order to get all the villages of the area involved in the project activities. The people in the area were friendly, but our work was challenging and difficult because of the military conflicts in the region.
From 1996 up to now the DRC is undergoing a cycle of wars. In the province of bas-Congo particularly, things have gotten worse starting from 1998 when the Rwandan Army hijacked a plane and flew to Bas-Congo in an aggression war against DRC. It was very difficult for us to work on the field because of the military presence everywhere. All the DRC’s boundaries were the zones of high military tension.
And the MPM is situated in the DRC’s boundaries with Angola. So, fear, nervousness and insecurity were our daily companions of work. Sometimes we were making arrangement with armed military men to go with us in our trip on the field to feel a little bit secure, as you can see on the picture to the right.
Very often we were blocked on the field because the roads were under military fighting. For instance, from 21- 22 July, 2002; the government army attacked civilian members of a religious-political group that were protesting against unjust government policies. Hundreds were killed and more other wounded in the area where we were in the territory of Muanda. We almost lost our lives during these events; we were stuck in the field for several weeks longer than planned without contact with our families in Kinshasa.
I hope that security will improve in the DRC to help conservation activists to save the Congo’s rich biodiversity.
LEARN MORE: Read more scientists' accounts of working in conflict areas.
Patrick Kipalu received support to carry out his research in Cambodia through the Conservation Leadership Programme. CI is partnering on this initiative with Birdlife International, Fauna & Flora International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and BP. Learn more about the Conservation Leadership Programme.