By Terese Hart
I first got word of the ambush on Sunday, by satellite phone, while still in Kinshasa: “today, poachers ambushed TL2 team. Boni was stabbed with machete.” I flew to Kindu the following day, October 9th. I went with Salumu, our TL2 coordinator in Kindu, to explain the case at army headquarters. The lieutenant assigned Major Bashimbe and two other military to accompany us to Chombe Kilima.
Boni’s team caught two of the poachers, but held them in the forest. Only when they were sure we were leaving Kindu, a group of TL2 field hands marched the prisoners to meet us. We all arrived the same evening at Chombe Kilima, the little village at the end of the road. One of the captives was the hunter with the shotgun, Ongona Nene. The other, Mopau, was one of his porters. The other five had fled through the forest. They had killed 8 forest antelope and 11 monkeys including the completely protected black and white colobus. Edmon is the name of the poacher who tried to kill our Boni with a machete – Edmon got away through the forest.
We arrived with Major Bashimbe in Chombe Kilima Thursday evening, 12th of October. The military were to officially arrest the poachers, and then Salumu and I would walk to Katopa to check on Boni.
We were all up before dawn the morning of the 13th. In a half light, whose only sounds were the last night cries of the forest hyrax and the first trumpet of the village rooster, Major Bashimbe brought Nene out of the small windowless mud-wattle room where he was “incarcerated” overnight. Major Bashimbe, sat in a dilapidated plastic chair and leaned across a small hand-hewn table to interrogate the poacher. His posture was reassuring, his tone half-confiding. The interrogation went on for a good 45 minutes. “I was hunting”, Nene admitted, but everything else he denied. Holding up his hands, swollen from the tight binding, he insisted his 12 caliber shotgun went off only accidentally after Boni jumped on him. More....