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John Kahekwa vs UK Border Agency

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948594.  Thu Nov 01, 2012 11:20 am Reply with quote

John Kahekwa, who comes from the Bukavu region, has spent his whole life trying to look after the eastern lowland gorillas – one of Africa’s most spectacular species – in one of the continent’s most magnificent protected areas, Kahuzi-Biega National Park. But as with many African parks, the protection is nominal rather than absolute, and much of the wildlife has been hit by poaching, This climaxed when the park’s and the DRC’s most famous gorilla was killed. He was the silverback, or adult male Maheshe, known throughout the country because he appeared on the Congolese 5,000-franc banknote. Mr Kahekwa spent years combating poachers (he rose to become the park’s chief ranger) but eventually realised that because much of the poaching had its origins in poverty, the only way to keep the wildlife safe was to get the local community involved in protecting it. So he set up the Pole-Pole Foundation, devoted to bringing the interests of local people and the national park together in a whole series of ways (for example, 47 of the most active poachers were re-trained as wood-carvers).
In the celebrated Department of War Studies at King’s College, London, is the Marjan Centre for the Study of Conservation and Conflict, which looks at just how on Earth people like John can do what they are doing with war going on around them. This year they have given him their Marsh Award, which honours and rewards such individuals.

So far, so appropriate; but John was not present at the awards ceremony in London on Monday, as he was due to be, because the British embassy in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, fouled up his visa application: they lost his fingerprints. This was despite him travelling the 950 miles from Bukavu to Kinshasa, and staying there for a week, at considerable expense, in late July – three months in advance of his journey.

Mr Kakekwa’s disappointment, and the anger of King’s College staff, are both extreme. Richard Milburn, of the Marjan Centre says that at the ceremony, where the noted primate conservationist Ian Redmond accepted the award on John’s behalf, “people felt it was truly shameful to deny access to someone like John, who is an incredible person and a real unsung hero”.


The Marjan Centre

954984.  Sun Dec 09, 2012 12:31 am Reply with quote

(for example, 47 of the most active poachers were re-trained as wood-carvers).

John Kakekwa is an international treasure for that creative and successful problem solving. There's not many people I would curtsy(?sp) too, but I would be humbled in his presence.


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