Cameroun, Cameroon, remember my first entry in 2003.. after a 3 day imprisonment in a town of the Old French Congo, now called “The Republic of Congo”. Town was Pokola.
Pokola was very strange. It was not on a map at that time, but there was more than 15000 people. The Aka people I used as guides knew the place and brought me there.
And there I was imprisoned for just being in the wrong spot. World Conservation Society area, and big lugging area, 2 facts that are not easily combined. And specially not in the light of strangers showing up like me with a camera and all.
WCS don`t like anyone to record the many bush meat killings in the area, since they are getting millions of dollars in the US from rich old ladies that like the guaranty they get from WCS :” no animals get killed in Pokola Area under our protection…”.. ha-ha I`m sure they do some good work but they`ll go a long way using the local police to throw anyone out of their country, who threatens to photograph anything without their permission. Just think about it, an US NGO controlling the most of an African Country ?? Not permitting any exterior audits?
Well too bad for me, I ended up on the back of a lorry heading back from Kapo at the entrance to the WCS controlled Protected Park called Ndoki. They brought me to Pokola , where I already had visited the police station, just to tell them I was there, and got their permission to be there. However, suddenly their boss, a bearded lady, showed up and found me very suspicious, ordered the truck and 10 soldiers to get me. And so, I was interrogated by Number 2, a huge guy with yellow eye apples. He split my belongings apart, interrogated me for 2 hours, and left me under guard for 3 days while they backtracked my trip to Impfondo, where I started out. They did not find anything suspicious, so they eventually had to let me go. They put me on a truck to Cameroun. They trough me out.
First they stripped me of 600€ plus took all my rolls of film, they absolutely wanted nothing recorded of that area. I asked for a receipt, which they actually gave me…
My knowledge of what happened to me is from what I investigated later. Seems like the logging company called CIB at that time had a multimillion-dollar support from Switzerland. An independant NGO named Karl Amman from Switzerland told me when I met him many years later that he company CIB was supported by the Swiss government for the purpose that the company should turn “green” – what in logging terms mean “FSC”. To do that, the threat to the local Fauna was an issue. Since the company had imported almost all the 15000 people Pokola existed of, the local fauna in a 20 miles radius was merely extinct. All had gotten into the local boiling pots or had been shipped to Cameroun for the restaurants in the big cities there. Up north was the huge area that WCS wanted to protect. And CIB wanted the logs. Therefore, a cooperation emerged. WCS guaranteed the animals; CIB could log “green”. WSC would gain total control of NGO business, guarantying in millions of dollars of support from WCS believers in the US. Only problem was, they did not and they do not guarantee anything for the animals. Their only means of control is the roads in and out of the forest. CIB pays for the controls (called “Eco guards”). They investigate all vehicles going in and out. And they get some of the animals killed. Prosecution is so-so, locals don’t really get prosecuted, just fined. But the locals have learned where the controls are done, so they just carry the hunt through the bush and get on the van again later. The big problem is the roads that CIB makes into virgin forests. They give hunters a good easy access, and they make the animals, specially the Elephants, very afraid, so they don’t migrate, or breed. But roads are allowed under “FSC” – one of the things this certification fail in the tropics.
Result is that the animals perish. Because of WCS they perish slower, but they do perish. WCS makes sure that no other NGO get in – so WCS will not give the animals a chance…
And then i was in Cameroun…