My cousin Karema, the mountain Gorilla is no more!



Le cadavre de Rubiga, une femelle adulte, a été retrouvé hier (samedi) par des gardes. Son petit de deux mois était accroché au corps de la mère et a été transféré pour des soins à Goma, capitale de la province du Nord-Kivu, où se trouve le parc.

(AFP, 10/06/07) 


El Memeyi Murangwa


rubiga.jpgLast year, far away from my village, a sinister event forewarned me that something insane was about to happen. I couldn’t cry out loud, afraid of disturbing my quiet neighborhood.

A local TV of my city refuge, in Texas announced the death of Jabari, a mountain gorilla brought in his young age to America. He had lost the characteristic look of Marcel Rugabo, his grand-father well known to Dian Fossey the famous apes’ specialist and renowned conservationist of this endangered species. According to the media, Jabari had just been killed by a police officer for snatching bananas from a child on a visiting tour in the Zoo. Jabari had jumped over the fence built high enough to keep him in his corner. Once outside, he created havoc almost as much as that of the collapse of the World Trade Twin Towers in New York. Ambulances, police patrol and fire brigade vehicles run all towards the Zoo Park.

Still haunted by the persecution of my government, I cannot help but feel cold sweat creeping on my forehead while I close my eyes invoking Ryangombe, for the ape to survive the open wound in his chest. I try to follow carefully the images since I don’t know English yet, and I am discouraged when I see the vet turn round the giant in what appeared like a small pool of his own blood. Unable to hold her tears, the newscaster announces Jabari’s death. This was not just an event but a premonition for me. It was going to be followed, back home, in my village, by an unprecedented persecution against my ethnic group and against the Great Apes or Mountain Gorillas, an endangered species.

I catch the first train to the Dallas Zoological Park. On arrival, the police had restricted the access to the scene. In my poor English capable of making Shakespeare shiver in his tomb I explain the origins of Jabari to the guard and the police officers who listen keenly. After checking the Zoo’ files the guard confirms my story and presents his sincere condolence to me. Since I do not have a piece of land, I abstain from asking for the remains of Jabari worth of being buried in Karisoke, the sole graveyard for Gorillas existing in Kivu, the only region whose population does not consume neither apes nor any other wildlife animal.

From that day, like before in my country, I live in the fear of extermination, often thinking that the destiny of my people is strangely related to that of my cousins, the gorillas, inhabitants of the Virunga highlands. Indeed, in 1994, after the Rwanda genocide, its perpetrators took it up to the gorillas after killing the farmers who, from olden days have always lived in great harmony with the great Apes. In fact, my grand-father often told the story, in the quiet evening gathering around the fire that the apes came from the other world in the mountains of fire, the volcanoes, where our ancestors dwell after death. Unlike others animals, he would stress, they have family names like ours and they know how to bury their dead in the caves at the foot of the mountain like our ancestors did. Mukaka, the grand-mother, in turn told the other story of the lady who while working on the fields had to fetch water to quench her thirst and left her baby under a hasty made protection of branches. In her absence the crying baby attracted the attention of mother gorilla. When the mother returned she was in for a great surprise, mother gorilla was breastfeeding the baby. From then on, the apes were to be treated as heroes and were the admiration of all, for the King decided that the life of a gorilla has the same value as that of a human being, and they were to be protected and defended against clandestine hunters who came from the Baryoko, a hoard of fearsome poachers that roamed the savannah.

And now, just the other day, I have been informed about the murder of my cousin Karema, a solitary mountain gorilla which had decided to remain in my village abandoned by its inhabitants running away from the machete killers. My uncle who gave me the news blames Karema, who according to him, should have been with the other grand-children of Rugabo, on the other side of the border. The vigorous silverback gorilla did not even need a passport to cross the border, he said, since gorillas are not affected by the controversial problem of nationality.


Copyright © 2007 Virunganews 


Leave a Reply