Christian Long

Corneille Ewango: Hero of the Congo Forest

In TED Talks on May 9, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Reflection by DERON M.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Corneille Ewango:  Hero of the Congo Forest

Let me just start of by saying how impressed I am that Mr. Ewango was able to learn English, one of the world’s most difficult languages to learn, in only a year. That speaks volumes of his intelligence and dedication.

Now to the meat of the story.

Corneille was just another young kid with a dream to help his people. Like many others before him, his family had very little money and nowhere near enough to send him to school. He joins in on his uncle’s poaching enterprise to get the money necessary for school. Once in school, Corneille once again was thrown a curveball. He was not admitted to biomedical school and had to become an ecologist and botanist.

Corneille went from a poacher to ecologist in only a few years. Think about that. He went from one end of the spectrum all the way to the other side in just a matter of a few years. He now had to protect the very creatures and land that he once hunted. He had to fend off the very poachers he had once been allies with and find ways to preserve the delicate natural balance in Ituri Forest.

As civil war erupted in the Congo, Corneille once again had to come to the aid of the wildlife reserve. The army of Mobutu, the dictator of the Congo at the time, began to flee from east to west and looted the reserve on their way out. Corneille tried to save what he could. Supplies and equipment were either buried or carried by hand to nearby Uganda. Finally, after a few years of fighting, the civil war drew to a close and the Congo returned to relative peace.

One of the main things Corneille mentioned when talking about the civil war was the language of war. This really struck me as interesting. If you think about it, war does have its own universal language. The thundering sound of the guns shooting, the yells of the soldiers as they bark out orders left and right, and the cries of the civilians trying to flee the area at all costs. It doesn’t matter whether you speak English, French, Spanish, or Swahili; you still are able to understand the concept and language of warfare.

The language of war once again reared its ugly head a few years later when a second civil war broke out in the Congo. Again, Corneille was faced with the task of saving his people and the forest.

So now what? You are stuck in the middle of another bloody civil war with opposing sides clashing every day with no way to escape out of the country.

The only answer for Corneille was to try to arrange a truce to at least protect his reserve. He negotiated with rebel leaders in order to persuade them to leave the reserve alone and not mine for gold and log the entire forest. His plan succeeded and the war was over soon.

Corneille had the courage to stand up to the leaders of the rebel army in order to protect his people and his reserve. He was willing to put himself on the line to protect what was valuable to him.

Mr. Ewango, I am very impressed.

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