What Africans are doing for Africa, what Congolese are doing for Virunga is a story that too often is forgotten behind the headlines and stories conveyed in the West, behind our own stereotypes and fears to lose control over the African continent. To think that our voice and story is more meaningful and trustworthy than the one of a local activist, a woman or a fisherman that live and depend on Virunga’s resources for their survival is misplaced and erroneous.
If nothing is done to change this perception, Virunga national Park could be lost, not just to oil but to lack of local ownership and engagement. The local voice and actors are crucial for the long-term survival of any protected area and should be involved and recognized as such. Now is the time to reframe the conversation by pairing the survival of Virunga with the locals stories, local defenders and community leaders that have been alerting the world of the dangers community members and themselves are facing when fighting for Virunga and the sustainable development option. They are often putting their lives, their staff and their organizations at risk, with little recognition or support.
All of them have a story to tell, they are lights of environmental activism and citizenry taking action to inspire real change. They are men and women that make a difference in everyday life of Congo.
Virunga cannot survive without them, without their voice and valor. They are all people who have the courage to stand up and demand that SOCO, their government and the international community uphold the basic freedoms and rights of communities and choose for the best people’s option in North Kivu.
My faith in the continent is unshakable. It is what makes me rise every morning to face the sun; and I can tell you for a fact that there is a lot of light in Africa. Look to the light. Look to those men and women who make a difference everyday with their unwavering faith and attitudes of excellence in the passionate pursuit of their dreams- the same dream: To make Africa rise.
These are the men and women that believe that supporting local communities and women in the participatory management of their natural environment and Virunga’s resources is crucial for their socio-cultural and economic development. These are the men and women that will make Virunga rise for a common good.
Virunga must rise and it must start with every single one of them, this is just the beginning
« What Africans are doing to Africa » is an article written and published by Nana Kofi Acquah, a photographer from Ghana or better said a « storyteller who uses the camera as his favourite medium ». It says it all:
Africa can rise but not when it prefers to sleep. Africa can rise but not when it’s afraid to hold its leaders accountable. Africa can rise but not when our leaders are quite content to sit on gold and beg for brass. Africa will rise from the day we stop blaming slavery, colonialism, apartheid and everybody else. We cannot change what other people did to us but we must question what we are doing to ourselves. Africans must start taking responsibility for the state of affairs on the continent. We must question the sources of people’s wealth. We must stop celebrating Africans who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on cars so they can park them next to rubbish dumps. We must start hooting at civil servants who live in houses and drive cars they obviously cannot afford based on their salaries. We must stop teaching our children that the only way to progress in life is to bribe your way through every hurdle. We must stop treating education as an end and start questioning our doctors, engineers, planners, scientists and professors on exactly what they have been able to achieve with their education?
Africa must rise and it must start with every single one of us.