Skip to content

Historic Elections Underscore Significance of Fight to Protect Okapi Reserve in Eastern Congo

December 2, 2011

What do Ben Affleck, Cindy McCain and Corneille Ewango (2005) have in common? An understanding that local communities working together at the grassroots level is the surest way to defeat a common problem or reach a common goal. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is in the midst of a contentious national election that threatens to spark a new wave of violence in the war-torn country; yet Congolese citizens are determined to have their voices heard.

We are reminded of the courage that 2005 Goldman Prize recipient Corneille Ewango displayed when he refused to flee the Okapi Reserve in the Ituri forest at the start of the civil war. He was the last senior staff member to stay behind to protect the reserve and its splendid flora and fauna.

Working with local communities, Ewango successfully pressured warring parties out of the forest. This saved invaluable amounts of data, equipment, wildlife and prevented violent pillaging among forest communities. He spoke about his work at TEDGlobal2007.

Recognizing the power of local citizens to affect change, Ben Affleck and Cindy McCain have started a project known as the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) that provides support to grassroots initiatives, facilitates partnerships with independent media sources and seeks to give strength to local Congolese citizens trying to improve their communities.

Related Posts

Prize Winners Today: Cambodian Elephant Conservation with Sereivathana Tuy

January 31, 2023 – By Ellen Lomonico

Uncle Elephant They call him “Uncle Elephant.” Determined, intelligent, and kind, Sereivathana Tuy (known as “Vathana”) is everything you’d want in an uncle. He’s an ex-park ranger, National Geographic Explorer, and, most importantly, a committed conservationist who has devoted his life to protecting elephants in Cambodia. We chatted with Vathana about winning the Goldman Prize…

Read more

Prize Winners Today: How Makoma Lekalakala is Shaping South Africa's Clean Energy Transition

October 4, 2022 – By Ellen Lomonico

Meeting Environmental Justice Leader, Makoma Lekalakala Dressed in vibrant colors and a traditional VhaVenda headscarf, Makoma Lekalakala is a striking figure, even on a pixelated computer screen. It was nighttime in South Africa; Makoma joined our call having recently flown into Durban. “I go where the people are,” she shared. Sometimes that means Johannesburg, sometimes…

Read more

The Legacy of Wangari Maathai

December 1, 2021

Among the most prominent environmental activists of the last century is the late Professor Wangari Maathai, who founded the Green Belt Movement and inspired hundreds of thousands of people around the world to push for environmental progress. In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of her 1991 Goldman Prize win—and the 10th anniversary of her passing—we’re…

Read more