John Kahekwa: the ‘betrayal’

This morning The Independent newspaper carried the sorry tale of how The Marjan Centre’s plan to bring over a gallant gorilla expert, John Kahekwa, to collect an award was felled by the invisible hand of the UK Border Agency who delayed the visa process so much that John missed the plane.

Here is the link to the Independent story under the headline ‘betrayal’.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-betrayal-of-john-kahekwa-how-britain-let-down-an-inspirational-conservationist-from-congo-8269601.html

Last Monday the Marjan Centre hosted a ceremony for the Marjan-Marsh Award: this was not only the first time that the Marjan Centre had teamed up with the Marsh Christian Trust but is the only award that acknowledges significant contributions by a conservationist in areas with conflict.

Furthermore the Marsh Christian Trust asks that the person should be an ‘unsung hero’ in being relatively unknown and therefore deserving wider recognition: John Kahekwa of the POPOF organisation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was selected for his work both in saving the heavily endangered Eastern Lowland Gorilla but also helping to rebuild his community around Bukavu.

There are two wider issues to emerge from the story, one relating to conservation and the other security. In the first case small conservation bodies rely on trips abroad as a vital part of their fund-raising strategy, and if this is stifled then their operations are put under threat. After all these are the people who are working on our behalf to protect global ecology.

Regarding security, a fortress approach that has no proper flexibility to take into account all the circumstances of a case, especially someone with a good cause, will breed both resentment and hostility in both Britain and abroad, with the results we are all sadly too aware of. In the case of the DRC, with Africa on the rise, Britain needs to win friends and influence, not helped by the UK Border Agency.
Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre.

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