but when the diamond camp, MOPAYAZOBA, attacked us, it was almost bloody – almost….
The Lomami diamonds are small. Notice the size of the threads!
A diamond village “supermarket”
These are not big-money diamonds. To live in a Lomami diamond village year after year, like many do, you need a substantial garden for daily food. Then, if you are lucky, the diamonds you dig up and sieve out will provide enough for the extras of life: sugar, batteries and an occasional new cloth. That is how many live in the small diamond camps that are sprinkled through the forest of the D12 block.
The white hatchings are the blocks that we still had not explored at the end of 2007. D12 is the far north west of those blocks.
Below is the story Bernard told me about when his team of 11 men explored “D12” in May of this year. (Picture of Bernard at end of this Post)
Their initial reception was hardly warm.
Throughout D12 the stream-beds are pocked with diamond – diggers’ pits and trenches.
“We are always quiet in the forest. That is one of the rules, otherwise we don’t see monkeys. Even the porters who follow behind are quiet. This time they were whispering together soon after we started. I was up front with the compass-man and the trail-breaker. None of us knew that we were only a kilometre from a diamond camp, Mopayazoba, and a couple of miners in the forest had heard our whispering.”
All of a sudden Bernard heard yelling, and clanging and the most incredible scuffle.
“I hurried back to find two of our porters, Vava and Hussein, pinning someone flat to the ground with his arms twisted.
‘This little **@** tried to kill us”, they told me, “There were ten maybe twenty of the **@**’?
The porters had been charged with sticks and machetes. They met the charge with machetes and their own greater brawn. Brawn won before blood was shed and the attackers fled.
Bernard and the whole team couldn’t carry-on without knowing why the sudden assault.
Their captive, now apologizing and saying it was all a mistake, led them to Mopayazoba.
The diamond village of MopayaZoba
As Bernard explains it the diamond village had thought they were poachers. Just a month earlier poachers had come through, killed five elephants, taken their diamonds and even taken women. So when they heard people, the village men came out with machetes and sticks.
Tensions were high at the beginning of the “peace talks” in Mopayazoba. The shit-faced grin behind our team is the fellow they pinned to the ground
Perhaps if the village PDG, Président Délégué Général, or headman had been present the response would have been more measured, but in any case in the course of a couple hours the atmosphere went from very tense to very friendly.
Albert became our escort, assuring our safe passage through diamond country.
Diamonds are a pretty poor way to make a living in Lomami, so Bernard had no trouble hiring a local miner, Albert, to guide them through the diamond villages that lay ahead. Their new friends told them there would be a lot. They were right!
A miner greets Albert as we arrive in his diamond-village, AfrikaMoto.
Every village was dirt poor. Diamonds are WHOSE best friend – really!!
But the rest of the circuit was quiet : here are a few more pictures:
Big storm in the afternoon = a forced halt = an opportunistic (much needed) nap
Small mammal snares were found throughout D12. Bushmeat is an important part of the diet in the diamond-villages.
The teams share the usual candle-lit meal of beans and fufu after a long day on the trail (candle stuck in a split sapling in the middle).
Crossing the Loli river on the return towards the Lomami.
In the prow of the dug-out, heading back up the Lomami towards Obenge after completing the D12 circuit.
Bernard (with blue plastic mug) taking a little breather