In the 1980s, I was the Head Ranger at the Bukima patrol post in the gorilla sector. During this period, we worked hard to habituate the mountain gorillas to humans so we could monitor them and so we could conduct gorilla tours for tourists.
In 2001, I was transferred to the Kibati patrol post at the foot of the Nyiragongo volcano. It was there that I had the greatest fright of my life as a ranger. We were on patrol when we heard gunfire coming from our patrol post. We proceeded carefully and quietly back to our post, but all of a sudden I felt the barrel of a gun in my back. It was the gun of one of the rebels who had just attacked our post. He and the other rebels surprised us on our return. They took our guns and forced us to sit on the ground. One of the rebels was left behind to watch over us while the others went back to pillage our patrol post. When the rebel wasn’t looking, I grabbed a piece of wood and hit him on the head.
We quickly took his gun and then cautiously approached the patrol post. With only one gun between us, we knew it would be difficult to scare off the rebels. We walked quietly around the back of the patrol post, but as we did so, one of us knocked over a barrel of petrol by mistake. As the barrel rolled down the hill towards the rebels, I got scared and started shooting in all directions. Amazingly, one of the bullets hit the barrel and it exploded in a huge ball of fire. That was enough to make the rebels flee. We were very lucky to get out of that situation alive. Each time we go out on patrol now, we wonder if something like this will happen again — and if we will be as lucky.