“If you forbid people from doing stuff but don’t replace it, if you don’t provide jobs instead,” Makiese says, “then it’s clear that people will turn to trafficking and crime.”
The trade in goods from Angola such as cement and petroleum products is substantial, and provides a livelihood for many local people. But the legal status of these shipments is hazy. Most operators don’t have a license to import, but the authorities have embraced the commerce.
“You can’t separate the official from the unofficial,” Collet says. “In the law it’s all illegal but they pay all the taxes to the government agencies when it comes into the port.” Collet is especially aggravated by kibubu, a method of smuggling the gasoline hawked by the likes of Makiese. On the Angolan bank, fuel is poured into the bottom of specially adapted boats and driven across the mouth of the river into the mangrove forest at night.
At Roads & Kingdoms, William Clowes takes us deep into the mangrove swamps and tidal woods at the mouth of the Congo River to see how a small group of park employees labors to protect the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Mangrove Marine Park from poaching and illegal activity — without making local people’s lives even harder economically.