CONFLICT IN EASTERN CONGO CLAIMS YET MORE VIRUNGA RANGER LIVES
(Posted 10th April 2018)
‘Virunga National Park is deeply saddened to confirm reports of an attack on our staff today. Five Virunga rangers and a staff driver were killed during an ambush in the Central Sector of the Park. A sixth ranger was also wounded‘ was the statement received from the Virunga National Park communications office overnight following the killing of six more rangers in an area close to the border with neighbouring Uganda. Sources based in Goma attributed the killings to the Mai Mai militia, one of many roaming Eastern Congo and going after their deadly business almost unchecked by both UN forces and the Congolese army. Armed attacks have in recent months increased again as the Great Lakes region struggles to find solutions to eliminate the militias.
Since the conflict broke out more than two decades ago were over 160 national park rangers and other staff killed during attacks. Park Warden Emmanuel de Merode suffered an assassination attempt himself in 2014 when he returned from Goma where he had met officials to present evidence of illegal activities by foreign prospecting companies in the park and their attempt to have the park boundaries revised to allow mining. A British company was subsequently forced by a public opinion outcry in the UK to withdraw from prospecting activities.
Virunga National Park, formed in 1925, is Africa’s oldest national park and home to dozens of mountain gorillas, besides other endangered game species but largely avoided by organized tour groups for being in a war zone – tourists prefer the safe gorilla tracking environment in Uganda and Rwanda instead.