Much of the constant fighting in Eastern Congo is about control of this region’s rich mineral resources but also about control over land and people. Suffering for decades and made worse when in 1994 Rwanda’s genocide militias sought – and were obviously granted – refuge in Eastern Congo, has the population in this part of the Democratic Republic of Congo struggled to survive in an undeclared war where the frontlines have often been shifting like quicksand.
The Virunga National Park, the oldest conservation area in Africa, has itself repeatedly been targeted by militias. Rangers were regularly targeted or else caught in crossfire in the past. An Okapi sanctuary was brutally destroyed in 2012 in the nearby Ituri Forest. Attacks of this kind are thought to create space not only for the poaching of mountain gorillas and other game but also to allow militia leaders and government army bosses in cohorts with them to use locals as slave labour in their makeshift mines often located inside the park or in essential buffer areas around it.
Park warden Emmanuel de Merode himself was targeted for assassination nearly two years ago, after proving to be a mighty obstacle in the way of vested interests attempting to reduce the size of the park to begin drilling for oil. A British oil exploration company denied any connection to the assassination attempt but was later compelled, in the face of a s***-storm of public outrage, condemnation and raging insinuations, to drop their interests in the Virunga masif.
Yesterday, another three rangers lost their lives in the Rwindi section of the park. While the exact circumstances of their death are still unknown at this moment are details expected to emerge later today or tomorrow, after Park Warden Emmanuel de Merode had gone to the site.
The killings are another damning indictment of the UN’s force and the Congolese army, which has patently failed to engage and eliminate the FDLR killer militia, which has enjoyed covert support from the regime in Kinshasa, itself fighting for its political survival and therefore open to use any allies to accomplish that goal.
Elsewhere, in a spot of good news, has the Tanzanian government over the weekend confirmed the formation of a new special anti poaching task force, when the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Professor Jumanne Maghembe commented on the progress of staffing and equipping the new force with state of the art surveillance assets.