Congo’s wildlife rangers launch offensive against armed groups trafficking charcoal in gorilla zone of Virunga
Dawn raids launched against charcoal industry
Ranger on guard in front of a charcoal kiln. Copyright Gorilla.cd
August 2009. The Congolese National Park Authorities have sent the biggest ever deployment of armed rangers to strike at charcoal-making operations run by armed groups deep in the forests of Virunga National Park in Eastern DR Congo. The move, undertaken in collaboration with the UN peace-keeping forces MONUC, follows a report by the United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo identifying charcoal from Virunga National Park as a major source of revenue for illegal armed groups. These include the FDLR, the Rwandan militia whose members are held responsible for the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.
Dawn raids have destroyed 252 charcoal kilns
Five specially-trained platoons of 30 Rangers have been conducting dawn raids in the forests on the flanks of the Virunga volcanoes. In the past week 252 charcoal kilns have been destroyed, with an estimated commercial value of $US378,000, and 57 arrests have been made, including a militia officer. The rangers have engaged in 3 armed contacts with the FDLR and 3 rangers have beenwounded. A patrol post has partially burned down during a retaliatory attack by the FDLR.
US$ 30 Million illegal trade - Much goes to armed militia
Rangers pass through area of forest destroyed by charcoal makers. Copyright Gorilla.cd
"The goal of this offensive is to inflict maximum possible damage to the trafficking of illegal charcoal, estimated at over US$ 30 million a year, much of which is benefiting the militias" said park director Emmanuel de Merode. "The trafficking of natural resources such as charcoal is an underlying cause of instability in Eastern Congo. This operation is a first step towards re-establishing the rule of law, a condition for bringing peace to the region."
Alternatives to charcoal
The park authorities with support from the European Union and other donors have also launched a major initiative to provide energy alternatives to charcoal for the local population. These include the local production of combustible briquettes produced from grass, leaves and agricultural waste, as well as establishing plantation forest. The program is on track to create 34,000 employments in briquette production and provide a viable substitute to charcoal by 2011.
The Congolese Wildlife Authority
The Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) and its Rangers work throughout the country to protect the National Parks of Congo and their wildlife from poachers, rebel groups, illegal miners and land invasions. Over 150 Rangers have been killed in the last 10 years protecting the 5 parks of eastern DRC. See http://www.gorilla.cd/ for more information.
Integer nibh massa
Virunga National Park, Africa's oldest national park (established in 1925) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, is home to 200 of the world's last remaining mountain gorillas and a small population of eastern lowland gorillas. Formerly known as Albert National Park, Virunga lies in eastern DR Congo and covers 7,800 square kilometers. The park is managed by the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN). http://www.gorilla.cd/ for more information.