One Virunga Ranger Down: Political Manipulations Above Unity and Greatness of Congo and its People

It was around 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday 03/03/2020 that a ranger was killed in an attack on the park a few steps from Nyamilima by the armed militia Mai Mai. An ambush was set up against the rangers who returned to their base while they were deployed to secure the construction of the electric fence near Nyamilima. Taken by surprise, the rangers lost their colleague KAMBALE VYASAKI Germain, 28 years old, originally from Bulongo in Beni territory.

This ambush against ICCN Virunga rangers was preceded by a series of demonstrations organized in Nyamilima to try to prevent the electric fence project. However, this electric fence project is of great importance in the Virunga landscape as it will not only allow Virunga park to ensure the security of the park but also to control all movements of entry and exit into the park and protect local populations against recurrent attacks by animals. This electric fence will avoid human-wildlife conflicts between farmers and wildlife but also prevent armed groups to take the park as their last refuge and benefit from the illegal extraction of its resources.

Unfortunately, some politicians, most of whom are national and provincial deputies in search of political positioning, are taking advantage of the ignorance of the population by creating conflicts between the population and Virunga Park and pushing them into revolts and disputes against all the park’s activities even if they are beneficial for the local communities. MAI MAI and armed bandits are also among the groups that are being recruited and manipulated by these interests, even if they are perpetrators of several incidents and acts of human rights violations and environmental crimes in Virunga.

An unexpected development, is that now even citizen groups such as the Struggle for Change (LUCHA) in particular the NYAMILIMA section, in collaboration with civil society have sparked several protests against the delimitation by the electric fence of Virunga in Binza precisely in the Nyamilima area in Buramba.  The protests organised by LUCHA activists with a certain segment of the population took up the streets where the Virunga park teams are doing the demarcation work. There, they destroyed, broke and looted certain materials, something that usually never happens with the LUCHA movement that is characterised with non-violent actions. A day later, on Wednesday 3/3/2020, these same protesters took the street again this time with road  blocks that disrupted road traffic all day on Wednesday. They proceeded to barricade the roads with trees, stones,  and set fires over a distance of approximately 4 km on either side of the entrance to the agglomeration to prevent any circulation of vehicles. The road barricades this day didn’t allow any intervention on the part of Virunga or the FARDC to come in support or rescue the Virunga team which was making the delimitation in the fields of Nyamilima. Unfortunately this day ended up with the attack that claimed the life of the ranger KAMBALE VYASAKI Germain.

We knew citizen movements such as the Lutte pour le Changement (LUCHA), as groups which fought very noble causes for the restoration of democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo and they were apolitical and peaceful. However, at the pace things are going with looting and destruction, these movements seem to capsize sometimes in civil society, sometimes in the opposition and sometimes on the side of men in power and that according to interests. It should be noted that the majority of the  youth in these citizen movements are unemployed and that is why sometimes they are manipulated to make themselves popular and / or find themselves in relation to the various bribes that are given.

We should also ask ourselves, what link is there between this LUCHA citizen movement in NYAMILIMA and the demarcation of the park while the population and the deputies  had agreed with Virunga park on most points / coordinates of the fence?

Local Sources

2 thoughts on “One Virunga Ranger Down: Political Manipulations Above Unity and Greatness of Congo and its People

  1. As a Save Virunga follower and a Virunga National Park supporter, I understand the importance of building this electric fence. The assumptions about security and neighborhood between the Park and local communities are acceptable. However, I suggest that the Park management engages in dialogue with communities and other stakeholders to find common ground. I disagree with assertions about demonstrations by the Lucha movement. Notwithstanding the necessity of the fence, communities have the right to express concerns about it. Minimizing demonstrations by Lucha activists as manipulated or motivated by precarity due to members’ unemployment situation is unfair. I encourage the Virunga Park management to foster an approach based on dialogue for solving the issue with the building of the fence.

    1. Thank you for your comment and insights. Communities and La Lucha have the right to express theirs concerns and the park has the responsibility to listen to communities and find concerted solutions. The looting and the destruction of the fence during the demonstration is something that should not be accepted and that goes against the heart of the movement based on non-violent actions. It is important to make sure that the activities of la Lucha Nyamilima are in line with the spirit and non violent tactics of La Lucha as much as it is important for the park to continue engaging with communities in an open dialogue.

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