New Armed Attack Against Virunga: Enough is Enough, Time to Act Says DRC Civil Society

New armed attack, perpetrated in the morning of Wednesday 24 June 2020, against guards of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), inside the Virunga National Park.  After the terrible killing of four civilians and 13 staff members of Virunga National Park on 24 April, this latest attack fills us with consternation and sorrow,” Azoulay said. According to the communication department of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), four of the five seriously injured guards were evacuated to the city of Goma for appropriate care. (Unesco)

DECLARATION BY CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS FOLLOWING THE INCREASE IN VIOLENCE  AT VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK

PREAMBLE

We, members and representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) composed of national and international non-governmental organizations, peasant organizations, women’s organizations, youth organizations, indigenous peoples, human rights movements and environmental conservation;

We note with dismay the repeated atrocities and killings committed by ambushes set up by armed groups against eco-guards and convoys of civilians inside Virunga National Park (VINP). That of April 24, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. caught our attention;

Let us denounce vehemently and condemn these horrible acts and this violence carried out in the southern sector of the Virunga park, near Virunga headquarters in Rumangabo, and which resulted in the death of 12 park eco-guards, their driver and 4 civilians including a woman;

We offer our deepest condolences to the families affected, to the staff and leaders of Virunga National Park and the Virunga Foundation, to colleagues and activists who work in the conservation, sustainable management of natural sites and to the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN ) ;

While recognizing that Virunga Park is among the oldest and most prestigious parks in Africa and on the planet, these organizations point out that this park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Ramsar site. It is known for its richness in biodiversity including rare and endangered species including mountain gorillas which are the pride and international reputation of the Democratic Republic of Congo;

For almost 20 years, following rampant armed attacks, 188 eco-guards have fallen in the line of duty protecting this nature reserve. The number of orphans and widows of rangers has only been increasing. Virunga National Park inaugurated in 1925 remains one of the most unstable environments in the region of the great African lakes, because it is the refuge of a party of nearly 70 (seventy) armed groups which rage in the Province of North Kivu.

Considering that the current context of Virunga National Park that is marked by insecurity which has reached its peak, this situation requires a lasting response, both urgent political and judicial measures.

In fact, the ongoing efforts of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) no longer seem to be the size of the challenges facing the park, namely: charcoal production, poaching of large mammals including the hippopotamus, illegal fishing and the destruction of the ecological corridor on the West Coast of Lake Edward, the presence of armed groups and the invasion by illegal miners and illegal farmers;

It should be recalled that this situation was the basis for the suspension of tourist activities during the period from May 2018 to January 2019 following the kidnapping of two British nationals and the death of a female ranger of twenty-five years old. It was in February 2019 that the park reopened to tourists, before closing again on March 19, 2020 following the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19).

FROM THE FOREGOING, THESE ORGANIZATIONS RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING :

To the Central Government of the DRC

  • Conduct an independent investigation in the region to elucidate national, regional and international opinion on the origins of the repeated attacks suffered by Virunga National Park and its surroundings in order to identify the perpetrators of the various crimes, the latest being that of April 24 (of 24th of June);
  • Strengthen security measures in Virunga National Park and refer the perpetrators to the competent judicial authorities and apply various laws in force for the protection and safeguard of its ecosystems;
  • Organize a national dialogue on the issue of governance and pacification of protected areas including Virunga and strengthen the stability and security measures around the Park and particularly in the territories of Masisi, Nyiragongo, Rutshuru, Lubero and Beni;
  • Strengthen regional cooperation with a view to encourage cross-border control, combat the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons in order to reduce the negative effects on the ecosystems of Virunga National Park.
  • Pool the efforts favorable to strengthening security within the Park, to the sustainable management of the park’s ecosystems and to strengthening peaceful coexistence between the park and the neighboring communities and indigenous peoples
  • Collaborate closely with the central government to find suitable solutions for the restoration, maintenance and sustainable management of Virunga National Park;
  • Provide political support for law enforcement efforts on the responsible management and governance of flora and fauna in Virunga National Park
  •  Take ownership of efforts to conserve and protect the ecosystems of Virunga National Park;
  • Provide political support to the investigation process to determine the responsibilities relating to the damage to the ecosystem of the Albertine rift in the context of Virunga National Park and in the process of participatory demarcation of its limits which is a source of conflicts with communities and peoples indigenous people living in certain places;
  • Support mobilization efforts for the benefit of strengthening community dialogue between the populations living near the Park and ICCN with a view to finding sustainable solutions in the integrated management of natural resources in the region, namely the fishery resources of Lake Edouard and the rivers of Virunga landscape.

To the National Parliament of the DRC

  • Conduct a global reflection through an open debate on community conflicts; political responsibilities, the commitments of the Republics and armed conflicts, the consequences of which manifest themselves through the degree of embrittlement and progressive destruction of Virunga National Park;
  • Support efforts aimed at the prevention and resolution of armed conflicts in the Virunga Landscape and invite all deputies to take responsibility in their political communications in the face of the need to preserve the climate balance, the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples, social peace and the stability of the environment.

To the Provincial Assembly of North Kivu

  • Carry out awareness-raising and advocacy actions to discourage actors within armed groups and actors hostile to the preservation of the park’s ecosystems and dissuade certain deputies whose support or support would go in the direction of encouraging hostilities against the park and in addition to the basis of the maintenance of insecurity in the park and its surroundings.
  • Support initiatives aimed at and / or promoting the preservation of a balanced climate, nature conservation, sustainable management of the park’s biodiversity, peaceful coexistence between the park and the neighboring communities and indigenous peoples, social peace and stability of the area.

To the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN)

  • Continue the ongoing efforts relating to the preservation of PNVI ecosystems, with a particular emphasis on strengthening dialogue between local communities and indigenous peoples by capitalizing on participatory approaches to community conservation in the implementation of various laws relating to protection of nature.
  • Strengthen the security capacities of Virunga staff in order to effectively prevent possible armed confrontations between the rangers and the armed groups.

To local communities around PNVi (Rutshuru, Lubero and Beni)

  • Collaborate with the Park to peacefully and beneficially manage the multifaceted conflicts and demographic pressures on the park’s ecosystems and resources.

To civil society organizations

  • Ensure the capacity building of local communities and indigenous peoples in conflict resolution, awareness and support of stakeholders around the sustainable management of natural resources in the province including PNVI;
  • Ensure advocacy at the level of various administrative and judicial authorities for the organization of investigations around the destruction and attacks against the Virunga National Park.

To the international community

  • Support ongoing efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo to maintain the integrity of National Parks and to work for the eradication of internal and regional armed groups that are weakening the Albertine Rift ecosystem in Virunga National Park.
  • Support local organizations in the protection of nature, protected areas and the rich Congolese biodiversity and in the fight against poverty of local communities and indigenous peoples.

07 June 2020

  1. FESO (Femmes Solidaires), Nationale
  2. International Rivers Africa Program Office
  3. SOFFLECO (Solidarité des Femmes sur le Fleuve Congo), Kinshasa
  4. CFLEDD (Collectif des Femmes Leaders pour le Développement Durable), Kinshasa
  5. Réseau CREF (Réseau pour la Conservation et la Réhabilitation des Ecosystèmes Forestiers), Nord-Kivu
  6. LUCHA (Lutte pour le Changement), Nationale
  7. OEARS, (Organisation Ecologique pour lʼEnvironnement et les Ressources Naturelles) Katanga
  8. CONSERVE CONGO, Nord-Kivu
  9. IL EST TEMPS, Nationale
  10. SYDHE (Synergie des Organisations de la Société civile pour la Promotion des Droits Humains de lʼEnvironnement), Sud-Kivu
  11. IDEL (Initiative pour le Développement Local), Kongo Central
  12. RRN (Réseau pour les Ressources Naturelles), National
  13. REPALEF (Réseau des Populations Autochtones et Locales pour la gestion durable des Ecosystèmes Forestiers)
  14. DYGED (Dynamique des Jeunes pour le Développement Durable)
  15. CEPF (Centre dʼEncadrement pour la Promotion de la Fille)
  16. CTIDD (Centre des Technologies Innovatrices pour le Développement Durable)
  17. FC (Forum Citoyen) Nationale
  18. GTCRR (Groupe de Travail Climat REDD Rénové), National
  19. CORAP (Coalition des Organisation de la Société Civile pour le suivi des Reformes), Kinshasa
  20. CASC (Collectif dʼActions de la Société Civile) National
  21. MICHEE RDC, Nord-Kivu et Kinshasa
  22. RND Asbl (Ressources Naturelles pour le Développement) Kivu
  23. RCEN (Réseau des Communicateurs de lʼEnvironnement), Katanga
  24. PRESS CLUB ‒ RDC, National
  25. TOUCHE PAS A MON COBALT (Kolwezi)
  26. MINING NEWS MAGASINE (Katanga)
  27. Mouvement Citoyen EKOKI (Kinshasa)
  28. CODED (Centre Congolais pour le Développement Durable), Kinshasa
  29. CENADEP (Centre National dʼAppui pour la Participation Populaire), National
  30. FDD (Femmes pour le Développement Durable, Kinshasa
  31. ACEDH (Alerte Congolaise pour lʼEnvironnement et le Développement Durable) ‒ Nord-Kivu
  32. CEPED (Centre dʼEducation pour la Protection de lʼEnvironnement et Développement durable)
  33. FECOPEILE (Fédération des Comités des Pêcheurs Individuels du Lac Edouard) Vitshumbi-Nord Kivu
  34. PADERU (Programme dʼaction de Développement Rural) Vitshumbi ‒Nord Kivu
  35. COPE (Carrefour dʼOpinion sur la Protection de lʼEnvironnement) ‒ Nord-Kivu
  36. UWAZE (Umoja wa Wamama wa Ziwa Edouard) Vitshumbi ‒ Nord Kivu
  37. POINT ZERO BULONGO (Groupe de Pression avec une Lutte Non violente) ‒ Nord-Kivu.
  38. ADEPE (Actions pour le Développement et la Protection de l’Environnement) ‒ Nord-Kivu
  39. I.D.P.E (Innovation pour le Développement et la Protection de lʼEnvironnement) ‒ Nord-Kivu
  40. SPED (Synergie des Ecologistes pour la Paix et le Développement) ‒ Nord-Kivu
  41. CIPSOPA (Centre d’intervention et de Promotion Sociale Participative) ‒ Nord- Kivu
  42. ADEPDH (Action de Développement pour la Protection de lʼEnvironnement et la Promotion des Droits Humains) ‒ Nord-Kivu
  43. ASOJED (Actions Solidaires pour le Jeunes et lʼEnvironnement Durable) ‒ Nord- kivu
  44. CADIMR (Centre dʼAppui au Développement Intégré en Milieu Rural) ‒ Nord-Kivu
  45. CREDDHO (Centre de Recherche sur lʼEnvironnement, la Démocratie et les Droits de lʼHomme) ‒ Nord-Kivu.
  46. UECN (Union dʼEcologistes pour la Conservation de la Nature) Kiwanja, Nord- Kivu

National Contacts: SO (Femmes Solidaires) Mail : salomeelolofs@gmail.com Tel : +243 808 700 420 +243816851589

Provincial Contacts Nord-Kivu (Ville de Goma) Réseau CREF (Réseau pour la Conservation et la Réhabilitation des Ecosystèmes Forestiers)Mail : francois.biloko@reseaucref.org Tel : +243 9 98 60 56 65

Source Virunga- Declaration des OSC Environnementales