Congo Conflict Challenges Conservation

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We've written recently about our visit to the Congo border at Goma, and previously about the plight of the mountain gorillas in Congo. Now comes a new story, Mountain Gorillas at Mercy of Congo War Factions, on Reuters Africa.

It's such a confusing and sordid situation that, with allegiances shifting, neighboring governments involved, mineral wealth at play and wounds still open from the 1994 Rwanda genocide, it takes a scorecard to sort out the battle lines. But the conflict gives every indication of escalating yet again.

The leaders of Congo and Rwanda, Laurent Kabila and Paul Kagame, declined to seize an opportunity this week, speaking only briefly with one another when they were both in Nairobi for a summit, suggesting a test of strength is ahead before real negotiations begin.

Meanwhile Portuguese is now heard among government soldiers in eastern Congo, suggesting the introduction of Angolan troops as sought by Congo. The Southern African Development Community said it would send
military advisers to help the Kabila government. In reply, Congolese Tutsi militia leader Nkunda declared that "If they come in and fight… I am ready to fight them".

There is a compelling blog on the web site of Congo's now-abandoned Virunga National Park, culminating with this post on 26 October, in which the 50-odd rangers were forced into the forests to run for their lives toward the relative safety of Goma.

Aid agency Caritas International has a blog from Goma, last post 10 November, in German, or translated by Google into English.

And for revealing, if depressing background, read Johann Hari in the Independent.

There are an estimated 700+ mountain gorillas left on the planet, and at risk in this conflict, on the sides of the Virunga Mountains that form a portion of the Uganda, Rwanda and Congo borders.

See our Mountain Gorilla Gallery and Rwanda Gallery on EarthPhotos.com.

(Photo from EarthPhotos.com)

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