DRC: Virunga park’s natural resources are used to finance armed groups in the east

NGOs are launching a new call for the dismantling of the “mafia network” that manufactures millions of dollars.

Several environmental and human rights associations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo sent a letter to the military governor of North Kivu province in early September to denounce the illegal trafficking of natural resources in the Virunga park. , the oldest in Africa.

A hideout for armed groups

Located on the border with Rwanda and Uganda, the second largest rainforest in the world, Virunga, is known for its “exceptional biodiversity” according to’UNESCO. But for years, the national park that appears on the World Heritage list was also a lair of rebels, militias and gangs that multiply trafficking with impunity.

“Most armed groups active in North Kivu have set up their rear bases in and around the park”

collective of Congolese associations and NGOs

Traffic of all types

Without naming the armed groups involved, the associations deplore the illegal exploitation of natural resources that allows them to finance themselves. Poaching, illegal fishing and illegal logging would bring millions of dollars to militias. One of the most lucrative activities is wild coal trafficking. It alone makes $60,000 a day, according to estimates based on the daily arrival of dozens of trucks loaded with goods in the city of Goma. So INGOs are calling for the dismantling of “mafia network” who profits from this traffic.

a problem that persists

This is not the first time this issue has been reported. A report published in 2016 by the American NGO Enough Project warned of the consequences “devastating” of the destruction of the forest. The study explained how the illicit coal trade contributed to the financing of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), “a center of criminal networks” in North Kivu. Five years later, nothing has changed. This armed group and others enjoy the complicity and protection of military or political officials who also profit from illegal revenues.

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Due to lack of resources, no investigation has yet been carried out to identify and convict those involved. Since last May, North Kivu has been under a state of siege. and the powers of civil authorities are now in the hands of the military. youexceptional measure, supposedly to put an end to the activities of the armed groups that have been undermining the region for more than 25 years.

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