Rebels attack Rumangabo

We are alarmed with news reports that rebel forces have taken over the military base at Rumangabo. This has forced the ICCN to begin evacuating rangers from the Virunga National Park which is critical for their safety and survival, but will leave the gorillas and forests vulnerable.

According to AFP “The Democratic Republic of Congo’s envoy to the United Nations called on the Security Council to intervene to stop what he called an “imminent” Rwandan attack on the eastern DRC city of Goma.

Atoki Ileka told AFP that DRC authorities had “observed concentrations of Rwandan troops in the Rwandan border town of Gisenyi,” and that this suggested that an attack on Goma, located just across the frontier, was “imminent.”

Goma is the capital of Nord-Kivu province, which is at the center of renewed fighting between rebel and government forces that broke out August 28 in the east of the DRC.

“We have asked the Security Council to put the necessary pressure on Rwanda to prevent a new (Rwandan) aggression against DRC,” Ileka said, adding that troops in Rwandan uniforms had seized the Rumangabo military camp near Goma early Wednesday.”

Reuters have also just reported the invasion of Congo by Rwandan troops “Congo has accused neighboring Rwanda of sending troops across the border and fighting in support of a Congolese warlord. A Rwandan military spokesman denies the allegations.

North Kivu provincial Gov. Julien Mpaluku says Rwandan soldiers backing Congo warlord Laurent Nkunda crossed into Congo three days ago and headed for the frontier villages of Tshanzu and Bunagana. He said Wednesday that Rwandan troops were fighting in Rumangabo, a small village north of the regional capital, Goma”.

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Rumangabo is the headquarters of the Virunga National Park where our former CEO Emmanuel de Merode and his team of rangers including Diddy and Innocent are based. In a post on the Official Virunga National Park website where Samantha reports that heavy fighting had broken out between the army and Nkunda’s rebels. The fighting approached the park station (Rumangabo is the Park headquarters). Military tanks were apparently “firing on the hills where they believe the rebels to be; an army helicopter is also hovering, patroling the area”.

It is now certain that the CNDP (Nkunda’s troops) have taken control of the Rumangabo military base – a major blow to the army and a major threat to the Rangers at the station.

A post on the blog at Gorilla.cd states

“Emmanuel is doing his utmost to try and secure the station and get the remaining people out. Monuc – the UN team in DRC – thankfully knows Pierre and the others are all there and have told them not to move from the station as it is unsafe”.

This is of course terrible news for conservation as it not only puts the ICCN staff in a severely dangerous situation(over 120 rangers have died in the line of duty over recent years), but will further curtail conservation activities, patrols or management of the park. In addition, it is likely to escalate the problem of internal refugees which will deepen the environmental impact of the tens of thousands that are being displaced as they seek safety.

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6 comments on “Rebels attack Rumangabo

  1. Pirjo,Finland on said:

    Terrible news.. Will this ever end? One just feels totally helpless and unable to do anything which would help gorillas and rangers. There has to be a way to increase international pressure on rebel leaders.
    Please keep us posted and stay safe.

  2. sheryl, washington, dc on said:

    This is horrible for every living creature in Virunga and beyond.

    s.

  3. sheryl, washington dc on said:

    A while back we had a letter-writing campaign on this exact matter and Robin Andrea wrote a sample letter. You can find it here: http://nothoney.wordpress.com/wildlife-direct-lobby/ or copy-and-paste it from here:
    Dear (Representative or Senator or MP):
    The Democratic Republic of Congo endures what the United Nations calls the deadliest conflict since World War II. We need to help stem the flow of blood and violence. I request that we strongly urge President Kagame and the Rwandan government to act immediately to stop any and all support of the rebel leader and war criminal Laurent Nkunda, to cut off the recruitment from its territory of individuals, including children, as fighters for Laurent Nkunda’s forces, and to comply with the UN arms embargo by ensuring that no military equipment crosses its frontier into the DRC. His whereabouts have been well known, yet nothing has been done to capture him.

    Nkunda occupies part of Virunga National Park and park rangers can no longer safely patrol the park for snares, poachers, and illegal charcoal makers. Funds have been raised for his war from the illegal charcoal trade that destroys vast acres of the park’s lush forests and prime wildlife habitat. If we do not act soon, the population of rare mountain gorillas may soon vanish, charcoal looters and poachers will irreparably destroy a world treasure, Virunga National Park, and the Congolese people will bear the scars of war and famine for generations to come.

    Thousands of Congolese citizens have fled from the fighting. Many of the refugees suffer from exposure, malnutrition and diseases like malaria are common. Please urge President Kagame to end any relations between his government and the rebel Laurent Nkunda. We must act now

  4. Theresa on said:

    A sad day for the people and gorillas of Virunga. There has to be a way to protect the rangers so they can protect the forest and it’s inhabitants. These rebels don’t care about the gorillas. I agree that internation pressure should put on these rebel leaders. I will pray with all my heart that the rangers, people, and gorillas of Virunga are kept safe. Our thoughts are with you all.

  5. Lucia Cristiana, Brazil on said:

    God protect you all – rangers, staff and beloved gorillas. Thank you for keeping us updated.

  6. Again……..a roller coaster ride there…..one day calm and then you just never know what will happen next! I am so sorry to hear this awful news! Praying for you all!

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