Militia Chief Arrested for the Murder of 19 Wildlife Rangers in the Congo Virunga National Park.

Dr Diane Fossey was dedicated to protecting the Silverback Gorillas, in December 1985, she was murdered.

It is definitely a fundamental truth that ‘needing and having’ are the current basis of what drives ecocide and species extinction, and in this way our increasing over-reliance on technology and machines is driving the unfolding ecocide and the unnecessary targeting of violence and murder of environmentalists and wildlife wardens protecting species and habitats in areas. Generally, people in the western world don’t see the connection between the driving force affected by our demand for materials from natural resources and increasing corruption and violence in regions of the world where these resources come from, required for manufacturing technological devices, and even gas, oil, gold and diamonds that are pressuring many species threatened with extinction, and destroying fragile ecological habitats.

This is well illustrated by the story of the Mountain Gorillas of the African Congo. The area is subjected to mining of gold, diamonds and coltan, (geological name – Columbite Tantalite), a highly valuable mineral used in the microchips of every single new electronic device made, cell phone or tablet and laptop, all comes from the African Congo, Virungas National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A biodiverse ecosystem where a small group of the world’s last remaining Silverback Gorillas are critically threatened with extinction from poaching and continually reduced habitat due to these existing ‘Conflict Minerals’ being extracted in the area, that the global demand on technology is responsible for plundering.

Coltan can only be found in a few places in the world, one of which is in Australia, which was the world’s largest producer at Wodinga Tantalum mine in Western Australia, however they closed their mine in 2012, because it is cheaper instead to mine Coltan using adult and child slave labour in inhumane conditions in Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) contains vast and significant mining resources including more than 1100 minerals and precious metals. With such riches, the DRC has the potential to become one of the richest countries in Africa and to guarantee the well-being of its population—including its children. In 2019, the Democratic Republic of the Congo made no advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. The government drafted a new anti-trafficking in persons law, established a national anti-trafficking coordinating body, and finalized a five-year national strategy to combat human trafficking. A military court also sentenced a former colonel to life imprisonment for the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Child labour at a Coltan Mine, Humanium

To make matters worse, many international corporations act in corrupt ways in the region, one such example is SOCO International energy company who have for years, been aggressively pushing extraction of gas and oil reserves in the area, from around and under Lake Edward in the National Park, this is also where the dangerous militia group called Mai-Mai Jackson operates. All this, at the cost of one of the last greatest African forests and majestic mountain gorillas which have only been given an estimated 15 years of survival amidst the adversities they face through lack of global corporate responsibility to better manage human rights and environmental conservation of such situations, because minerals such as coltan, gold, diamonds and oil are far more important than saving the Silverback Gorillas and their forest home.

Democratic Republic Congo’s famed Virunga National Park spokesperson said on Thursday that the head of an armed group had been arrested over a three-year killing spree that had left 19 wildlife rangers dead. The park, is one of richest areas of biodiversity in the world, and the home of the endangered last Silverback Mountain Gorilla and dozens of other rare or endangered species.

On December 26, in 1985, primatologist and conservationist Dr. Diane Fossey was found murdered in her cabin at Karisoke, a research site in the mountains of Rwanda bordering the DR Congo part of the Wildlife reserve. It is widely believed that she was killed in connection with her lifelong crusade against poaching. Since Fossey’s death, things have become increasingly worse in the region, not better. Now it’s dangerous for anyone protecting the National Wildlife in the areas across Rwanda, the Virungas and DR Congo. Danger is an occupational hazard for local Wildlife Park Rangers guarding the 7,769-square-kilometre (2,999-square-mile) reserve containing much valued wildlife.

Up in the highest mountain elevations of this habitat, between 2000 and 4,000 meters above sea level, lives the world’s largest and most endangered primate, the Silverback Mountain Gorilla. As humans have been encroaching into their territory over the years due to exploitation of natural resources and coltan, gold, diamonds, and even gas and oil, as well as regional local conflicts causing waves of refugees who have settled in the region around the Virunga National Park. Therefore, the mountain gorilla populations have been forced to retreat and hide farther up into the mountains for longer periods, forcing them to endure dangerous and sometimes deadly conditions.

They are also continuously threatened by illegal poaching of the gorillas and their habitat is threatened and dwindling due to mining the natural resources in the region. There are fewer than 900 Silverback Gorillas left in the natural wilderness. The last 2015 Virunga Massif census recorded a total of 604 gorillas. The 2011 Bwindi census recorded a minimum of 400 individuals, up from 302 in 2006. This is not enough for a viable healthy population to survive a pandemic or any further increasing threats.

This is a critical situation especially after the recent murders of park rangers in the region, leaving these majestic creatures even more vulnerable to extinction without the proper necessary protection. Gorillas that come into contact with humans can be vulnerable to human diseases, which gorillas experience in more severe forms, with the current pandemic, their vulnerability is even more alarming.

More people coming into their habitat makes them extremely vulnerable to disease, as well as poachers and the highest threats of encroaching conflict minerals and coltan miners that have critically reduced their habitat, the oldest reserve in Africa. The population of 480 mountain gorillas in this region’s dwindling habitat spans from Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in two separate subpopulations-The Virunga subpopulation ranges across the Virunga Massif, which is a tiny area of 440km² network of protected areas across the borders of Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park), Uganda (Mgahinga National Park) and the DRC (Virunga National Park).

Virungas National Park Rangers

In the Congo region, over twenty-one wildlife rangers have died in the past years in clashes with armed groups that roam the area, many of them a legacy of two regional wars, possibly indirectly funded by corporate interests in the natural resources in the region. After a six-month inquiry, Virunga wardens early Tuesday arrested suspected militia chief Jackson Muhukambuto on the outskirts of the city of Butembo, park director Emmanuel De Merode told AFP. “We believe that Jackson Muhukambuto is directly responsible for the death of 19 rangers over the last three years,” in addition to civilians and members of the armed forces, he said. He described Muhukambuto as the head of a large group called Mai-Mai Jackson.

It is believed the group operates in nearly half of the vast park, mainly around Lake Edward, the smallest of the African Great Lakes, on the border with Uganda, he said. The Kivu Security Tracker, a US-headquartered NGO that monitors violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, said Muhukambuto was a former army commander and veteran of the unrest that has gripped the region for the past 25 years. Experts said he had good connections within the army and among tradespeople in the Nande ethnic group, the largest in the area. He had also collaborated with the army to fight a notorious Rwandan Hutu group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

by

Carlita Shaw

Other sources

Humanium

Congo Forced Child Labour

Virungas National Park Rangers

Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund

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