On 10th January, at approximately 07.30am local time, the Rangers were ambushed while on foot patrol inside the Park. The attack took place near Kabuendo, which is located near the border of the Park, in the Central sector, between Nyamilima and Niamitwitwi. Preliminary investigations indicate that the Rangers were taken by surprise and had no opportunity to defend themselves, and that those responsible for the attack are local Mai-Mai groups.
One other Ranger was seriously wounded in the assault, he was evacuated to hospital in Goma and his injuries are not longer considered life-threatening.
A statement from the parc National Des Virunga said “Preliminary investigations indicate that those responsible for the attack are local Mai-Mai groups,” the statement said. ‘Mai-Mai’ is a term used to denote local militia groups in the eastern part of the DRC, who have been active in the area for a long time.
More than 200 rangers have been killed in the park over the past decade, according to media reports. Last April, 12 rangers were killed in what is considered as the worst attack till now.
Mountain Gorilla, copyright Kiganda Ssonko, from the surfbirds galleries
“The Rangers of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature are agents of the Congolese State. They do not have military status and their actions do not fall under the law of conflict. All efforts will be undertaken to bring the perpetrators to justice and sustain the rule of law within the Park,” the statement from the park said.
The 7,800-square-kilometre Virunga National Park stretches from the Virunga mountains in the south, to the Rwenzori mountains in the north. It borders Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.
It was established in 1925 as Africa’s first national park and is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site since 1979.
“Virunga National Park remains committed to delivering development initiatives that benefit local people and the wider region, and to working in partnership with local communities to bring peace and prosperity to many millions of people whose lives have for too long been blighted by conflict and the activities of armed groups.”