Oil exploration in the Virunga National Park

The Virunga National Park stretches from the Virunga Mountains in the South, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, covering 7,800-square-kilometre in Eastern DRC. It is known worldwide for it wildlife, as it is home to the last mountain gorillas.

I have never been to the Virunga National Park, or even to DRC for that matter. I hope to go there one day and experience the beauty of the Great Lakes region. The peaceful atmosphere that arises from the evergreen mountains is a sour irony, contrasting with the conflictful history  of the region, the unrest that has been taking place for decades there, with no end in sights.

I came across the Virunga Netflix documentary a few days ago.
It does justice to the natural beauty of the National Park, and to the courage of the few individuals defending it against illegal poaching and mining interests from SOCO International plc.

The documentary directed by Orlando von Einsiedel highlights a couple of things in the area:
– The complete inability of the central government to control the whole DRC territory
– The absence of rule of law for so long has turned the army and state representatives act into militias or administrative pillars for the mining interests
– The role NGOs and institutions are playing to maintain order. The documentary focuses on the team of rangers who fight for the park preservation alongside Emmanuel de Merode.

I have spent 20 years thinking about bravery, about why the rangers keep working under such conditions. For some it is because there aren’t that many options, because it is a good job. For others it is because their parents and grandparents were rangers. For others still it is the unfashionable concept of loyalty – it is their duty to protect the park.

You can read more about it here, and donate for the cause.

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