Funerals for park rangers killed in attack in east Congo

Funerals for park rangers killed in attack in east Congo

Relatives, friends and colleagues attended the burial of six rangers at the Virunga National Park in east Congo who were killed there during an attack last weekend.

Trucks carried the coffins to Makao cemetery on Monday, where families grieved and paid their final respects to their loved ones.

“We are extremely concerned about the security situation in and around Virunga National Park,” said Emmanuel de Merode, the Director of Virunga National Park speaking after the ceremony.

“It’s a park that is plagued by the negative forces, armed groups that want to weaken the Congolese state.”

On Sunday, the violence took place in Nyamitwitwi, located in the Rutshuru area of the park, according to the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN).

It is the latest attack in the part of eastern Congo that is home to some of the world’s last mountain gorillas.

De Merode said that the insecurity does not affect just the ICCN – who are in charge of the park – but all the institutions and the people of North Kivu “currently working, trying to improve the situation to reduce the violence and at the same time reduce the poverty.”

Malic Abdoul Surumu, who lost his younger brother during the attack, has asked the authorities of the park to improve the security for the rangers “so that they don’t become the target of every day attacks.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though past attacks on Virunga park rangers have been blamed on several armed groups that vie for control of eastern Congo’s natural resources.

Among those rebel groups is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French acronym FDLR, an ethnic Hutu group opposed to the government of neighboring Rwanda and one of the last factions of Rwandan rebels active in the Congo.

In April 2020, an ambush near the Virunga National Park killed 12 rangers and five civilians, and critically injured several others.

More than 200 rangers have been killed since Virunga became a national park in 1925, officials say.
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