Congo connection

The eastern part of the DR Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo) offers a ‘case-book’ examination of the matrix between conflict and post-conflict rebuilding against a background of biodiversity destruction.

Whether it is from fighting or the mass dispersal of refugees, essential biodiversity to sustain human life as well as fauna and forest in DR Congo suffered on a massive scale through internal wars over the last three decades whose destructiveness has been described as Africa’s ‘world war’ with the involvement of other countries in the sub-Sahara region.

These wars in DR Congo officially ceased with peace accords in 2003 after which it was hoped that the country would transit to a post-conflict equilibrium; this idea was shattered by numerous incursions by various militias, with interference and manipulation at varying levels by neighbouring countries that also play on ethnic tensions.

Stretching across 1.7 million kilometres (more than 650,000 square miles) the Congo Forest is the second largest block of tropical rainforest on Earth: half the world’s flora and fauna are endemic to the DR Congo and this rich panorama also applies to the DR Congo’s mineral wealth which is predominately located in the eastern region: cobalt, copper, cadmium, industrial and gem-quality diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, coal are all found in plentiful supply, with oil recently discovered.

The DR CONGO RESEARCH GROUP of the Marjan Centre brings together individuals and organisations to exchange ideas and information about improving the understanding of how conflict and conservation interact through the prism of eastern DR Congo as well as the importance of conservation within spheres of armed conflict.

The Marjan Centre has formed a close relationship with the Pole Pole Foundation, based in Bukavu, which works to create post-conflict sustainability and protect wildlife through the huge commitment of its director, John Kahekwa. He was formerly chief tracker at the nearby Kahuzi-Biega National Park, home of the rare Grauer’s or the Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri); Pole Pole has a long-standing link with Kyoto University through Professor Juichi Yamagiwa of the Graduate School of Sciences who is a leading expert on gorilla behaviour.

The DR CONGO RESEARCH GROUP is co-ordinated by Marjan Centre PhD student Richard Milburn whose MA in Post War Recovery at York University included a dissertation: Guerrillas in the Mist: are trans-boundary protected areas an effective tool to promote peace-building and development in a post-conflict environment?
– Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre

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