We are saddened to report the death of a Virunga National Park ranger, who was killed in the line of duty on Saturday 11 January.
Ranger Mbera Bagabo was shot dead and two others were seriously wounded when their foot patrol was ambushed by Rwandan FDLR militia.
Three FDLR were also killed and one was apprehended in the subsequent fighting.
According to park officials, “The rangers were being deployed in the area to secure a major road running alongside the park for the public and to protect Virunga from illegal forest destruction in an area that contains Congo’s only population of Critically Endangered mountain gorillas. The FDLR are an illegal movement believed to still include perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
“The attack took place about 10 km north of the city of Goma in the area affected by violent battles between government forces and M23 rebels in October last year. This is the worst attack on a Virunga ranger patrol in over a year.
“The attack is thought to have been carried out in retaliation against the rangers’ efforts to prevent the militias from regaining control of an area close to the habitat of the Critically Endangered mountain gorillas. The area is sought after by militias for its lucrative illegal charcoal trade with the city of Goma, known to be a major source of revenue for illegal armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Recent studies by national park staff have shown the illegal trade to be worth over US$35 million a year, much of which provides funding for illegal armed groups.”
Rangers are currently working to secure the area.
Support for widows and families
Founded in 1925, Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park and in its lifetime has faced many difficulties as a result of political turmoil and conflict. Despite this, the park is staffed by a team of incredibly dedicated rangers, over 150 of whom have given up their lives to protect the park and its wildlife.
In 2007, Virunga National Park established a fund to provide financial support for the families of rangers killed on duty. To donate, visit the Fallen Rangers Fund website.