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Updated Apr 28, 2020

On April 24, seventeen people were killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park, thirteen of them park rangers and employees. Three other rangers were seriously injured. In a statement, the park said it could confirm the perpetrators of the attack were rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

 

FDLR rebels have been active in this part of the DRC since the end of the Rwandan genocide.

 

The attack is one of the worst suffered in the park, which spans 7 769 square kilometers in the east of the country, along the borders of Rwanda and Uganda. Virunga has seen much conflict, and there has always been competition for the park’s rich natural resources. FDLR rebels have been active in this part of the DRC since the end of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, attacking ethnic Tutsis in the DRC and sometimes launching cross-border raids into Rwanda.

 

A picture taken on July 17, 2016 shows trucks carrying people and being part of the Congolese army convoy which drives through the national park of Virunga. The convoy, established by the Congolese Army on early 2016, aims to insure security in face of a wave of civilian kidnappings between the villages of Kiwanja and Kanyabayonga, in the southeastern part of the province of North Kivu. Eduardo Soteras / AFP
An army convoy traveling through Virunga National Park. (Eduardo Soteras / AFP)

 

Long-Standing Tensions

Lingering resentment over Rwanda’s involvement in the Second Congo War (1998–2003) has spoiled relations between the two nations, but diplomatic overtures between DRC president Félix Tshisekedi and Rwandan president Paul Kagame have sought to set political divisions aside and boost regional integration and private investments. However, the recent arrest of Tshisekedi’s chief of staff Vital Kamerhe, who helped to initiate the rapprochement between the two leaders, could potentially jeopardize these efforts. 

 

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