Virunga national park ranger killed

Virunga national park ranger killed

Virunga national park ranger killed by M23 rebels. It is once again another sad moment for the Virunga national park just after the loss of an orphaned gorilla in the Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage. The Virunga national park on Saturday the 20th of November was attacked by about 100 armed men. The Virunga national park, a UNESCO world heritage site, has in the past had history of such attacks claiming a few lives or just property.

On the 20th of November 2021, an attack on this national park claimed the life of a one Chief Brigadier Mutazimiza Kanyaruchinya Etienne aged 48 years, a long serving range guide of the Virunga national park. A few of the guests who had visited this park may have chanced to experience Virunga with him. Brigadier Mutazimiza Kanyaruchinya Etienne died at the arms of these heavily armed men while the other ranger guides at the spot fled away in time.

The attack on the Virunga national park is said to have been an organization of the M23 rebel group that has long terrorized this area. The M23 rebel group is known to settle at the Uganda and Rwanda land border with the Democratic republic of Congo. The men spotted were known members of the M23 rebel group thus the allegation from the rangers who fled unharmed.

Chief Brigadier Mutazimiza Kanyaruchinya Etienne joined the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) in 1995, 26 years ago and with his unfortunate death on duty, he leaves behind a wife and four children

This was the second attack in the area in a period of 2 weeks and is still believed to have been the same group who have always eyed setting up a base in the park. The previous two weeks, this same rebel group attacked the ICCN patrol post and this was where they set up base to attack the towns of Jomba and Bunagana. This attack was after interrupted and ended by the counteroffensive of the Congolese army however, a number of lives of soldiers were lost in this scuffle.

The ICCN rangers’ main responsibility is protect the conservation areas in under the ICCN and keep law in the areas however it should be noted that these are not military equipped individuals even if they have the basic training and armed conflict is not their expertise thus the dominance in armed attacks by the rebels. Their expertise is in ensuring the park or the Congolese natural heritage site is protected and its natural resources and this goes for those at the ICCN patrol post of Virunga where Etienne worked.

This attack happened close to the village of Bukima which is within the gorilla sector of the park known as the Mikeno sector. This Mikeno gorilla sector is in the Rutshuru territory and this is where guests who may have spent a night in the Bukima tented camp or the Mikeno lodge go for their mountain gorilla trekking. With such a threat in the region, tours to this part of the park may be put on hold for a while as tighter security measures are implemented.

Virunga national park ranger killed
Virunga national park ranger killed

This attack also highlights the lengths at which the Virunga rangers keep to risk their lives one heartedly with an aim to ensure the safety and protection of the park, its visitors and the communities that are living around the World Heritage site.

The Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature is set to bring the perpetuators of this crime to justice and there will be none spared. Those once caught and found guilty will be charged according to the law. The Virunga national park continues to maintain peace in the area and put guests security first and have decided to halt visits to the gorilla sector of this park until the end of year.

The visits to the Virunga national park are proposed to resume at the end of December 2021 after the situation has been analyzed and security reinforced in the area. The Virunga national park sends out thoughts and the deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of the fallen ranger Chief Brigadier Mutazimiza Kanyaruchinya Etienne especially in these tough times.

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