On 8 February 2009 a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party containing information on progress achieved in the implementation of the corrective measures. From 28 November to 6 December 2009, a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission visited the property as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009). Although security constraints did not permit thorough field visits, apart from some areas of the highland sector of the Park, the mission was able to review the state of conservation of the property thanks to meetings and discussions with the politico-administrative and military authorities, the managers of the property, the conservation partners and the various stakeholders concerned and thanks also to an overflight of the property. The mission report is available online at the following Internet address: http:/whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/34COM
The 2009 mission confirmed that since the 2006 mission, the presence of armed groups, notably the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in and round the property and the resulting insecurity has continued to make a large part of the property difficult to access by the staff of the management authority, the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN). Insecurity remains the biggest obstacle to the conservation and restoration of integrity of the property. The mission also noted that the threats identified by the earlier mission, in particular poaching, mining in the property and the illegal occupation of the ecological corridor between the highland and lowland sectors remains unchanged. Furthermore, the mission observed the extent of occupation of the Park land by the villages. The mission further noted increased deforestation around the Park for charcoal to supply the town of Bukavu and considered that if alternative solutions were not found to provide for these energy needs, the pressure on the forest resources of the Park is likely to increase.
The mission summarized the implementation of the corrective measures, adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006):
a) Establish a strategy for the evacuation of all the armed groups in the property. The strategy should also take into consideration the closing of all illegal mining operations inside the property;
In 2008, the State Party, with support from the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC) began a programme of voluntary repatriation of the FDLR military. These military forces are considered as being responsible for a greater part of the illicit activities in the property, in particular the artisanal mining activities and poaching. The voluntary repatriation was followed in 2009 by a military operation organised by the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) with logistical support from MONUC. The Commander of the military region confirmed to the mission that the military operation was able to dismantle the bases of the military in the Park. The operation was completed in December 2009 and at the time of the preparation of this report it is too soon to evaluate its impact on the security and accessibility of the property. However, it is feared that once the operation terminated, the FDLR could re-occupy their initial positions.
Due to improvements in security, the Park authorities have been able to close down 22 mining quarries in the Itebero and Katasomwa Sector. Nevertheless, numerous artisanal mining sites remain active in the property. No new information concerning the mining concessions granted in the property by the Ministry for Mines is available.
b) Substantially strengthen the presence of ICCN Park guards in the lowland sector of the Park;
The mission noted that the Park authorities have attempted to consolidate a presence in the lowland sector. Itebero Station is functional, a new station has been opened at Lulingo and the establishment of a presence in the Punia/Kasese region is planned. Nzovu Station was also functional until May 2009, date at which it had to be evacuated following an attack by the FDLR; it has since remained abandoned.
Furthermore, the Park authorities have tried to progressively increase the frequence of patrols. A rapid intervention unit has been created and has carried out two large-scale patrols in the lowland sectors at Itebero. The number of patrols increased from 4047 to 4812 between 2006 and 2008. Unfortunately, in 2009, there was an important decrease of patrols due to the increase of insecurity linked to military operations.
Despite these efforts, the extent of area covered by the patrols remains very reduced in the lowland altitudes of the Park.
c) Reclaim, as soon as the security situation allows, the farms located inside the ecologically important corridor between the highland and lowland sectors;
During the overflight, the mission noted that degradation of the corridor had increased with, in particular, permanent constructions and land clearing that also affected the highland sector of the Park, and deforestation of bamboo plantations on the slopes of MountBiega. In view of the importance of the corridor for the restoration of the integrity of the property, the mission considered that the urgent evacuation of the entire corridor should be secured.
The mission noted that the lack of progress in the field is in contrast to the efforts deployed by the Park authorities in attempting to resolve this issue. The visit in 2008 of a Ministerial delegation from Kinshasa led by the Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism (MECNT) to resolve this problem, has not been followed up by concrete actions as regards evacuation. However, the Chief of the Division of Landowners involved in the distribution of land in the Park, has recently been removed and a meeting was convened at the beginning of December 2009 by the Vice-Governor with representatives of the farmers, civil society and Park authorities to announce that the illegal occupation of the Park would no longer be permitted and that a field visit would take place with all the services concerned to determine the farms that were located inside the Park limits. The mission was also encouraged by the clear position taken by the civil society of Bukavu. The State Party report further mentions that the President of the Republic, during a visit to Bukavu, had announced the cancellation of all the long-lease contracts granted in the public State properties, including the farms located inside the property.
d) Strengthen cooperation between ICCN and its partners by developing a joint plan for all interventions in the Park;
Since 2008, the KBNP has an annual operational plan developed on the basis of the objectives and programmes established in the management plan under preparation. All the partners of the KBNP contribute towards the development of the operational plan and progress in the planned activities and results is evaluated regularly. The mission therefore considered that this recommendation had been implemented.
e) Conduct, as soon as the security situation allows, a survey of flagship species present in the lowland sector of the Park, in particular gorilla and other primates;
An inventory of the lowland area was planned in 2006, but due to security problems, the field work was limited to a very small part of the area, notably in the region of Nzovu and Suisa and along the trail from Suisa to Itebero. The extent of this inventory remains too partial to evaluate the situation of wildlife in the lowland sector. This information needs to be completed as soon as the security situation improves. The Park authorities have in fact informed the mission that funds have been secured to continue this work in 2010.
f) Strengthen law enforcement in the property thereby gradually increasing the area of the Park covered by guard patrols;
With support from WWF, ICCN has developed guidelines for patrol operations. Progress has been made in the highland sector as concerns the extent of the Park covered by the patrols. However, patrols have not been able to cover much of the lowland sector due to problems of security. The mission welcomed the creation of a rapid intervention unit that can reinforce the teams stationed in the different outposts for « large-scale » operations or in the case of specific pressure. Law enforcement efforts in the Park and a gradual increase in the area covered by the patrols must therefore be continued.
g) Establish a trust fund for the rehabilitation of World Heritage properties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (RDC)
Steps are being taken to establish a trust fund for all the protected areas. A Steering Committee has been set up by Ministerial Order, terms of reference have been defined and a schedule for the establishment of an International Foundation for the management of funds has been decided upon. A facilitator has been recruited and is currently establishing a technical group comprised of experts to define the profile of the Fund and its implementation. It has also been decided to give priority to World Heritage sites.
As regards the rehabilitation of the RN3 road that crosses the highland sector of the property, the mission was able to inspect the work on the section crossing the Park. The mission considered that the necessary precautions to limit the impact of the rehabilitation work have been taken and implemented. Nevertheless, the rehabilitation shall certainly increase traffic and the mission considered that it was important to reinforce the control mechanisms (vehicle control, surveillance of broken-down vehicles, closure of the barriers at night). The mission also reiterated the need to circumvent the Park if the rehabilitation work continues beyond Hombo to rehabilitate the connection at Kisangani.
The mission acknowledged the efforts undertaken by the Park managers of ICCN for the conservation of the property, often at great personal risk for its personnel.
The mission concluded that the values for which the property had been inscribed on the World Heritage List, although still present, were seriously affected by the impacts of the conflict and that the integrity of the property was questionable, notably due to the loss of connectivity between the highland and lowland sectors. Given that no species has disappeared from the Park and that the continuity of the plant species could be re-established if the problems of illegal occupation of the corridor were resolved and a solution found for the villages located in the property, the mission considered that the Outstanding Universal Value, although degraded, was still present and could be recovered. The mission formulated a series of recommendations that are included in the draft decision to commence the restoration of the Outstanding Universal Value, by updating the corrective measures adopted by the Committee in 2006.
The mission considered that it was currently impossible to determine the present degree of degradation of the Outstanding Universal Value as there is no complete inventory available. The lack of base references has also made it difficult to develop a proposal defining the desired state of conservation with a view to removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. For the time being, it has been proposed to determine the type of indicators that might be considered, without quantifying them. Nine indicators have been proposed, destined to measure the restoration of the biological values of the property, the integrity and management.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN remain concerned as regards the situation of the property. Although significant progress is noted in several places, the continuing insecurity has rendered the implementation of some of the recommendations of the 2006 mission difficult and a large part of the property remains out of control. A return of security in the region, and notably the removal of all the armed groups in the property, remains the primary condition to commence restoration of the values and integrity. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN hope that with the conclusion of the military operations, the necessary security conditions could be created to enable the managers of the property to progress in the implementation of the corrective measures. If the military operation has actually been able to definitively dislodge the armed groups from the Park, this would provide ICCN with a major opportunity to reoccupy the area and act against the activities of illegal mining of natural resources and notably the closure of the artisanal mines.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN regret the lack of progress in the issue of the evacuation of the corridor. Despite all the positive political and legal decisions taken regarding this issue, and the personal involvement of the Minister for the Environment, it has not yet been possible to enforce the law and remove the illegal occupants. Nevertheless, the wish of the provincial authority expressed during the mission to resolve this problem, and the commitment of civil society regarding this issue, may be considered as very positive developments, hence it is hoped that tangible progress will be made. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN support the conclusion of the mission to maintain Kahuzi-BiegaNational Park on the List of World Heritage in Danger and continue to apply the reinforced monitoring mechanism.