In 1994, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (PNKB), located in the region of South Kivu, in eastern DRC, like Virunga National Park, had to cope with the massive influx of refugees fleeing Rwanda where the genocide had just begun with, as consequence a significant increase in pressure on the natural resources characterized by the acceleration of deforestation and increased poaching. The outbreak of the Great Lakes conflict in 1996 and the installation of armed militia in the property had deprived ICCN of its authority and caused its loss of control over a large part of the property, thus allowing the establishment of illegal occupants in the PNKB. The unsatisfactory state of conservation of the property and the continued lack of security despite the official halt of hostilities and in spite of important support for the property, led the World Heritage Committee to consider a global approach to the issue of the deteriorating situation in all the World Heritage properties of the DRC. In 2007, the reinforced monitoring mechanism, recently adopted by the World Heritage Committee (31 COM 7A.32), was applied to the property.
On 2 February 2009 a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. This report, more complete than those of previous years, contained information on the progress achieved in the implementation of the corrective measures.
Security problems continue to render access to a large part of the property difficult by staff of the management authority (ICCN). The militia of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) still occupy a part of the lowland sector. However, since the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee, repatriation of the FDLR Rwandan militia in the framework of the Amani Plan has begun. The Amani Plan was developed following the signature, on 23 January 2008, of the « Act of Commitment » at the closure of the « Goma Conference for Peace, Security and Development in North and South Kivu ». It foresees the disarmament of armed groups present in the region. According to OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), as at 18 February 2009, the total number of persons repatriated to Rwanda was 2,211 (including women and children of the militia). The State Party is actively involved in repatriation negotiations with Rwanda.
As is mentioned in the report on Virunga National Park, since end-January 2009, a reconciliation between the Rwandan and Congolese authorities has occurred and a combined operation against the FDLR is planned.
However, conservation activities continue in the accessible parts of the property (the highland sector and the areas around the Nzovu and Itebro Stations in the lowland sector).
With regard to the implementation of the corrective measures, adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006), the following progress has been noted:
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
As mentioned above, the repatriation of FDLR Rwandan militia has begun. However, armed groups are still active in several sectors of the property, impeding access by the surveillance staff. Several mining quarries have been closed following patrols carried out in particular in the Itebero Sector and at Katasomwa, in the northern sector of the highlands. Despite the closure of nine mining quarries many are being worked. However, the repatriation of the FDLR militia is beginning to have an impact on reducing illegal mining activities in the property.
Furthermore, cooperation with the United Nations Organization Mission in the Congo (MONUC) has been strengthened following a joint World Heritage Centre and MONUC focal point mission on issues relating to World Heritage properties in the DRC, carried out in May 2008. The Kahuzi-Biega ICCN team may now benefit from the support of MONUC for some of its patrols.
b) Substantially strengthen the presence of ICCN Park guards in the lowland sector of the Park
The number of guards has remained the same in the lowland sector but operations of guard surveillance have increased, particularly during 2008. The rapid intervention unit carried out two large-scale patrols in the lowland sectors at Itebero (North Kivu). The number of patrols increased from 4,047 to 4,812 between 2006 and 2008.
Moreover, ICCN has strengthened its presence in the lowland sector with the initiation of a work site for the construction of a first station at Itebero (North Kivu Province). This construction was made possible thanks to funding from the Rapid Response Facility.
In order to increase the number of ICCN agents in the different intervention sectors, the agents responsible for community conservation are now based in their respective intervention sectors. This will allow them to conduct regular relations with the local authorities and with the different groups within the population. Despite these efforts, the Park area covered by the patrols remains less than 50%.
c) Reclaim, as soon as the security situation allows, the farms situated in the ecologically important corridor between the lowland and highland sectors
No progress has been made regarding the issue of the evacuation of the ecological corridor that links the highland and lowland sectors still squatted by illegal occupants and this, despite the transmission of substantial dossiers to the competent legal and political authorities. The Park authorities are still awaiting a policy decision following the field visit of the Minister of Environment in March 2008, already mentioned in the previous report.
Several meetings were held on this subject with the Governor and Vice-Governor of the South Kivu Province who made the commitment to support the Park authorities in the resolution of this dispute. In the meantime, patrols have been intensified in the corridor sector and an agent responsible for community conservation is now installed at Nindja.
d) Strengthen cooperation between ICCN and its partners by developing a joint plan for all interventions in the Park
Since 2008, the PNKB has an annual plan of operation based on the objectives and programmes established when preparing the management plan that includes an overview of a ten-year programme. All PNKB partners contribute towards the establishment of the plan of operation and the Coordination Committee of the Site (CoCoSi), set up during the first phase of the « DRC Programme », will be the focal point to assess the progress achieved in the activities and expected results of each of the actors.
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
As mentioned in the previous report, a partial inventory of the sectors of Itebero and Nzovu has been completed. It covers 20% of the lowland sector. The results indicate an important reduction in flagship species, in particular the elephant. Work on the inventory should begin in February 2009 to complete these results.
f) Strengthen law enforcement in the property thereby gradually increasing the area of the Park covered by guard patrols
ICCN has prepared, with WWF support, an instruction manual for patrol operations. In particular, it proposes the establishment of a grid-type strategy. From now on, patrol reports will inform property managers more precisely of the area under surveillance and hence determine the sectors requiring reinforced surveillance. As indicated previously, currently the area covered remains largely insufficient.
g) Establish a trust fund for the rehabilitation of the World Heritage properties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
See the report on Virunga National Park (Document WHC-09/33.COM/7A)
No new information concerning the mining concessions granted within the property by the Ministry of Mines has been communicated.
The revised version of the environmental impact study containing new proposals regarding the mitigation measures retained and the rehabilitation of the RN3 road, crossing the highland sector of the property, requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session, has not yet been transmitted to the World Heritage Centre. At the beginning of February, the property manager informed the World Heritage Centre of the imminent commencement of the rehabilitation work in the framework of support from the United Nations Organization Mission for the Congo (MONUC) through UNOPS. Following this, on 17 February 2009, the World Heritage Centre addressed a letter to the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, informing him of the concerns of the World Heritage Committee regarding the impact that the rehabilitation of the road would have on the state of conservation of the property. A similar letter was also addressed to the Minister of Environment of the DRC. The MONUC, overseer of the work, postponed commencement of the rehabilitation work until such time as a compromise has been found with the Park authorities to minimise the direct and indirect impacts of this rehabilitation on the property. On 29 February 2009, UNOPS, responsible for rehabilitation work, and ICCN/PNKB signed an agreement in principle for the management of environmental impacts during rehabilitation of the 23 km of the RN 3. It also defines the responsibilities of UNOPS and the ICCN/PNKB. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have received a copy of this agreement, but at the time of this report, were unable to form an opinion as they had not received the revised version of the environmental impact study from the State Party.
Although some progress in the implementation of the corrective measures has been noted, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN remain concerned about the situation at the property. Despite ICCN efforts, a large part of the property remains beyond its control. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also regret the lack of progress achieved in the resolution of the dossier on the illegal occupation of the corridor, the granting of mining concessions in the property as well as the revision of the environmental impact study for the rehabilitation work of the RN 3.
Since the 31st session, the reinforced monitoring mechanism has been applied to the property and the World Heritage Centre ensures the continuous monitoring of the state of conservation of the property through its “DRC Programme”. In view of the current situation at the property, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend to continue the application of the reinforced monitoring mechanism.