In 1996, the consequences of the outbreak of the Great Lakes conflict that raged through the region for more than ten years, the retreat into the property of the armed bands and rebel groups, with the accompanying poaching and over-exploitation of the natural resources, led to the inscription of Garamba National Park (GNP) on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1997. The unsatisfactory state of conservation of the property and the continuing lack of security despite the official decree concerning the end of the conflict, and in spite of strong support to the property have led the World Heritage Committee to consider a more global approach to the issue of the deterioration of the situation in all the DRC World Heritage properties. In 2007, the reinforced monitoring mechanism, recently adopted by the World Heritage Committee (31 COM 7A.32), was applied to the property.
The World Heritage Centre received the state of conservation of the property on 2 February 2009. It is evident that most of the property’s conservation problems are connected to the presence of Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who have installed their base of operations in the GNP and in the surrounding hunting domains. Lack of security is particularly critical in the frontier region with Sudan.
Since the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee, the security situation has greatly deteriorated, particularly following the joint operation carried out by MONUC, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (AFRDC) and the Ugandan army against the LRA rebels installed in and around the property. This operation began in December 2008. Lack of security in the region has a negative impact on the Park.
Following this military operation, the LRA rebels resorted to guerrilla warfare directed against the local population and also targeting the road networks around the Park. These clashes with the LRA are the origin of a serious human crisis. Numerous civilians have been killed or taken hostage, women have been raped, houses ransacked and burnt and numerous people displaced. The Park has not been spared by the actions of the LRA who, on 2 January 2009, attacked the headquarters of the Park, resulting in several killed and seriously wounded. To this human toll, major material damage at the Nagero Station, the biggest in the Park, was sustained. Several buildings have been destroyed as well as extensive damage caused to transportation and communication equipment. Fuel stocks and rations for the patrols were also looted. Through the Rapid Response Facility (RRF), the World Heritage Centre was able to provide USD 30,000 for the replacement of essential communication equipment and the resumption of surveillance operations. On 10 February 2009, a Park vehicule was attacked and the three occupants were killed. On 23 March 2009, a new attack was reported at 5 km from the Nagero Station where a guard was killed.
At the request of the Park management authorities, the World Heritage Centre has undertaken to contact MONUC to request its support to the Park staff and to ensure a minimum of security around the Nagero Station.
The breakdown of security has had important repercussions on the implementation of corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006). As has been mentioned in earlier reports, an emergency plan which was being implemented at the property was beginning to produce positive results in the Park. Control of large-scale ivory poaching and bush meat had greatly improved. Furthermore, community conservation activities supported by the World Heritage Centre and aimed at improving relations with the local communities was pursued despite the conditions.
Another concern is the presence of the remaining Northern white rhino. In fact there is serious alarm that this sub-species has currently disappeared. Intensive searches have been unsuccessful. In view of the above-mentioned situation, discussion regarding translocation is no longer appropriate.
As indicated above, the breakdown of security has greatly perturbed the implementation of corrective measures:
a) Ensure the protection of the border between the DRC and Sudan in and around the property
Armed groups continue to operate between Sudan and the DRC. As indicated above, the constant presence of Ugandan rebels of the LRA is responsible for the continuing lack of security in the region.
b) Improve the efficiency of the military brigade posted around the property to secure the Park and adjacent hunting areas by replacing the current brigade by a brigade that has undergone the reunification and retraining programme and by ensuring they are adequately equipped
As mentioned in the previous report, the military brigade posted around the Park was withdrawn in 2007 in the wake of serious incidents involving some of its members. Following the 2 January attack, military brigades of the AFDRC were temporarily deployed in the region, mainly around Dungu (region of the Azandé hunting domain), Faradje, Nagero and at Gangala na Bodio. The AFDRC military deployed in the region had logistic support from MONUC. Nevertheless, in the face of the guerrilla techniques used by the LRA, they have not yet been able to restore security in the region.
c) Ensure that the ICCN guard force of the property is properly equipped and, in particular, has adequate arms and ammunition
Most of the clothing and bivouac equipment provided by the African Parks Foundation (APF) in 2007 for the guards to work in optimal conditions for three years, was burnt during the LRA attack. According to the APF, the replacement of this equipment should be settled rapidly.
The major problem confronting the guards is the non-availability of arms and ammunition. This problem leaves them very vulnerable and is an important obstacle in the control of more distant regions occupied by the LRA and/or by Sudanese poachers. The AFRDC Headquarters has been approached with respect to the provision of appropriate scheduling of equipment.
d) Undertake, in cooperation with MONUC, a disarmament campaign within the communities living around the property whilst at the same time improving the security situation in the region
A MONUC brigade is posted permanently at Dungu but, as indicated in the previous report, little progress has been achieved in the implementation of this recommendation due to priority given to civilians. However, in the framework of the combat against poaching and thanks to a new « Information » team, the guards have been able to recuperate military weapons as well as those of artisanal manufacture from the neighbouring populations.
e) Reinforce cooperation with the Government of Sudan to better control incursions of armed groups into the DRC and the property
On 24 September 2008 a technical meeting was held at the Nagero Station between the South Sudan authorities, the ICCN Management Authority and authorities of the Garamba and Lantoto National Parks, with support from the African Park Network (APN). The objective of the meeting was the resumption of discussions concerning, on the one hand, transborder cooperation between the two countries and the strengthening of the combat against poaching to ensure the transborder conservation of these contiguous protected areas, on the other. This cooperation should entail the exchange of information regarding poaching, surveillance and research between the two parks. Cooperation in the field would depend upon the security situation in the region. The two parties also discussed a possible transborder extension of the property.
f) Maintain and strengthen anti-poaching efforts, in particular in the southern sector of the Park where the presence of northern white rhino was confirmed by the 2006 survey
In 2007, a strong presence of guards was maintained in the southern sector of the Park. An average of 1,500 man/day patrols per month was maintained. A recruitment plan and training programme have been established to strengthen the surveillance team, with recruitment of an additional 59 guards. Between January and April 2008, guards received special training and benefitted from support in the field throughout the year. The total current force of active guards numbers 120.
Moreover, numerous missions were carried out in the hunting areas of Gangala na Bodio and Mondo Missa as well as in the territory of Faradje to identify poachers and gather information on illegal activities. Twenty-seven poachers were arrested during these missions and ten weapons seized.
The property also benefits from aerial surveillance using an ULM. Two ULMs were burnt during the 2 January attack, but should be replaced rapidly.
g) Strengthen efforts to improve relations with the local communities surrounding the Park, particularly through developing and implementing a community conservation programme
Staff of the Department for Community Conservation continue activities and collaboration with the thirteen local committees for Community Conservation (CLCD). Specifically, it facilitated the identification of 26 project proposals in three chieftaincies adjacent to the Park. Its teams visited 15 villages and organized numerous awareness raising meetings, workshops and training activities with the participation of more than 5,000 persons. The meetings organized by the Department of Community Conservation emphasized in particular the need to conserve the nature and to cooperate in rhino research. They also dealt with socio-economic issues and the presentation of micro-projects. Problems of security, notably in the Azande region, prevented any work in that area.
h) Take urgent measures to reinforce and reinvigorate the Garamba Park guard
i) Reinstate detailed monitoring of the rhino population in the property through a specialized monitoring team building on the know-how available in ICCN and the African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG)
Throughout the year, the Department of Research and Monitoring has concentrated on the search for evidence of the presence of Northern white rhino. In accordance with the recommendations of the last meeting in May 2008 of the African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) in Arusha (United Republic of Tanzania) the research team concentrated its efforts on the hunting area of Gangala na Bodio (DCGB). The preconceived methodology was used during the intensive search operations carried out between July and December 2008. In April 2008, two Zimbabwean expert trackers reinforced the research team. They were relieved from October to December 2008 by two expert Kenyan trackers. In total, 4,709 km were covered between the hunting area of Gangala na Bodio and the southern part of the Park, with no conclusive results.
j) Establish a trust fund for the rehabilitation of the DRC World Heritage properties, to which the Government of the DRC committed to contribute at the 2004 UNESCO Conference on Heritage in Danger in the DRC
See the Report on Virunga National Park (Document WHC-09/33.COM/7A)
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are very concerned with regard to the breakdown in security in the property and the loss of human lives which could endanger the achievements of these past years, notably halting large-scale poaching of elephants and other flagship species. The Centre and IUCN are also very concerned by the fact that the major efforts deployed to seek the last Northern white rhino have been unsuccessful and it seems more and more probable that this sub-species is now extinct.
Since the 31st session, the property is the subject of the reinforced monitoring mechanism and the World Heritage Centre ensures a permanent 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 the continued application of the reinforced monitoring mechanism.