SOC: Okapi Faunal Reserve & Kahuzi Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
VII.33 Okapi Faunal Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
At its last session in June 1997, the Bureau, noted that equipment and facilities in this site had been looted and wildlife poached. Fortunately, the staff in this site did not suffer any harm although they had not been receiving any salaries. The Bureau was informed by IUCN that recently a US-based conservation foundation has come forward with financial assistance to pay staff salaries. There are reports of illegal gold mining in the Park occupied by the militia, and the staff have neither facilities nor resources to manage the Park.
VII.34 Kahuzi Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
The Committee recalled the fact that this site has been significantly impacted by the influx of refugees. There are reports of a large presence of militia groups and illegal settlers in the Park which has led to fires, increased poaching, illegal removal and burning of timber. IUCN informed the Bureau at its twenty-first session that it has received several pleas from the staff of the Park for international aid for rebuilding Park infrastructure and staff morale. The Bureau noted that IUCN's monitoring report on this site included fifteen measures for implementation in and around the Park and eight actions for co-operation among international conservation organisations, which together could form a basis for the future rehabilitation of the Park.
In the light of the serious threats to the integrity of these two sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which have arisen as a consequence of armed conflict in the eastern parts of the country, the Bureau, at its twenty-first session in June 1997, recommended that the Committee include both Okapi and Kahuzi Biega in the List of World Heritage in Danger and requested UNESCO to undertake a high-level mission to the country. The Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has invited a high-level UNESCO mission to his country. UNESCO is intending to field such a mission as soon as the security conditions permit.
Furthermore, the Minister has submitted an emergency assistance request to the consideration of the Committee for purchasing one field vehicle for each of the four endangered sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo: i.e. the Okapi Faunal Reserve and the Kahuzi Biega National Park and the other two sites of Virunga and Garamba National Parks, already included by the Committee in the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee noted that IUCN's Regional Office for Central Africa is also planning site visits in 1998.
Preoccupied by the serious threats and dangers affecting these sites and the urgent measures required, the Committee included both Okapi Faunal Reserve and the Kahuzi Biega National Park in the List of World Heritage in Danger, and invited the Director-General of UNESCO to write to the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, calling for his direct intervention to enable UNESCO to undertake the proposed high-level mission and plan rehabilitation measures for all World Heritage sites in Danger. The Committee requested UNESCO to field a mission, and invited the Chairperson to lead it, to the capital city of Kinshasa for meetings with the high-level authorities, even if visits to sites are deemed impossible due to the prevailing security situation in the eastern parts of the country. The Committee took note of the emergency assistance requests by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (see Section International Assistance of this Report) and requested the Centre to cooperate with international NGOs in rehabilitating the endangered World Heritage sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.