SOC: World Heritage sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
VII.4 World Heritage sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC):
Virunga National Park
Garamba National Park
Kahuzi Biega National Park
Okapi Faunal Reserve
The Committee had declared these four sites as World Heritage in Danger, during 1994-1997, as war and civil strife have ravaged the country. The Committee noted that the Bureau, at its twentysecond ordinary session (June 1998), had been of the view that the security situation in the country may be improving. Hence, the Bureau had encouraged the Centre to continue its efforts, in co-operation with international conservation NGOs, to ensure the purchase and safe delivery of one four-wheel drive vehicle to each of the four sites, in accordance with the decision of the Committee made at its last session (Naples, 1997).
Since June 1998 however, the law and order situation in the country has unfortunately deteriorated once again, and renewed fighting has spread to all parts of the country. A strategic planning workshop for the conservation and management of Garamba National Park, which was to be held in Kinshasa in August 1998 under the auspices of WWF had to be indefinitely postponed. Frequency of rhino sightings in Garamba have dropped and numbers of several large herbivores remain below their 1995 population levels. In the Okapi Faunal Reserve, equipment donated by international conservation NGOs has been looted and staff who were in the process of reviving conservation activities evacuated. In Kahuzi Biega, WWF Project staff was withdrawn due to worsening security conditions in the area and the Tshibanga Station has been looted. In Virunga human encroachment has been detected along Lake Edouard. Park guards no longer carry any weapons, and require military escort to patrol the Park and have not been paid their salaries for nearly two years. "Motivation .allowances" paid to guards in the southern sector of Virunga by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) had been stopped as the donor, i.e. UNHCR, withdrew its support to the scheme. IGCP and the national conservation authority, Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) have prepared a strategic action plan and are seeking funds for Park personnel. IGCP has agreed to distribute any financial support received to all sectors of the Virunga National Park. IUCN suggested that the Committee consider providing emergency assistance to pay some allowances to the staff at Virunga.
The Committee noted with concern that the vehicles purchased for Garamba and Kahuzi Biega National Parks could not be transported beyond Nairobi, Kenya, due to lack of security. The Committee requested the Centre to co-operate with WWF, UNDP and the Kenyan Government authorities to ensure the safety of these two vehicles so that they could be delivered to Garamba and Kahuzi-Biega whenever the situation in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo returned to normal. IUCN informed the Committee that the territories in which the four sites are located are controlled by rebel forces and that it is unlikely that missions to any one of the four sites will be feasible in the near future.
The Committee decided to retain all four sites in the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee requested the Centre to freeze all activities related to the purchase and delivery of vehicles to any one of the four sites until such time as security conditions improve. The Committee asked the Centre and IUCN to consult with IGCP and ICCN, to estimate the cost of paying allowances to staff at Virunga National Park as an interim measure and submit a proposal for emergency assistance for the consideration of the twenty-third session of the Bureau in 1999. Furthermore, the Committee suggested that the Centre and IUCN communicate the Committee's concerns for the state of conservation of these four sites to international and national NGOs working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These NGOs should be encouraged to disseminate information about the Committee's concerns among the general public as well as specific target groups such as the military.