UNESCO expresses its deep concern with regards to the new deadly attack carried out on the morning of Sunday 10 January 2021. Rangers of the Virunga National Park were ambushed near Kabuendo while patrolling inside the park.
This new attack recalls the terrible events of April 24, 2020, against civilians, and of July 28, 2020, against the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), as well as the multitude of attacks against rangers resulting in dozens of deaths since the start of the conflict in this region. UNESCO wishes to pay tribute to the 6 rangers killed and the one injured in the line of duty and to express its sincere condolences to their families and colleagues. It is with the utmost firmness that UNESCO once again condemns these atrocious acts which target women and men dedicated to safeguarding our common heritage. UNESCO will continue to endorse the efforts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in strengthening the security of personnel responsible for the protection of its natural sites.
The World Heritage Centre has been working for two decades to increase the protection of guards and staff, reinforce infrastructure, and support, mainly financially, impacted communities thanks to the United Nations Foundation and the governments of Italy, Belgium and Spain, as well as than the Rapid Response Facility (RRF). In order to support local communities and fight against a worrying entrenchment of violence, UNESCO is launching a new project on “Strengthening the resilience of the communities of the World Heritage Property of the Virunga National Park through the regeneration of income-earning activities” thanks to the financial support from the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH).
Virunga National Park was the first National Park to be established in Africa. It has been inscribed on the World Heritage List since 1979 due to its exceptional biodiversity, with numerous endemic and rare species such as the mountain gorilla. Armed attacks against the ICCN and FARDC staff operating in the parks, have amplified in recent years.