Serious accusations are made against Mburanumwe. The EU dilemma: Stricter criteria against the institutions would make nature conservation impossible.
Park director Emmanuel de Merode has an impeccable reputation – in contrast to his vice Photo: dpa
Virunga National Park is the biggest problem child, but also a prime example of Western-funded conservation in Africa. The continent’s oldest national park faces extreme threats: Numerous rebel groups dwell in it and +endanger the world’s unique and endangered gorillas. Five years ago, the Virunga set up a concept with the vision to pacify the Eastern Congo through economic development, hydropower and tourism – thus becoming a beacon of hope for the entire region.
Now the question arises: How can the European Union donate money to an institution whose deputy head, Innocent Mburanumwe, is suspected not only of raping minors but of collaborating with terrorist organizations such as the Rwandan Hutu militia FDLR?
Both the EU and federal governments have suspended almost all cooperation with Congo’s government since the official expiration of former President Joseph Kabila’s term in 2016 and the dragged-out elections – except in the area of nature conservation.
But the German development bank KfW, as well as the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), continue to work in other parks in the country with Congo’s conservation authority ICCN, which is responsible for managing the national parks. In Berlin, people know that cooperation with the ICCN is not without problems.
But the counter-argument is: If strict criteria were applied, then any nature conservation would be impossible. There would be a risk that the endangered gorillas would become extinct or that the original rainforest would be burned to charcoal. As long as the respective park chiefs were considered clean, the projects were considered feasible.
But now it is becoming clear that even a Belgian prince with a white vest and his heart in the right place, like park chief Emmanuel de Merode, cannot prevail against the mafia-like structures of the war economy. The threats and attempts to cover up the Mburanumwe case are evidence of this.