Yesterday, Congo’s government chose to withdraw more than 1,000 troops from an area in eastern Congo near Virunga National Park. Despite an ongoing conflict, the military has agreed to depart in an effort to help protect the park’s valuable natural resources, which include the endangered mountain gorilla. Last week the army engaged a rebel group led by Laurent Nkunda in communities near the park’s borders. Nkunda’s group is still residing in the park, and has been there for almost a year now.
Emmanuel de Merode, the director of the Virunga National Park was quoted by the Associated Press as saying “demilitarizing Virunga National Park remains our greatest and most difficult challenge. The Congolese National Army has taken the first step, which represents a major breakthrough at a time when the threats to the park have never been greater.”
Virunga national park is home to about 1/10th of the world’s remaining Mountain Gorillas. In a conflict as brutal as the one in Eastern DRC, the government’s decision to unilaterally de-militarize the park can pass for good news. Check out the Enough Campaign for some background information on the conflict.