Congo Mineral Rush
Virunga is rich is strategic minerals, including gold, tantalite (coltan) and uranium, and one reason why multi-national interests would gain the advantage if Virunga Park were devoid of human inhabitants. The gorillas provide a convenient pawn in this struggle and have paid the price. The issue of the land and resources belonging to the Congolese people is never mentioned by National Geographic, nor are possibly hidden stores of uranium.
Uranium might be a linchpin in the struggle for control of Virunga. A private Congolese investigative organization that was documenting infant gorilla smuggling at “Camp Vodo,” right under the noses of the elite rangers at Rumangabo, discovered a “hole” near a path in the camp. A store of uranium was reportedly kept in the underground chamber, consisting of three rooms, and guarded by “soldiers.”
This report was sent in 2007 to western conservation interests submitted to mainstream media outlets, and ignored.
National Geographic goes on to discuss the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) and correctly describes the agency as lacking government funding, but does not examine the millions of USAID dollars that have vanished into the budgets of various NGO’s that operate as fiefdoms in the conservation sector in Virunga. This does not take into account the millions in individual donor funding pumped into the region for “conservation,” or the billions that go to the forestry sectors. The United States Congressional “Gorilla Directive” has squandered at least $5 million dollars in this sector. It is disingenuous to state, as National Geographic did, that ICCN is comparable to a “concessionaire.”
National Geographic provides the requisite rhetoric and mentions former Dictator Mobuto Sese Seko as the root of all evil in DRC. This is a simplistic explanation and does not expose conservation colonialism and all of its horrific implications. The Congolese are not culturally deprived. Their way of life in all of its forms has been systematically destroyed by the stranglehold of colonialism which is still painfully evident in the British and American mercenary interests which dominate this region.
A Response from Mark Twain
In 1904, Mark twain wrote a response to Belgian King Leopold’s rape of the Congo. Much like today’s independent media efforts to get at the truth in central Africa, King Leopold’s Soliloquy, could not find a publisher. Twain gave his expose to the American Congo Reform Association.
In the Soliloquy, Leopold laments that although he has used every means at his disposal to suppress news of his atrocities, reporters continue to expose his evil machinations, which include severing the hands of workers who do not meet their quotas.
“They have told how for twenty years I have ruled the Congo state ... seizing and holding the State as my personal property; the whole of its vast revenues as my private ‘swag’ – mine, solely mine – claiming and holding its millions of people as my private property; my serfs, my slaves; their labor mine, with or without wage; the food they raise not their property but mine; the rubber, the ivory and all the other riches of the land mine – mine solely – and gathered for me by the men, the women, and the little children under compulsion of lash and bullet, fire, starvation, mutilation and halter.
“These pests! – It is as I say; they [reporters] have kept back nothing!
Toasts to Torture
A small man with a big mission, British Robert Muir of the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which has deep connections with Wildlife Direct, is described in National Geographic as he breaks out two bottles of champagne after brutally destroying a charcoal kiln operated by villagers that would have produced 20 to 100 sacks of charcoal. Muir shouts, “The charcoal mafia can be stopped!” Mafia? “Mafia” is a powerful word with implications that require much deeper analysis than is offered in this story.
We sat with Muir at a fancy restaurant on Goma on embassy row in February of 2007. At that time he was drinking beer and announcing that “He had Nkunda where he wanted him.” Muir was referring to controversial Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda who is involved in a military struggle with the regular Congolese army and Hutu militias. Again the question must be asked, and progressive media has asked this question—why are erstwhile “conservationists” discussing military issues?
National Geographic never asked the deeper questions about Robert Muir, instead portraying him as an effete Indiana Jones.
Muir lives in a well-fortified compound in Goma, dresses in faux safari clothing—a British version of an LL Bean aficionado—has a private car and driver, and pilots a small zebra-striped Cessna 206 provided by the Frankfurt Zoological Society. He is starched and pressed in true colonialist fashion. Muir wrote an article in the Gorilla Journal 2005 December issue, in which he described the ranger training program and additional “standard operating procedures” involving airborne “monitoring and surveillance” of Virunga Park.