Central Africa is known for its vast tropical rainforests, where gorillas might be hidden around every corner, with active volcanoes to hike on and thrilling tours of the wilderness. East Congo’s popularity as a tourist destination is increasing: more and more luxury hotels are being built in Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province.
A dense rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: MONUSCO / Abel Kavanagh
A tourist agency in one of Goma’s main streets is bustling with activity all year round. They book gorilla tours and overnight hiking trips to a nature reserve that stretches out all across the Congolese border. The office is hectic but welcoming. The staff is armed with exciting promotional leaflets containing a vast array of possibilities to enjoy the natural beauty. Unfortunately, the prices are too high for most locals to afford the trip, even though they can get a discount.
Ideal hideout for armed groups
But the cost is certainly not the only reason that keeps locals from going on these fun adventures. What a lot of backpackers and vacationing families do not know is that these idyllic rainforests are an ideal hideout for many armed groups and warlords active in the region. They feel protected by the thick bushes and are isolated because of an absence of proper roads.
The borders of the park as so extensive, local law enforcement can’t possibly control every inch. About once a week, armed groups leave the forest and raid nearby villages. Theft and even murder are common. The local police will patrol the borders of the park, but rarely with any success.
With your help, the forest might become not only a great source of joy and excitement for foreign visitors but also for the people living there.
Cordaid supports the police and their work but more needs to be done. There is not enough staff and equipment to guarantee the safety of the people living close to the protected forests and tourist hotspot.
The police chief explained to me that he is only equipped to deal with petty crime, not the most pressing security issues caused by the armed groups. This situation of impunity terrifies the people of North Kivu on a daily basis.
If you support Cordaid, we could extend our security and justice program in the Congo. With your help, the forest might become not only a great source of joy and excitement for foreign visitors but also for the people living there.