The three-day meeting last week in Kigali between the Greater Virunga Transboundary Cooperation (GVTC) countries failed to make progress towards the signing of a new treaty, and close observers blamed the Congolese delegation for being the main obstacle to progress. Congo is already known in the wider Great Lakes region as a habitual spoiler, ever seeking to needle her neighbors and harboring groups hostile to Rwanda and Uganda, intent to overthrow the respective governments and in the case of Rwanda re-launch another genocide round.
The Congolese team arrived a day late when the other two partners in the GVTC had already started their meetings and then reportedly holed themselves up in separate rooms to discuss internal issues rather than engaging with their partners. GVTC staff reportedly tried to put a brave face to the alarming developments, with one quoted as saying that the fact that all delegations were in Kigali was already progress of sorts, but unable to confirm that an agreement towards a new gorilla conservation and protection treaty had been reached. Others tried to blame the limited time of the meeting for the lack of progress but in the past were three days more than enough to discuss contentious issues and map out a way forward.
One other observer from Kigali squarely laid the blame on the Congolese delegation for what he said was a state of confusion and lack of preparedness for the Kigali meeting and for offending their hosts by turning up a day late.
The Virunga massif is home to the last population of the mountain gorillas and spans across three countries, namely Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo. While Rwanda and Uganda have made great strides in gorilla protection and to commercially exploit their populations of mountain gorillas for tourism purposes, Congo has lagged behind largely for security reasons.
The park, now under renewed threat of additional oil and mineral exploration and for being dissected even further to escape UNESCO sanctions – the park is a World Heritage site – has been a roaming and staging area for militias. Park staff have in fact in the past died in both crossfire and through targeted attacks, having tourists largely stay away from tracking on the Congolese side for reasons of insecurity.